“Charlie Brown: This little green one here seems to need a home.
Linus Van Pelt: I don’t know
Charlie Brown. Remember what Lucy said? This doesn’t seem to fit the modern spirit.
Charlie Brown: I don’t care. We’ll decorate it and it’ll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me.”
We all remember that iconic scene from “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” – Charlie and Linus are out looking for a Christmas tree, and while Linus searches for a big tall pine that better fits the traditional image, Charlie is able to find the beauty in a scraggly one that most people would overlook.
The truth of the matter is, we live in a very commercial society. Brand name products and corporations have just become a way of life. They often define what we adorn ourselves with, what food we consume, what items we display in our homes, so on and so forth. A substantial part of companies’ budgets is to decide what options/impressions are put in front of us. It’s marketing, plain and simple.
But, what about supporting small business? The ones more “off of the beaten path,” as it were, hidden away in the corner of the patch? Independent shop owners rarely get the recognition that they so deserve. Most people have the tendency to write off or ignore smaller shops and in doing so, miss out on the beautiful uniqueness and quality that they can offer.
I recently had the opportunity to browse through one of my favorite farmer’s markets, Uptown Phoenix. It is not filled with $100 lotions, processed doughnuts, or instant meals. There are no advertisements blaring at you, trying to convince you to buy something you don’t need. What you find there, are people. Normal people that you might see walking down the street, making an effort to support themselves by sharing something they love.
There are scratch-made pastas and hummus, produce brought straight from the farm, real artisan breads with gorgeous designs baked into them, handmade aprons, wind chimes, dog treats, pickled strawberries (yes, you read correctly), skillfully crafted pastries; everything but the kitchen sink. And to a perceptive eye, it’s clear that not a single one of these items was made solely for profit.
Whenever I go, I find myself holding lengthy conversations with the vendors about their work, and it never fails to impress me how knowledgeable and passionate they are about what they do. They express a genuine feeling of pride when they receive compliments, they’re happy to tell you about the process that they undergo to create their merchandise, and there’s almost always a story to tell as to how they came to be in their particular field.
One circumstance was a husband and wife team whose business stemmed from hand-making jams to donate to charity. Another was a woman who decided that lavender would be an adequate replacement for the harsh chemicals too often found in skin and utility products.
However, you don’t necessarily have to go out of your way in search of a public market to support independent businesses. Online stores also provide artists with a platform to sell and display their work to clientele. My personal favorite: Etsy.
Etsy is an international marketplace, designed to act as a startup for entrepreneurs. As written in their bio, their primary focus is to maintain the human connection through commerce. Similar to the farmer’s market scene, the mediums available for purchase through this site are widely diverse; as are the sellers themselves. One thing that I find incredible about this network is how it extends so much further beyond local areas. You can buy a necklace from Israel, rings from Ukraine, leather boots from Britain, and home decor from Russia all within the same day.
It should also be mentioned how these are not at all like the standard items that you would find in the mall or at Target. When you buy from these craftsmen, you know that you are getting something that you won’t see anywhere else, because the styles are 100% designed and produced by individuals around the globe.
It’s easy to get lost in the mainstream consumer routine that, in this day and age, has grown to be such a large contributor to our lives. What we as a community need to begin doing is make an effort to stop putting so much credit to the brand name on the tag, and instead, genuinely consider what or whom our money is going towards. So, the next time you go to purchase a gift for someone, or launch a search for that perfect new defining look, take a chance and try walking a little ways outside of the beaten path. Because, why shouldn’t commerce be human?