Mid October in small-town America, in this case, small town Wisconsin, is a time of change. Yes, the seasons are in full blown change over mode. We get mother nature’s wonderful color pallet of leaves, along with the cooler days and nights. Apple harvest has been going on for a while now and we’ve begun to taste the results of the local growers.
Along with the change of seasons comes another biannual change, the closing of many businesses for the season. We live in a resort town, population, according to the sign as you drive into town, 497. Things are busy and crowded during the summer season, and now that the 2015 Apple Fest is behind us, things have quieted down so as to not even hear the crickets.
I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend and the subject came up of buying local. Now, we as a local business do what we can to promote this concept. We do buy and feature local products and products from the state and surrounding area when we can. My friend stated rather emphatically that we should only buy locally for any and all of our needs. His theory or take on the matter was that if we don’t, pretty soon the local stores on which we rely will go out of business or simply close.
I know from our own experience that there is a noticeable price difference for goods and services in a resort, tourist destination town, and the metropolitan areas. Prices here at our local grocery store are about 10-12% higher than the town that is 14 miles away, and likely 25% higher on some items we purchase in the next largest town about 35 miles from us. The nearest metropolitan area is a full 90 miles, and a nearly two-hour drive or more depending on the weather.
From a business standpoint what is the right and proper thing to do. Do I continue to honor buying local at the higher prices, and, therefore, pass on the costs to my customers/clients? And then there is the issue of selection or lack of selection in the local area. I can find a wider selection of items in the larger towns and metropolitan areas, and that doesn’t even take into account availability of items purchased via the internet and shipped at little or no cost to me. Do small town businesses engage in a barter system? How about one price for the tourists and another for the locals?
Another small town living issue is the lack of availability of certain goods and services. Our town has no pharmacy/drug store. Our town has no local plumber or HVAC business. Our town has no CPA or accountant business. Our town has no small engine repair business. Our town has no national chain restaurants, and this is a good thing. Our town does have two commercial fishing businesses that do, in season allow us to have fresh fish, from the lake that is just outside our back door.
We’re learning that living in small town America, is a challenge not unlike living anywhere else. Here there are just some more issues and challenges to take on in our daily lives.
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