It’s back-to-school time for the kids and as parents it’s always a time of new goals, routines and excitement. I also remember, as my son was growing up, what a crazy expensive time it was for me. I had to buy fresh hockey equipment and pay fees, buy multiple sets of shoes, school supplies, clothes etc. We all know that this time of year can be costly for parents especially parents with a brood. This whole scenario is not new, we all understand this hardship and every year the stores entice us into purchasing the newest unicorn covered backpacks and Star Wars themed school supplies. What I would like to suggest is that we approach this time of year with the goal being ‘education over consumerism’.
Now I’d like to start by saying that I’m not advocating to not spend money on ‘back-to-school’ . What I mean by ‘education over consumerism’ is to look at all the ways we can educate our children about civic responsibility and community as a back-to-school consumer initiative. When I was a kid, we were taught to thank our veterans for their service, tip our mailman, help a stranger that looked lost, show kindness to homeless and jobless people, call the SPCA if you find someone’s lost pet and of course to shop at stores owned and operated by local residents.
As the effects of the pandemic linger let’s look to ways that we can make the world a better place by starting right here in Downtown Nanaimo. The merchants in this area have faced unprecedented challenges and yet they still show up every day for their customers. Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy, and they give our city more than just a place to shop. They draw tourism, create events and fun family experiences, they support local sports teams and give back in so many ways. Let’s take the time this season to teach our kids about the power of shopping local, what that means to the community and the local economy. Let’s teach our kids to get involved as volunteers to share in the growth and pride in our city. These are the life lessons that, when instilled, provide the greatest opportunity for children to grow into kind, community-minded adults.
I walk through downtown nearly every day and there are beautiful bookshops, hip clothing stores, unique retailers and restaurants. The best part of shopping locally is the pride that the merchants have in their businesses. Take time to speak with them about their displays, the history of their building, why they opened their business etc. For instance, yesterday I learned that the clerk of a shop downtown is flying to Vegas next week to get married by Elvis, she was so excited to share the story with me and I got excited right along with her. In another shop I found out that the canoe hanging from the ceiling was a genuine artifact from a First Nations community, with a beautiful story of cultural preservation. These are just two examples of additional interest you can find shopping downtown.
Here is my challenge. Talk to merchants and learn their stories, find out about the history of downtown and look for organizations that you can support with your time and your shopping power.