In Your Own Backyard
May 03 2019

In Your Own Backyard

By: Debbie Lindsey

Welcome to week two of our Jazz & Heritage Festival. And on behalf of all the locally owned small businesses, we thank you for being here in our town. You guys truly get us and appreciate the verve, vibe, and funk of this wacky and wonderful city. You understand that what makes New Orleans so different from the rest of the universe is her people and their crafts, cuisine, culture, and creativity. Some of our talent is homegrown and a lot are transplants. This is fertile land for imaginations to grow.

So much of the wares and creations rendered by our locals are available in the many small shops, caf├ęs, restaurants, galleries, and music stores throughout New Orleans. And we invite you to make their day with your continued support. Yes, our visiting Jazz Festers tend to be the perfect demographic for our "only in New Orleans" commodities and entertainment. (Frankly, many of our tourists support us year-round.) In fact, you should know that many of the fabulous eateries and boutiques will not be here next Jazz Fest without the continued support of folks like you! Yep, we rely upon the kindness of strangers.

All of us locals would do well to follow the example of our tourists when it comes to seeking out those one-of-a-kind, mom-and-pop, small local businesses. Boyfriend, aka Husband, and I have a cookbook shop, and no matter what we do (after 20 years of trying), we cannot seem to incorporate ourselves into the rhythms and routines of New Orleanians' shopping and foraging patterns. And I suspect this is a concern of many small businesses. I believe there is a deep respect by locals for independent merchants, especially those that scream "uniquely New Orleans," and yet, too often, small businesses close or fall even deeper into debt. Certainly, there are those dedicated local supporters who make a point of putting their money where their pride is. We all seem to feel great pride in New Orleans-centric anything, but most neglect to back it up with their shopping dollars. Why?

Why do tourists sometimes out-support our locals when it comes to our city's small businesses? Discovery is one reason. Visitors seek to discover places when traveling, and many of our tourists want to find the less touristy spots. In recent years, I have observed a strong trend within New Orleans tourism: the desire to explore and be immersed in our culture and our neighborhoods-a shifting outward from the Quarter. To do this, tourists research in advance, and this is when they discover, by way of sites like Atlas Obscura, Lonely Planet, and even conventional go-to guidebooks, our more hidden gems. Mr. Google has unwittingly become an ambassador for otherwise unseen must-be-seen spots. HBO's Treme also gets credit for showcasing our homegrown talents, quirks, and great food. Heck, the TV series even paid homage to a pothole-gotta love that!

It's not that our citizens don't want to support small businesses and local attractions; it is just so easy to get stuck in a routine that seemingly saves the consumer time and money. You work all day and just want to grab those groceries at the store you have been programmed to shop at. No shame, no blame. You are familiar with the Winn-Dixie near your house. Yet how many times have you driven past Terranova's Supermarket, which offers no long lines at check-out? Did you know that they have been family-owned for over 94 years and have an amazing butcher department? Okay, a small store might not have everything you need-so why not shave 20 percent off your Walmart or other big-box supermarket budget and spend that percentage with "family"? You can have it both ways, while supporting a community-minded business.

Grocery shopping is just one example of "mixing it up" when you're in consumer mode. If you must shop Amazon for items, make sure they are products that you cannot buy locally first-compromise and shop various ways, while throwing some of your greenbacks at locally owned enterprises. Encourage others to take note of the various ways to keep our monies circulating within our city. Local businesses tend to shop locally for their wares and needs (printing, office supplies, locally sourced foods, art, crafts, local book distributors, vendors, etc.). And if you must go BIG and shop national chains, then do it locally, and keep those jobs-at places like Home Depot-available for New Orleanians. Brick-and-mortar versus online whenever possible. Lack the funds to buy a book or DVD? Then go to your local library and support an institution that gives back to the community.

Every day, New Orleans joins the ranks of other great cities and towns throughout this country that are losing entrepreneurs, services, unique commodities, and bits of history to the mammoths of online shopping. So, when you visit our city (or any city), please spend your dollars to keep the very things that attracted you to vacation here intact, so that during your next visit, you might return to them like an old friend.

And to my fellow New Orleanians: I beg you to support the marvelous new restaurants, shops, green markets, and pop-up vendors that have graced us and please take a fresh look at the old guard of shopkeepers and purveyors that have helped make this town distinctive. Be a tourist in your own town; look to see what has been in your own backyard all along-before it is gone. I speak from the heart and from experience, as we are one of those shops that will not be here next Jazz Fest-we are unfortunately poised to close. There are no words for how much I will miss my shop, my customers. Thank you to those who tried so hard to stick by us. You will be remembered-I hope we will be, too.

And to all our local citizenry, we are delighted that you are supporting the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

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