One of the things that drew me to the Pacific NW back in 2001 was the “creative scene” here. Many creative outlets (glass blowing, woodworking, pottery, painting, mixed media, and crafting) all have significant presences here. I’m a mixed media artist which is simply a swanky way of saying crafter and I loved that there were so many shops that sold gel mediums, stamps, paints, stencils, inks, and paper here. In the heyday, before the events of 2008, the Pacific NW was flush with these wonderful little havens of creativity.

I can remember participating in the NW Paperchase in 2008 and driving from Bellingham down to Centralia, visiting many of these wonderful locations. Sadly, 6 years later the majority of these shops are closed. It is a truly sad day and it’s partly my fault.

In September we lost the Scrapbook Nook down in Kent and [12/3 UPDATE] on Monday I learned that the Mad Scrapper in Issaquah is closing on December 21st. After 17 years they lost their lease and could not find another place to move. Once home to many local shops, the area is reduced to a scant handful. It’s a sad, sad day.

I have always said that shopping locally is important and I believe it … but I don’t always practice it. Herein lies the issue. How can the local store stay open, much less compete, with the big-box stores and online warehouses if we don’t shop there? Don’t get me wrong, I know the online warehouse is often a small company, but they aren’t local to me so when I shop with them instead of locally I hurt the local shop owner.

I have two reasons for my disloyalty: variety & price.

Let’s look at variety first. The local shop owner has to decide what to carry because they can’t afford to carry everything. This affects my ability to find that “must-have” thing and frequently drives me online.

As for price, the local shop owner isn’t buying 1,000 of something. They buy in smaller lots and so the cost is higher. The big-box stores also have mechanisms for marketing, workforce, etc that the local shop owner doesn’t. I often struggle to justify paying retail for high dollar items when the big-box and online warehouses (Hobby Lobby, Blitsy, Amazon, eBay, etc) are selling the same items for much less.

The largest benefit of the local store is in community and learning. The big-box stores may offer classes, but the curriculum is always very basic – so it appeals to the widest audience. The local store is the place to grow creatively. This is their place to shine and certainly to prove that they have a place in our shopping staples.

The local store owners need my patronage and loyalty. I am happy to be able to support Impress and Urban Scrapbooker and enjoy taking classes and filling up my creativity tank at these wonderful stores as often as I can.

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