Think Small, Buy Local
Many Americans frequent chain stores without considering their local merchant or other small business options. But shopping local can be rewarding, fun, and even cost-effective.
Ever heard the expression, “Hitting too close to home?” Well, there’s no such thing as hitting too close to home when it comes to supporting local businesses. Making it a point to shop and eat at Green Country’s many locally-owned small businesses and restaurants isn’t just convenient. It’s actually a great way to support the local economy, develop Tulsa-area artists, have unique fun, and yes, even save money.
Still, getting past the misconceptions people have about shopping local can be challenging. Many people expect to find the cheapest deals and best quality at big box stores or national chain restaurants. There’s definitely an advantage in name recognition. After all, if you haven’t heard of Walmart or McDonald's, you might need to join the 21st century.
But local shops have a lot of ways that they can outshine the big boys and keep you coming back for some of the best service, quality, fun and variety around. Here are several reasons why thinking small and shopping local might just be your next big thing to do in Green Country this year.
Better Customer Service
Local businesses often rely heavily on serving their customers’ individual needs. Julee March, owner of Jules Boutique, an eclectic clothing shop in downtown Tulsa, says, “Local businesses can be more personalized, unique and customer friendly. We know your name after you have visited the store the second time. We will special order items in your size or color.”
Builds the Local Economy
At Boomtown Tees, which offers Tulsa-themed t-shirts, souvenirs and custom designs, owner JoAnn Frizzell loves what small businesses do. “The country is basically run by small businesses,” she says. March agrees: “When many large corporations were leaving Tulsa, the economy didn’t dip as much as in many other states because of the many small businesses that were started,” she notes. “Tulsa has an entrepreneurial spirit that Tulsa should be proud of and support.”
Local Businesses Support Each Other
It’s common for one local business to work with others, which ultimately keeps the area growing and benefits everyone. Bryan and Kimberly Winn, owners/operators of AJ’s Heavenly Pizza in Catoosa, which serves handcrafted pizza, sandwiches and salads, agree. “The money [customers spend] stays in the area, which benefits other business,” say the Winns. “From the local sign maker to the doughnut shop, everybody relies on the others to create a healthy community of stores.”
Makes It Fun to Go Out on the Town
“Most of the small businesses in the Deco District consider themselves a friendly neighborhood,” says March. “Guests can visit neighbors to grab a bite to eat or drink, try on clothes, find unique gifts, tour awesome Art Deco buildings, run into friends and much more.”
This adds character to Green Country, says Frizzell. “All of us combined are within walking distance,” she says. “It adds a flavor to downtown Tulsa that hasn’t been here before.”
There's Always Something New
To keep things fresh and inviting, local business owners innovate to keep customers coming in. For Tulsa Stained Glass owner Richard Bohm, that means new ways to incorporate art into your home. His latest innovation, new this year, is a line of Garden Spirit Sculptures — a custom kit available in three different designs and 12 color combinations so customers can build their own stained glass garden sculpture.
Greater Variety, More Options
Because local businesses don’t have to answer to a corporate headquarters, they can customize their offerings. “You get more options in a specialty store,” says Bohm. At Tulsa Stained Glass, customers can choose a series of classes or a single two- to three-hour class. They can buy the tools and supplies to make stained glass at home, or they can bring in a design and let Bohm turn it into custom art for them. That’s a lot of choices, more than customers typically get at a national crafting chain store.
Not as Expensive As You Might Think
“I’ve heard people say they’ve always thought of boutiques as expensive and just for petites,” says March. “Not all boutiques are expensive; they just carry unique clothes, in a smaller quantity, so that you won’t see someone else walking down the street in the same outfit. Most carry sizes XS up to 3X.”
Gives Back to Local Charities
Many local businesses give actively to local charities, so the benefits of their giving stay in Green Country. Bohm says he gives to the DVIS Kennel, which allows women and children to bring their pets when they leave a violent, dangerous home. Customers can donate pet food and other pet items (not money) anytime at Tulsa Stained Glass.
Builds Generational Memories
Visit a local business and you’ll hear plenty of stories about their place in the community. Winn says, “One of the coolest parts of owning AJ’s Heavenly Pizza is hearing stories from customers about how AJ’s has always been a part of their lives. They’ll share how they used to work here when they went to school, or how they were the ones who created the Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza. Some even have memories of the Pac-Man game that used to sit in the corner.”
It's All About You
“In all,” says Winn, “the best part of AJ’s is the customers.” That sentiment was seconded by every business owner we spoke to. Thinking small business and buying local is a good way to get what you, the customer, want and need.
525 S. Main Ave., Suite 104 | Tulsa
114 S. Elgin Ave. | Tulsa
Tulsa Stained Glass
4131 S. Sheridan Road | Tulsa
AJ's Heavenly Pizza
1555 N. Highway 66 | Catoosa
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