You have a lot of Christmas shopping to do, and all those Black Friday sales at Best Buy and Amazon are looking mighty alluring.
However, here are 10 reasons you should shop in St. Helena instead:
1. You’ll find hometown service.
This is where local shopping can be a delight. St. Helena Cyclery’s expert staff will work with you to give your bike a customized tune-up that will last a full year for even the most avid cyclist – and a lot longer for the rest of us. They can also recommend handy accessories and clothing to match your particular style and riding habits.
If Main Street Books doesn’t have the book you’re looking for, owner Liza Russ will special-order it and have it ready for you in a couple of days, no longer than you’d have to wait to have it delivered from Amazon. And if you don’t know what you want, her encyclopedic literary knowledge and keen understanding of your particular tastes will probably result in a better recommendation than any Amazon algorithm.
2. You’ll help your neighbors.
There’s a good chance a downtown merchant lives in town and has staff and children who do as well. The salesperson at a local clothing store likely lives in your neighborhood. The person who helped load your materials into your car at a hardware or grocery store very well may serve as a volunteer St. Helena firefighter.
By supporting their employers, you keep those workers gainfully employed and enable them to keep on coaching soccer, volunteering at the schools and contributing to the community in general.
3. You’ll keep businesses in business.
There are already too many empty storefronts downtown. If we don’t support our businesses, we’ll start to see even more economic dead zones popping up.
St. Helena merchants are hurting right now, as bad as they were during the recession and in some cases even worse, due in part to high rents, which haven’t adjusted to the current realities.
With a new president and CEO, it’s possible that the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce will pivot from political advocacy to retail promotion. That would boost downtown businesses, but in the meantime they sorely need our help, especially when tourism slows down during the rainy season.
And if we’re there for the merchants, they’ll be there for us. Sunshine, Safeway, Market and Gillwood’s were among the businesses that hardly skipped a beat during the fires, when we were grasping for every scrap of normalcy we could find.
4. Your money stays local.
Dollars you spend online or at a corporate chain store aren’t likely to find their way back to St. Helena.
The money you spend locally, however, is leveraged and reinvested for maximum local impact. Merchants pay it to their local workers, who spend it at other local businesses. St. Helena merchants are always quick to open their checkbooks when a worthy charitable cause comes knocking.
Speaking of local-serving businesses, the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for its annual Community Service Awards at sthelena.com. We can think of plenty of worthy nominees.
5. Quality merchandise is worth the money.
True, you may pay a premium when you shop locally, but think long-term, and of the previously cited reasons.
Local merchants pride themselves on high-quality merchandise that’s durable, versatile and built to last. You’ll be wearing that jacket you buy at Sportago for years, long after the bargain-bin knock-off you found at Ross has frayed into shreds. Would you rather pay a little bit extra now for a permanent addition to your wardrobe, or just plan on buying a replacement in a few years?
Besides, some St. Helena prices might pleasantly surprise you. A movie ticket at the Cameo Cinema is only $8 – in Napa even a senior matinee costs more than that, not to mention an evening showing.
6. You’ll save gas.
If you’re driving to Napa or Santa Rosa in search of a bargain, don’t forget to factor in the cost of a few gallons of gas – not to mention your vehicle emissions, the mileage you’re putting on your car, the wear and tear on the roads, and the dubious pleasure of navigating heavy traffic.
7. It feels good.
Everybody gets warm and fuzzy when we think about our fabled “small-town character,” and one way to strengthen that community fabric is to shop locally. It engenders civic pride.
That positivity is contagious. Nobody wants to shop in a ghost town, but if we locals are walking around downtown with shopping bags, it makes downtown more vibrant and attractive to visitors who might be more inclined to stop and pump even more money into our economy.
8. You’ll find unique merchandise.
If you’re shopping for gifts, boutiques like Findings, La Boheme, Lolo’s, Bison, Palladium, Reeds, Daisy and Acres offer one-of-a-kind artisanal items you won’t find at any big-box store. We don’t have room to mention all of our quality businesses, but one of them is sure to have the perfect gift you’re looking for.
9. There’s more here than you think there is.
Increased rents have forced out beloved businesses like Mel’s and Ben Franklin. But we can’t turn back the clock, so let’s be thankful for what we still have.
Did you know you can get old photos restored at Alan’s? Or watch repairs at ER Sawyer? Or art appraisals (for insurance and other purposes) at the Christopher Hill Gallery? If you haven’t been to Vasconi’s or Smith’s lately, you might be surprised by how many home essentials they stock. Steves Hardware stocks an amazing array of merchandise.
10. You and your loved ones deserve some pampering.
One of the reasons people come from all over the world to shop here is that we have some awfully nice things for sale. Treat yourself to a few of them and reap the shared benefits of all of the above.
It’s been a rough year. We deserve it.