To shop local or not. That is the question.

I don’t, as a rule, leave my house on Black Friday. What that means is that my Christmas shopping really doesn’t begin until right about, well, now.

As I think about buying gifts, I’m confronted with the same basic quandary others face in Chestnut Hill – how much shopping will I do locally?

To shop here on the Avenue for me is definitely convenient. I’m here every day. I can easily walk to most shops from the Local’s office door. But of course there are other issues.

Today, competition for the mom and pop shops on the Avenue has never been greater. There are several big shopping malls a half-hour drive from here. There are big box retailers like Walmart and Target in nearby Cheltenham. I can do all my shopping at my desk on Amazon.com, which, literally, has everything, and has it cheaper.

The cases against making those choices and shopping local are many. Local shops have the convenience of not risking your neck in a mall parking lot or wasting way precious moments of your life in line. You tend to get better service at small Avenue shopes. And there are many things you can get here that you can’t find in the mall or at Target.

But more important than that, I think, is the question of making a choice that benefits your neighborhood – whether it’s the neighborhood in which you live or work. Spending money locally helps the local economy and, therefore, is a benefit to you.

Heard that argument before? Probably. The counter is always the same: “Look, I’m going to shop where I can afford to and where the prices are lower.”

It’s tough to argue that people should spend a little more money or shop a little bit harder to keep more of their business local. On general principle, the engines of our economy have picked up where prices and labor are cheaper – see China – and to suggest otherwise is simply counterintuitive. It’s not good capitalism.

You’d think we’re smarter than that now. That we know sending our business elsewhere, just because it’s cheaper, is not productive. In fact, it is self destructive. Why can’t Germantown Avenue support more retails choices? Why are big retailers vacant? Because people – we the people – aren’t shopping here. It’s that simple.

No, I’m not trying to guilt you into changing your shopping habits. Or telling you to spend more here. But I think it is important to try a little harder and think about opportunities to shop here when you can.

When you spend money here, you keep money here, help more people stay employed here and keep those shops from going vacant. And in the long run, that makes your neighborhood and your home more valuable.

Pete Mazzaccaro

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