Think community, shop locally

February 23, 2010

By Christopher Huber

When the winter snowstorms of December 2008 blanketed the Issaquah area, local shops and businesses experienced a spike in revenue. Shoppers stayed nearby, rather than brave snow and ice on the roadways to Bellevue or Seattle.

But once the weather cleared up, things were back to normal, said Matthew Bott, CEO of the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and its member business owners want “normal” to be as it was when it snowed. That’s why they recently launched a “Shop Issaquah” campaign to bring awareness of the benefits of spending your money locally.

“When you shop locally … it develops the character of the community,” said Darlene Cohen, manager of the Gilman Antique Gallery, located in Gilman Square on Gilman Boulevard.

Her 17,000-square-foot antique mall is the largest antique mall on the Eastside, and offers one-of-a-kind arts, collectibles and gifts from vendors who have sold in Issaquah for 20 years or more. Each vendor is another entrepreneur, keeping commerce alive and well in Issaquah.

Other local businesses strive to be unique while filling a niche for their customers. Some local shops make room for youngsters to play in the corner while adults shop. Other businesses lead the way in community service. And almost all prefer to hire local employees whenever possible.

Fischer’s Meats in historic downtown is historic itself, celebrating 100 years in business this year. Customers know the little meat market for its great steaks and chops, but also for the specialties made right here on Front Street — like pepperoni and jerky.

Gilman Village has the largest collection of unique shops and small restaurants in one Issaquah shopping center.

One of those, X Marks the Tot, is a homegrown business that designs and manufactures custom clothing for babies and toddlers. Tarri Burchak and daughter-in-law Carisa Burchak co-own the business. Larger orders are manufactured in Seattle, but all of their sales come back to Issaquah, she said.

“We try to keep it pretty local. I think it’s important to keep the community thriving,” Tarri Burchak said. “It also keeps it unique.”

X Marks the Tot’s clothing is made from recycled or organic material, and the owners also make custom outfits, she said. One hot-seller is the T-Suit for 1- to 3-year-olds, a one-piece made of adult T-shirts.

“One of the things I think people overlook is that often in local establishments, they can find products and services that really are not generally available,” said Aaron Barouh, general manager of Gilman Village. “And they sometimes don’t realize that there are a lot of homegrown products.”

Issaquah residents may not be able to buy all of their desires locally, but Issaquah business owners and their customers agree that shopping locally is good for the community.

Top reasons to shop locally

  • Sales taxes support city services and parks.
  • Local businesses hire locally.
  • Save gas and time with shorter trips to the store.
  • Sales taxes help support police and fire departments.
  • “Go Green” — cut down on air pollution with shorter drives.
  • Local merchants support schools with fundraising and more.
  • Local businesses create community pride. Their achievements help put Issaquah on the map.
  • Boost property values. Nearby goods and services are amenities homebuyers seek.
  • Better service comes from local people who know you.
  • Local charities are supported by local businesses.
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