Invest in your community – how ‘Buying Local’ helps us all

I have seen massive changes to the variety of shops in Bantry over the course of my lifetime. We used to have a fish shop, a veg shop, several bakeries, several independent supermarkets and independent corner shops, as well as a fabulous cookware shop, a sweet shop, several bookshops, many more clothes shops, as well as homeware and gift shops. All now vanished.

Shopping locally is a huge topic these days. We all see a lot of ‘Buy Local’ messaging in the run up to Christmas. Why is it important to buy local? I always feel a  bit awkward tackling this topic as it can really sound self-serving – like I’m just asking you to support my business! And it’s a good question: Why should you give your hard earned money to local businesses?

Buying locally is really about investing in your community and choosing where to spend your money in ways that create benefits locally. When you buy local (from independently-owned retailers) you are investing in the future of  your town and not in the wealth of shareholders of multinational companies who shelter their profits and pay as little tax as possible (often other jurisdictions).

When we think about the shops we do have in rural Ireland, we need to realise that (just like our muscles!) it’s a use it or lose it situation. 

If we want to live in towns or villages with access to a butcher, baker, fishmonger, independent grocers, pub, post office, health food shop, shoe shops and craft shops and so on, rather than one with betting shops, charity shops and soulless international chains, WE ALL need to act. Not just nod but ACT and spend our money where it will enrich our town and the town of our children and our children’s children.

Interestingly, we do have well over 100 independent Health Food shops in Ireland, which is a lot considering our population. Most reasonably-sized towns (and many small villages) have an independent Health Food shop. And some, like Organico, have been open a long time. But none of us take it for granted that we will be open forever – we deeply appreciate the support of our communities in keeping our doors open.

With all this in mind Rachel and I decided to visit some of the amazing independent retailers in Bantry and explore why we should celebrate these hard-working local businesses and support them with our hard-earned cash. We enjoy shopping locally, and we want these local shops to thrive, so we made some short videos to highlight them, and shared them on our social media platforms. We started by visiting our neighbours the Bantry Craft Shop, Sola Boutique and Forest and Flock – if you want to watch them check out our Instagram @organicobantry or #organicobuylocal. We’re hoping to fit a couple more in before Christmas!

The Craft Shop up the road from Organico is one-of-a-kind. Started almost 50 years ago by Christine O’Kane, and now co-managed by her daughter Colleen, their shelves are full of carefully-selected Irish-made crafts, which they source directly from Irish makers. This involves so much time and energy in building and maintaining relationships, I really admire the dedication! Our father Alan used to buy most of his gifts there and over the years we were gifted hats and belts, mugs and butter dishes, candles and beautiful handmade wooden lamps. They also stock the largest selection of Birkenstocks in Ireland, as well as handmade shoes from an Irish cobbler.

Sola Boutique is run by Marie Cronin, just around the corner from us in Bantry. Marie opened her doors in 2010, having worked for Brown Thomas, and she has a real eye for wearable yet interesting fashion. We love their brand ‘Thought’, which uses a lot of organic and sustainable fabrics. If you’re looking for a cosy jumper, gorgeous Pyjamas or a glamorous cocktail dress, Marie has it all.

Forest And Flock is an Irish Craft, Art and Design shop in the heart of Bantry, which hosts over 70 independent and unique Irish makers, in a spacious and family-friendly setting. Bernie and her team have created a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with a petite coffee bar (called Piccolo) which offers fabulous coffee and sweet treats. The space is large yet intimate and friendly, and oh so stylish. We love the incredible selection of Irish-made eclectic jewellery, the fun and practical kids PJs, and the pottery bowls made by Sam Whyte from Bantry House.

There is so much research into the benefits for all of us in shopping locally – here’s a few points I thought worth mentioning: 

If we don’t support local businesses they will fail and close – it’s that simple – and this leads to local unemployment, barren main streets and town centres without character or community spaces.

Tourism is a key driver of the West Cork economy and vibrant towns and villages need independent businesses to differentiate them and make them attractive to visitors. Independent businesses stock unique products which are often sourced locally, rather than the same tired selection that you can get anywhere (in any country).

The money spent in locally-owned businesses circulates in the local economy, small businesses pay tax in Ireland (instead of avoiding taxes altogether like some online retailers do!) plus the staff are all our neighbours. And small businesses all spend money with other small businesses so there’s a very positive ripple effect and a lot of the money stays local (instead of going to foreign shareholders).

 Small businesses are the mainstay of our social fabric. You can’t have a meaningful relationship with a self checkout kiosk or a website. Local businesses help connect people and improve mental health, and this is more and more important in our increasingly digitised world.

And remember, like a puppy, your local business is not just for Christmas! Take care of them and they will return the favour.

December Notes

We have our In-Store Discount Day on Friday December 8, when we take 10 per cent off nearly everything.

Christmas Opening Times – Christmas Week we are open 9am – 6pm Monday – Saturday. We are closed on December 24, 25 and 26. Have a great Christmas!

Hannah Dare

Hannah Dare co-runs Organico, the café, bakery and health shop in Bantry, West Cork.

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