Love that amazing boutique shop in your town that offers a diverse selection usually reserved for the city? Keep it around the corner and in business – shop there! While your at it, bring your friends and family when they come to visit. Wow them with all that your amazing town has to offer, and while doing so, support a local, hardworking, and innovative business owner, team, or family.
by Alethea Schaus

Many who have changed their buying habits find that the cost of a favorite item is often offset by savings in fuel, time, and stress when choosing not to travel to an impersonal discount store. “As an owner of a small boutique shop,  I take so much satisfaction and care in offering diverse products and a unique shopping experience,” says Jill Lamberson, owner of The Bungalow in Whitefish. “As a local consumer, you solely dictate whether or not shops come and go, or prosper and flourish right here in Whitefish, Montana. If you love it… support it!”

Family-owned businesses keep the heart of community alive. “Growing up in a home supported by self-employed small business owners has strongly influenced my outlook and commitment to buying local,” says Heidi Tate of Tate Interiors in Whitefish. “I understand the unique relationships that small businesses have within their communities. They are the building blocks of the heart and soul of any small town. Small business owners rely heavily on local patronage to support them throughout the year. Strong client relationships are built due to the quality and personal care our customers receive.”

Real Food and Green Practices

Doing all we can at home and at work to live with less consumptive impact and more present gratitude for what is available has a strong ripple effect. “Growing our own herbs and buying from local farmers make us proud and give us deep running roots in this place that is our home,” says Betsy Cox, co-owner of Good Medicine Lodge in Whitefish. “We delight in sharing the local talent and bounty with our guests at Good Medicine Lodge; the arts and products of many local producers have traveled afar as a result of exposure at our B&B.”

Woody Cox, husband of Betsy and co-owner of Good Medicine adds, “We are a charter member of the Green Hotel Association and we love the Whitefish Farmer’s Market. We support FarmHands, a group started in 2003 devoted to stronger local connections between food production and food consumption, which is a great way to honor local producers.”

Employ your Neighbors

No matter the era, the value of local jobs never wanes. Quality of life and community morale increase when the folks that live year-round can find work, and when new residents are attracted by a thriving and sustainable local economy. In most resort towns, many jobs are seasonal. Any business can choose to employ locals as much as possible. “At Good Medicine Lodge, 10 of our 11 seasonal employees are locals,” says Cox.

Buckeye Hardwoods in Arlee employs fifteen locals who pay taxes and then spend their paycheck locally. “Most of our employees deposit their paychecks into locally owned banks, eat at locally owned restaurants, and shop at local businesses,” says Adams. “We also work directly with local contractors who also pay local taxes and employ local residents so the dollars reverberate with them, as well. It is easy to see that the money stays in the western Montana region longer than if it goes to an online store or an out-of-state discount center.”

all In thIs together Purchasing local products and working with community professionals and artisans is vital to a sustainable regional economy. Skilled craftspeople abound, and a more holistic sense of “profit” results when we engage locally as much as possible. “It is imperative to our community and a reflection of the talent in our region,” says Hunter Dominick of Hunter and Company Interior Design in Whitefish.

After years of an export/import and rock-bottom-price mindset, it can take some time to get used to buying and employing locally. Many are surprised at the long-term savings and investment that result. Every little bit of conscious behavior helps. “We try very hard to buy not only locally, but American-made,” says Frank Wright, owner of Wright’s Furniture in Whitefish. “Even in our import world as it is, that’s the first thing I ask manufacturers when we begin to work together. We also employ about seven different companies within Montana that build furniture for us.”

As families and businesses adapt to a changing economy, we hear more and more the phrase, ‘we’re all in this together.’ “We really support ourselves by supporting professions of all kinds in our community,” says Donna Shanahan of Donna Shanahan Interior Design in Bigfork. “When times get tough, buying locally keeps any community strong.’