by Christy NaMee Eriksen
Once at an art market I bought a zine from the girl next to me. Then she came to my table and bought some of my poems. I bought stickers from another guy and he bought a book from another and we joked that we were just passing the same $20 around.
The same thing happens when you buy from small local businesses. Artists shop at Kindred Post and we buy their art to add to our collection. Parents shop at Kindred Post and we donate to their kids' dance team. We get our office supplies on Front street. We get our insurance on Seward street. Between my employees and I, we get a drink or eat out on Franklin street like 12 days a week, lol. When you spend your money locally, you allow us to earn money locally and then we spend money locally and we all make an honest joyful living, passing the same $20 around.
And local businesses are run by local people. We don’t call you customers, we call you our community. We love you. We’re all closed right now not just bc we're mandated but bc we give all the damns about you. We want you to be safe!
But I’m gonna be real with you. Small business owners are feeling some titanic level stress right now. Like, these ships are... sinking. We wonder will there be enough lifeboats for everyone? Should we play music on the deck? Something calm and cheerful so the passengers don’t panic?
You may have heard about the near cancellation (likely complete cancellation) of a cruise ship season for Juneau. It’s the right thing to do. AND it is a catastrophe for our friends in the tourism industry. AND it will also hurt non-tourism businesses like us who pass their metaphorical $20 around.
A lot of the problem has to do with the cost of rent for a tourism district and other seasonal variables that may just plain change in the future, but for now many of us are grappling with business plans and annual budgets that do not and will not make cents (pun always intended). This is a delicate time of year for local downtown businesses because our winter expenses naturally eat up our reserve and our cash flow is lower because of upfront costs of inventory for summer. But the most crucial piece is the loss of cruise ship season revenue, which many downtown businesses rely on in order to stay open year round.
I recognize that things are hard for everyone in every circumstance right now. I can't even begin to imagine the stress you are each uniquely under. Our gravity is everywhere, below us above us beside us! And still we are asked to rise. It feels impossible sometimes.
But if you have capacity, for example if you are still securely employed, and if you're looking for something you can control in the midst of chaos, or a way to help in a sea of helplessness: please consider creating your own stimulus package by investing in the small businesses you love. Buy goods, buy services, buy gift certificates, hell even just donate money with no strings attached and tell them you believe in them.
I know your money will return to you, because that’s just how local economy works.
It’s not a spreadsheet, it’s a relationship. It’s a perpetual, wonderful debt.
Let’s owe each other forever.