Sustainable Woodstock: 3/50: Little Idea, Big Potential Impact

December 28, 2011

in Business Matters,News,Woodstock

By Christopher Bartlett
Special To The Standard

Chris Bartlett Photo
Chy “Sunny” Tuckerman prepares crispy ginger fish at his Angkor Wat restaurant. Chy has a loyal local clientele who he regards as family. Although people have tried to persuade him to move his business to Hanover, he says he feels connected to Woodstock. Being outside the village center, the restaurant relies on locals particularly over the winter.

Do Just One Thing…
Join the 3/50movement. Pick three local businesses you’d really miss if they were no longer in town. Then do your best to keep them here by allocating $50 of your monthly budget to spread among them.

If you have ever had doubts about the power of a good idea, here’s a story to restore your faith. And better yet, it’s an idea we can harness right here in our community.
Cast your mind back three years when the country was mired the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It was an incredibly difficult time for everyone, but particularly for small businesses.
That’s when Minneapolis-based retail consultant Cinda Baxter had her idea. Unwilling to wait for the wheels of Washington to grind out a solution, she posted a blog titled Save the Economy …Three Stores at a Time.
The post challenged her readers to do a few simple things: think of three local businesses you would miss if they disappeared; drop by, say hello, and pick up something to buy; then commit to diverting $50 of your monthly budget to support those chosen businesses.
The idea took off, and the 3/50 Project was born. Within 12 months, almost half a million people had visited its website, and across the country, hundreds of independent local businesses had signed up.
More importantly, the movement was getting out the word that for every $100 you spend at a locally owned independent store, $68 recycles in the community. When you spend the same amount in a national chain, only $43 stays here. As for online purchases, the amount that remains local is…precisely nothing!
So what does this mean to our community? A lot of local businesses are now heading into their most difficult trading months of the year. With the peak fall tourist season behind them, they become much more reliant on town residents. And that’s especially true for new businesses and new owners.
So drop by and chat with Ron Miller, who purchased Shiretown Books earlier this year. “My vision is to make this space a real community center,” he said. “A good local bookstore can be a wonderful place for sharing ideas.”
That philosophy is evident as you wander around the store. Where else but an independent bookstore would you find a mystery section next to shelves labeled “Provocative Thinkers”? And where else would you find a knowledgeable owner willing to guide you through either section? That alone makes it a candidate for the “miss it if it disappeared” list.
Or stop in and say hello to Cary Agin, a qualified optician who recently opened Eyes on Elm. After working in optical businesses on Long Island and White River Junction, he decided to open a store in Woodstock where his wife teaches in the elementary school.
“We’re not so much a tourist business as a service to residents,” he said. “Having a local store can save people a 25 minute drive to have their eyeglass prescription filled. But you can also just drop in if you need a quick adjustment which we do without charge.” That’s the kind of attitude that quickly gets a business on the “miss it if it disappeared” list.
So take the 3/50 test. Which three businesses would you really be sad to see leave town? Isn’t it worth diverting just $50 a month to keep them here? That’s a little idea with a lot of power.


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