Downtown Chapel Hill

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Living Locally: Buying Local Benefits

“Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth anything unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” – Dolly Levi, Hello Dolly, 1969


I find so many things to love about this quote. I love the movie Hello Dolly and have fond memories watching it with my grandmother and my dad; I love musicals in general (see: Sound of Music); and I also love the meaning of this quote – That money has a use beyond just acquiring things. That how you spend your money can make real, tangible differences in your community. Everyone has to satisfy their basic needs of food and clothing (and maybe a spool of yarn or two!), so why not do it in a way that benefits others?

For the month of August, I’ve challenged myself to only shop at locally-owned stores, only eat at locally-owned restaurants, and only be entertained at locally-owned venues. (See here for my blog article at the beginning of the month.) This challenge has taken me to many neat places – the Varsity for movies, Ken’s Quickie Mart for ketchup, and Breadman’s for a great Sunday morning feast. All of which highlight the awesome downtown and vibrant community in which we live.

But while this journey has definitely been fun, what are the actual benefits of living locally? Why is it good for our community to think local first? Why should we spend the extra time going to multiple stores instead of just one? Or expend the little grey cells in brainstorming where we can find a cast-iron pan? (PS – Check out Brown’s Paint & Hardware at 420 W. Franklin; this store’s incredible!) Or let’s face it, why should we spend more money on products that we could buy at a chain store for cheaper?


Luckily, lots of people have researched and studied how buying local benefits. Here are some, just to name a few:

  • When you buy products locally, more money stays in the local economy. A study of the economic benefits of buying locally in Chicago showed that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 stayed in the local economy whereas for every $100 spent at a chain store, only $43 stayed in the local economy. Those extra dollars add up!
  • This also means that when you buy locally, your money is being recycled into other local businesses such as local attorneys, local advertising firms, local print shops – now that’s something to feel good about!
  • Small local businesses create a ton of jobs nationally and right here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Purchasing items or eating at a local business means that the owner has more money to hire more employees.
  • Buying locally also means that funky stores, delicious restaurants, and neat events can happen and stay in business which means that the Chapel Hill and Carrboro can retain the places and people that make our community unique and truly different from any other town.

There are a ton of other reasons by buying locally is great for our community, and many of these reasons can be found on the Sustainable Connections website which encourages community members to “Think Local First.”

So to be a little selfish, I want to go back to my challenge and assess how it’s been going so far for me. I’m about three-fourths of the way through my challenge, and so far it’s been going well.

  • For grocery shopping: Some items from Ken’s Quickie Mart, others from Weaver Street Market in the friendly Carrboro
  • For my frozen yogurt fix: Yogurt Pump (or “YoPo” as I was told it was called early in my grad school career)
  • For lunch with my friend: Jack Sprat – I can’t quit that Toasty Turkey!
  • For my envelopes and baby powder: Sutton’s Drug Store always has what I need
  • Other go-to places: Med Deli, Sandwhich, Mint (can you tell I spend most of my money on eating?!)

I’ve been able to find everything that I need at a local place, it’s just not always the same brand or in the same size that I’m used to buying. Which is okay, change can be a good thing!

So I’m going to keep spreading that manure, or well actually money, all over local businesses in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. And I hope you will too! If you are already taking a living locally challenge or are doing something that’s also really neat that helps our community, please let me know! You can reach me at

I’d love to hear all about what you are doing and to be inspired by you. Also, if I get responses, I’ll post these in my next blog article about other ways to “Think Local First.”


Megan has taken a thirty-day self challenge in which she is living locally. She still hasn’t been able to find a local shop that sells underwear, but she hasn’t given up yet!