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Shop Local

Author: Sarah Stierch
December, 2017 Issue

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The holiday season is upon us in the North Bay, which means festive fun with family and friends, holiday decorations and delicious food, and of course, gifts. Sonoma, Napa and Marin Counties are shopping meccas, and during the holiday season there is no shortage of shopping options. In the wake of the devestating wildfires in Napa and Sonoma Counties, holiday shopping has the opportunity to impact the North Bay greatly. While it’s convenient to hit the North Bay malls for deals, discounts and big box retailers, or click “buy now” via Amazon from the comfort of your couch, the impact that shopping locally at independent retailers has on our community—both culturally and economically—are priceless. Shopping local is even more important after the wildfires, especially in communities that have suffered economically.  

In its 2017 Holiday Forecast, audit firm Deloitte forecasts that nationally, holiday retail sales are expected to rise 4 percent to 4.5 percent this year, up from 3.6 percent in 2016. This means the potential for big bucks and big impact for local retailers. According to Deloitte’s 2016 Holiday Survey, 60 percent of shoppers want to support the local economy by shopping locally. These shoppers have the right mindset—they will impact the local economy. On average, according to the American Independent Business Alliance, one shopper spends $68 per visit at an independent retailer versus $48 at a big box retailer. For every purchase made at a local retailer, 48 percent of the sale is recirculated into the local economy creating more jobs and more wealth, versus 14 percent at chain stores.
 

Community support

“The importance of supporting our local, independent retailers can’t be overemphasized,” says Kelley Rajala and Pam Dale, co-founders of Local Works, a flexible purpose corporation that supports small businesses through their Made Local Marketplace and North Bay Made initiative. Local Works promotes locally-made products, and the Made Local Marketplace in Santa Rosa, a brick-and-mortar store that features locally made products from more than 700 local artists and producers. “It’s locally-owned businesses that create the majority of jobs, support social organizations and school fundraisers, and shape the unique character and charm of our cities.” 
Another big draw for shoppers to “go local” is the opportunity to purchase unique gifts. In fact, 56 percent of shoppers reported this as a major draw to shop local, according to Deloitte. Additionally, shoppers of all ages (from Millennials to Baby Boomers), according to PriceWaterhouse Coopers 2017 Holiday Report, look to shopping locally to foster one-on-one relationships with retailers, the latter who may offer local’s discounts, personalized shopping, and special events to cater to regulars and new shoppers alike. 
Shopping locally also comes down to an ethical decision says Rajala, who encourages shoppers to think about where they are spending their money: “Where are the products made? Were the workers paid fairly? How far did the product travel to reach your doorstep?” These questions are particularly poignant in a time where “Made in the USA” is part of the national political narrative and carbon footprints are creating more questions about whether it’s better to drive to the store or buy what your gifts online. But for Rajala, it comes down to one simple mantra: “If you care about your community, financially support it and make your dollars count.”
 

Napa Bookmine

Despite the reign of the digital age, traditional paper books still make for popular gifts. Napa’s only independent bookstore, Napa Bookmine, opened in 2013, when the fear of print books going extinct, only to be replaced by digital tablets, was at its height. (Thankfully, print book sales on the rise, increasing 3.6 percent in 2016 according to Publishers Weekly.) The shop is owned by book enthusiasts Naomi Chamblin and Eric Haygard. Chamblin grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, where she worked at her father’s used bookstore, Chamblin Bookmine. When she moved to Napa, she discovered there was no used bookstore and started her own. Haygard joined her, after he had a stint in the wine industry, and the couple have continued to see their business grow. 
In 2014, they expanded to open a book stand at the popular Oxbow Public Market, a retail and food market in downtown Napa, selling newspapers, magazines, new books and sundries. The stand has since grown into its own retail space at the market. In total, the two locations staff 10 employees with an extremely low turnover rate—a source of pride for Chamblin, who calls her staff her “dream team.” In the near future, they look forward to expanding their bookstore with a bigger shop, which includes a cafe serving coffee, beer and wine. 
Napa Bookmine sells it all—from heavy, colorful coffee table books and best sellers which are holiday gift standards, to gently used out-of-print books about wine and cooking (it is Napa, after all) and rare first edition fiction works. According to Chamblin, 20 percent of the the retail sales at both locations stem from holiday sales. But it’s not just “about all of the tax revenue generated,” says Chamblin, who seeks to create what she describes as a “good vibes only” experience at both locations, creating a warm and friendly atmosphere. 
“When a small shop is committed to great service, they bend over backwards and to help you find the perfect gift, and even get to know you,” says Chamblin. All of her staff are avid readers and love making recommendations to customers, just one of the benefits of being an independent retailer, she says. To attract regulars and new shoppers alike, Napa Bookmine offers a wide variety of events, including local and national author signings and readings, which attract attendees from throughout the North Bay, during the Holidays. Another big draw is their frequent buyer’s program, which offers discounts and freebies to regular customers.
The “good vibes only” mantra emanates through all aspects of the Napa Bookmine experience, and is all the more important during the at-times crazy holiday season, according to Chamblin. “It can be a stressful month of planning vacations and end of the year work stuff—and shopping should be fun!”
 

Harvest Home & Fat Pilgrim

It was in 1991, in San Francisco’s Laurel Heights neighborhood when Craig Miller founded Harvest Home, a boutique specializing in handcrafted, American made wood furniture. Eventually, Miller relocated his boutique to Sonoma County, where he expanded Harvest Home to include Fat Pilgrim, a self-described “Contemporary General Store,” specializing in California-made furniture and home goods. Just in time for the holiday season, Miller has re-opened Harvest Home and Fat Pilgrim after extensive renovations at the Sonoma Roadside, a funky, rustic retail, wine tasting and garden space located just south of downtown Sonoma. The property also includes the organic gardens operated by The Girl & The Fig, the iconic French restaurant in Sonoma, and The Girl & The Fig owner Sondra Bernstein’s Rhône Room, a wine tasting room and shop.
When shopping at Harvest Home, customers are shopping and buying locally. “We specialize in California made upholstery with over 300 fabrics to chose from in any style, from ottomans to sectionals,” says Miller who takes deep pride in selling American-crafted goods. The Fat Pilgrim offers a unique shopping experience. “[It] harkens back to the days of the old General Store,” says Miller. The store offers seasonal and locally made gifts, including children and hostess gifts, locally-made jams, jellies and sauces, and home decor. 
Harvest Home and Fat Pilgrim employ six employees, most who live locally. They anticipate, based on previous incarnations of Harvest Home, that holiday sales will amount to 20 percent of their annual sales. The average sale for both shops is $148, with their client base being a mix of locals looking for new home decor or garden accessories, and Wine Country visitors cruising past the Sonoma Roadside en route to downtown Sonoma and stopping in for a momento or more. Now, holiday decorations are up on the big metal chicken that welcomes visitors to the property and the entire atmosphere of Harvest Home and Fat Pilgrim has shifted into a Wine Country wonderland.  
After 19 years, Miller closed the downtown location to Harvest Home, which relocated to Sonoma Roadside to reside next to its sister business, Fat Pilgrim. He praises the support he received locally. Sonoma residents were supportive and wonderful during the transition and beyond, he says. He envisions Sonoma Roadside as being a stop for locals and tourists alike, and a place to showcase local and regional artisanal wares that can’t be find online or in big box retailers, especially in a community like Sonoma, where local is not only a title, but a way of life.
 “As the Internet has grown, many of our important, local stores have closed,” Miller says. “It behoves each and everyone of us to appreciate having these local stores in our community.” He refers to both his own boutiques and the many other local businesses in the community and how without shopping local, especially during the holidays, “our wonderful, small town experience for the people that live here will change for the worse.” 
 

Toy B Ville

“Bursting with toys for all ages!” is the motto of Toy B Ville, a classic toy store with locations in downtown Napa and Petaluma. Bursting is putting it lightly, as on any given day one can walk by the boutiques and see a plethora of puppets, games and colorful costumes decorating the windows, as if to jump out onto the sidewalk to attract children and adults of all ages.
Owned and operated by toy power couple Darren and Amanda Turbeville, Toy B Ville has been offering educational and fun toys to North Bay residents since 1978, when it was known as The Learning Faire. The couple acquired the Napa toy store in 2008 and in 2014, opened the Petaluma store. Next year, the Turbeville’s will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Toy B Ville being the Napa’s only independently owned toy store.
For both Toy B Ville locations, holiday shopping is a major component of their annual sales. Darren Turbeville anticipates this year’s holiday sales comprising 30 percent of their year’s sales, with shoppers starting the toy-fueled frenzy as early as November 15. In a day and age when buying the most popular toys is as easy as a click away on Amazon or a visit to Target, Turbeville knows that Toy B Ville has to be competitive, with special events and sales, and by also offering customer service that isn’t offered at big box stores and online retailers. Many of his employees have raised families in Petaluma or Napa and have special interest in childhood development and use that knowledge to engage customers to help them find the perfect toy.
“We also have numerous hands-on and open box demonstrations,” says Turbeville. “We can explain the difference between a microscope that has a top or bottom light source, recommend a family game that you need for a party starting in 30 minutes, or help parents begin the potty training adventures with an anatomically correct doll that goes potty, too.” As if potty training dolls weren’t enough, Toy B Ville also offers free gift wrapping and assembly for toys at each location, as well as “wish list” registries for holidays and special occasions. They also have an annual 12 Hours of Christmas Sale where everything is 20 percent off in the store on the first Thursday of December.
The perks of great service and sales aren’t all Turbeville sees as a benefit of shopping locally. “There are added benefits of a reduced carbon footprint, tax dollars staying local, and an amazing selection of unique, hard to find gifts. Especially when you need a specific size toy to fit into your advent calendar,” he says.
 

Chase Ace Hardware Garden & Gift Emporium

Hardware stores might not be the first thing one thinks of when thinking about holiday shopping, but San Rafael’s Chase Ace Hardware Garden & Gift Emporium isn’t your normal hardware store. After shopping for a new power tool for the handyman (or woman) at your house, you can pop by their garden center to pick up an unusual plant (check out their impressive Tillandsia selection) a great gift for holiday party hostess, and wrap up the trip with a stop by the gift emporium, which offers home decor, books, candles, jewelry, and toys—and crossing everyone off on your holiday shopping list. 
By combining a traditional hardware store, with a seasonal garden and an eclectic gift shop, spokesperon Avi O’Shaughnessy says, “We really wanted to inspire the imagination and be the local source for hardware needs.” Chase Ace is a one-stop-shop if you will, which offers something for everyone, especially during the holidays, when one can be overwhelmed with the amount of shopping options albeit in person or online. 
They are especially proud of their garden center, which is professionally designed and makes a for a true sensory experience. The center offers both outdoor and indoor plants, including orchids and terrariums to house little air plants, high end professional garden tools, and Mexican Talavera pottery. Chase Ace has one of the largest selections of Talavera in the Bay Area. “We devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to make sure the plants are well taken care of so the customer has the best opportunity to be successful with the plants they fell in love with and painstakingly picked out,” says O’Shaughnessy.
The store offers an opportunity not only tackle holiday gift shopping, but also one’s holiday decor. This year they’ll offer fresh Christmas trees and a selection of lights and decorations, both traditional and contemporary in design. Approximately one third of the store’s sales come from holiday shopping and the average price at their store is $30. To encourage new and regular customers, they offer holiday sales and promotions, many which are promoted on social media. They also reach out to local women’s groups for shopping nights and will be hosting special events to showcase newly updated departments at the store, including their houseware department. 
What makes Chase Ace stand out from big box retailers? According to O’Shaughnessy, it’s not just the impressive selection of their retail offerings, but how Chase Ace serves as a community meeting spot. Both employees and customers gather together for day-to-day and special holiday needs. “We are on first name basis with many of our customers,” says O’Shaughnessy. “And we often see parents bumping into other parents, neighbors into neighbors, and taking five to ten minutes from their busy lives to reconnect.” Providing a perfect opportunity to celebrate not only community spirit, but the holiday spirit, too. 
 
 
 

Skeeter's Gallery 

In its 21st year of business, located on Fourth Street in Santa Rosa, Skeeter’s Gallery is gearing up for another busy holiday season. At Skeeter’s, owner Carolyn Jansen’s focus is on local, quality goods from jewelers and artists.  “We do as much as we can domestically,” she says.
Jansen opened Skeeter’s, her nickname from her husband, Tyler Jansen, in 1996 after successfully running two stores, a custom stained glass shop in 1974 and a kitchen goods store in Estes Park, Colo.  “After early retirement, my parents had several stores. They had The Trading Post in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which carried Native American jewelry and rugs. 
Tyler Jansen built the cabinetry and fixtures in the store where he also sells his woodwork, tables and turned bowls. What’s special about shopping at Skeeter’s is the level of customer service and attention to detail that Jansen and her staff provide. “We do five-star gift-wrapping for any gift at any price,” says Jansen. “A kid can come in with $5, buy a gift for someone and we will beautifully wrap it for them. They shine when they leave. It’s very satisfying.”
With a wide variety of gift options, household goods and products, there is something for everybody. Local products include: Dana Caruso of Oakmont’s Baroque pearl jewelry, Heartwood Creations’ cherry and madrone wood jewelry boxes and Sonoma Lavender products.  
“We also help men who struggle with gift shopping,” she says, especially during the busy holiday season. “We walk around with them and help them shop. They pick their gifts, go get a coffee and when they return, their gifts are wrapped and ready to go.” 
For more information, visit their website at www.facebook.com/SkeetersGallery/
 
 


 

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