Buying local is taking on new, exciting permutations, going well beyond food and beverage with farm to table restaurant menus and shares in food coops. Shops are finding it an effective strategy to set them apart from the big box retailers, not only offering distinctive merchandise, but also, a chance to tout their support for local businesses and jobs. There’s even a specific URL to promote buying local, www.thinkshopbuylocal.com and one I just came across in South Florida (www.shoplocalflorida.com ) Even here, though, department stores are realizing the benefits of featuring local as in designers and foodstuffs. On a recent trip to Paris, I noticed in Galeries Lafayette’s shoe department , one of the largest in the world, the grouping of French designers in what was “prime real estate” — the center of the floor. And now we have the latest twist, C.S.A.s (Community Supported Agriculture) have turned to community based art.
For a set price ranging from $50 to $500, you can buy a monthly “package” of art, pre- selected, and all from local artists. The program started four years ago in Minnesota and has now spread to other cities, from Pittsburgh and Miami to Brooklyn, Lincoln, Neb. and Fargo. Money from the shares pays the artists who are usually chosen by a jury to produce a small work in an edition of 50 or however many shares have been sold. It’s a way to support local artists in the short term and introduce potential new buyers to artists who will hopefully buy larger works. It’s a surprise which artists will be featured in a delivery. The C.S.A programs have taken off with different themes — in Philadelphia it’s folk art and contemporary; in Michigan, art and food; in Pittsburgh there’s also a performing arts version which features plays, concerts and other events. Next up? Art and design in Brooklyn. All of this buying local phenomenon can only be helped by the new trend with the nation’s largest newspapers taken back by local owners who are more in touch with their community and will be more dependent on them to make the papers a success.