In addition to being May Day, a holiday not celebrated much in America, today is Buy Indie Day. The idea of Buy Indie Day is simple: go out and support your local independent business; not just bookstores, but also record stores, gift shops, bike shops, comic shops, restaurants and coffee shops.
As a reader of this blog, you’ve no doubt heard all the rhetoric of “buy local” that you’ll ever care to hear. Yes, it keeps more money in the local economy. Yes, it supports the tax base. But what I’d like to focus on today, Buy Indie Day, is the idea of uniqueness. To me, this is what the buy local movement is all about. Vroman’s is a Pasadena institution (We were founded four years after the Rose Bowl). People associate us with this area and with this city, and that, I think, is worth preserving.
When I was seventeen, I drove all around the country with my family, visiting distant relatives, researching colleges, and seeing sites like the Grand Canyon. What sticks out the most to me about that trip, though, are the little places that are unique to their locales. The restaurants we ate in, like The Rendezvous in Memphis (best ribs in the world). The coffee shops, like the weird, quirky one my cousin took me to in San Francisco. The book stores and record shops (things I didn’t really have access to growing up in a small town in Upstate New York). It was during that trip that I realized that I wanted to live in a city, and it was those businesses that convinced me of that fact. But even looking back on my youth, the things I associate with home are Cosmos Pizza, Dinosaur Barbecue, the Carrier Dome, Happy Endings coffee shop (no longer in existence), Soundgarden Records, etc.
The sad thing is, such an experience might not be available to my kids. I heard this segment of Marketplace yesterday afternoon, and I thought it was appropriate for Buy Indie Day. It features Jeff Tweedy, of the rock band Wilco, talking about Woody Guthrie and what Woody would notice about the country today. This quote jumped out at me:
“The fact that everywhere he went looked a little bit more alike than it did when he was traveling around the country. I notice that even from the twenty years that I’ve been on the road. There are places that used to feel like you were in a unique place in the world and a place that was different from the last place you were and it doesn’t feel as much like that these days.”
I don’t want to preach. I know that you won’t frequent these stores if they don’t provide value to you, and that’s fine. But take today to look around you, at the place you live. Why do you live there? What makes it special? What do you remember most about the place you grew up? What would you hate to lose about the place you live? Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments.