News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Shop small. It matters.

’Tis the season for shopping.

There’s nothing wrong with that — humans have an instinct for trade as strong as our instinct to explore and to build. It can get out of hand, of course, but shopping for gifts can be a delightful and uplifting experience.

It depends a lot on how you do it. There’s nothing uplifting about storming a Walmart on Black Friday, trampling anyone in the way of your big-screen TV purchase.

That’s not how we roll in Sisters. Here we have a rich ecosystem of small retailers who offer unique items that make meaningful gifts. Giving our trade to those small businesses is a pleasure — and maybe even an act of defiance.

We swim in a sea dominated by Leviathans, powerful, monopolistic entities that are choking the life out of small shops that do a hell of a lot more for their communities than the giants ever do. They make their pull hard to resist. A friend of mine once told me that he feels bad when he sits on his couch and clicks the purchase button on for something he knows he could get locally. But, he said, he just can’t help himself. They make it so easy…

A few years back, then-co-owner of The Nugget Tom Mullen took a shot at Amazon. It hit the x-ring:

Look around your favorite bricks-and-mortar stores — those are what Amazon is unfairly trying to eliminate.

Most Americans aren’t retailers, but we do depend upon local retail to pay for the lion’s share of our needs as citizens. Unlike your local retailers, Amazon paid little or no taxes in most of these United States, until a few years ago.

If you can imagine a world without local retailers, you might want to imagine that same world without local police, clean water, and sewers.

There is a laundry list of why it’s a better experience to walk into a locally owned (or even locally managed) shop to buy something. First and foremost for the buyer is service. That may mean there’s someone to help you pick out the right product, and if it’s the wrong product, just take it back to the store.

When shopping online, a savvy buyer may be able to work miracles with a smart phone but good luck to the person who attempts to actually use that smart phone to discuss a problem.

So there’s the proof of Amazon’s miracle: They’re eliminating jobs on Main Streets all across America, to feed the beast.

And the beast is your desire for instant gratification.

If you spend $100 with a local retailer, that money re-circulates in the community a multitude of times, burgeoning the local economy.

Spend that Benjamin with Amazon and you achieve the opposite effect for your community — you diminish your local economy by several hundred dollars with your $100 purchase.

I once saw a woman in the bookstore peruse a book, pull out her phone and order it on Amazon. Yeah, I know. I restrained myself. I’ve done my part to swim against that tide. I regularly use Amazon to search for an obscure book, but I always order it locally.

It’s not just a matter of civic pride or responsibility. The locally crafted mug I drink my coffee out of every morning brings me a sense of satisfaction. Every time I use a piece of locally crafted leatherwork, it makes me smile. There’s something satisfying about hiking on Sisters Country trails in a pair of boots bought right here in town.

This weekend marks Small Business Saturday, an event created by American Express in 2010, because that Leviathan at least recognized that a vibrant small business community remains critical to the well-being not only of the American economy, but of our social fabric as well.

Shop small this weekend. It matters. And it’s a pleasure.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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