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At 76, Haydon Spalding is the fourth generation in his family to own and run Spalding’s department store in downtown Bardstown, a fixture on Third Street since 1856�making it the oldest retail store continuing to do business in the same location in the state.

Growing up, he heard tales of how his great-grandfather weathered the Civil War in his new business, donating blankets and other merchandise equally to both Union and Confederate soldiers, for fear of being burned down otherwise.

When Spalding’s opened 155 years ago, shopping downtown�”buying local”�at independent, family-run businesses was the only way to shop. Even through the 1950s and 1960s, downtowns across the Commonwealth remained bustling commerce centers, the place to see and be seen on Saturdays, as folks came in from all over the county to shop for wares, catch a movie, and grab a malt at the corner drug store.

With the spread of chain stores, malls, and suburban shopping centers in the 1970s and 1980s, and then the growth of “Big Box” stores in the 1990s and 2000s, the necessity of going downtown to buy jeans or shoes or even a new TV waned.

The same trend happened with our foods, when grabbing a tomato grown in California or a watermelon from Georgia at the neighborhood grocery seemed, to some, easier than making the downtown trip to the local farmer’s market to buy Kentucky-grown produce.

But there’s a growing movement to try to stem that tide a bit.

“Shop local, buy local” campaigns are springing up everywhere across the state, and across the country. With clever marketing, they remind folks that local foods really do taste fresher. That supporting independent, locally owned businesses really does provide an added boost to the local community. And that downtown stores really are still alive and well�perhaps even more eclectic and fun and quirky than ever.

So make it a resolution in 2012 to be more mindful of where you spend your hard-earned dollar. Make supporting locally owned businesses�especially in your own downtown�and buying foods from your local farmers a priority. We bet you’ll be glad you did.

Think Kentucky Crafted
When men’s clothing designer Crittenden Rawlings retired as president and CEO of Oxxford Clothes in Chicago, one of the nation’s most elite sources of menswear, he knew he wanted to come back to his native Kentucky.

Rawlings quickly grew bored in retirement and went back to work, launching his own line of clothing, Crittenden Clothes, seven years ago. His sport coats and trousers are sold in some of the country’s finest stores, including New York City’s Barney’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, just to name two. And his full clothing line is available at his two local retail locations in Midway and Lexington.

Some of Rawlings’ designs are manufactured overseas. Some are made in Tennessee and New York. But committed as he is to supporting Kentucky’s own economy, he wanted to bring some of his production to his own home state. A friend told him about Phar-Shar Manufacturing Inc. in Leitchfield, and a partnership was soon born.

The family-owned and -operated Phar-Shar, in business since 1979, began producing several pieces of outerwear, wool duffel bags, and other items in the Crittenden line, and will be producing flannel shirts and other items as well, Rawlings says.

Phar-Shar, which produced clothing for Ralph Lauren, Polo, Land’s End, and other high-end brands for decades before much of that work was shipped overseas, has had to “reinvent” its business in order to stay afloat, says owner Mike Pharris.

Their company prides itself on being American-made and Kentucky-crafted, selling its own line of outerwear, baby items, handbags, and children’s clothing at its retail stores called Caught Ya Lookin’ in Lexington and in Leitchfield.

Rawlings’ success in finding a Kentucky-based manufacturer for his designs shouldn’t be too surprising. From large-scale clothing production to makers of the smallest specialty wares, talented Kentucky craftsmen abound throughout the state, dedicating their lives to creating items of beauty�from lovely turned wooden bowls to pottery to homemade candles and soaps.

Not sure where to find Kentucky-made arts or crafts? Look to regional specialty stores like Completely Kentucky in downtown Frankfort, where shop owner Ann Wingrove stocks nothing but items made in the Bluegrass State. (Wingrove estimates that she’s sold items from 1,000 Kentucky artisans since opening in 1990.)

Stop by one of the Kentucky craft outlets popping up along interstates throughout the state. In Owingsville just off I-64, the new Kentucky Market Pavilion, opened by the Bath County Cooperative Extension Office last April, specializes in Kentucky-made items, from homemade quilts and wind chimes to holiday d�cor, candy, and sorghum molasses, says shop director Annalyn Flade. The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, along I-75 at exit 77, offers fine Kentucky-made pottery, woodworking, metal work, jewelry, specialty foods, and more.

Or make plans to visit the Kentucky Arts Council’s annual Kentucky Crafted: The Market, set to be held in Lexington on March 1-4 (March 1-2 are for wholesale buyers only; March 3-4 are open to the public), where hundreds of the state’s finest artists will have their goods on sale and display.

When you buy goods from a Kentucky craftsperson or artist, you are literally “buying local.” Think of it as your very own piece of Kentucky.

Think Downtown
Walk into eclectic specialty shop At Mary’s on Bardstown’s Third Street, and you’ll see a little bit of everything: giftware, antiques, artwork and crafts by local artists, jewelry, and items for the bed and bath. The unexpected mix is what makes the store so fun, and what keeps customers coming back�if shop owner Mary Carey can just get them in the door that first time.

Carey, who herself has a business marketing degree, admits that getting folks to think about shopping downtown takes some creativity.

“You’re always going to have the Walmart mentality that you have to get past,” says Carey. “That’s why making your town, especially your downtown, a shopping destination is so key.”

“We try to find various ways to get people to come in: sidewalk sales, anniversary sales, fall festivals, and other downtown events,” says her store neighbor Haydon Spalding, noting that Spalding’s has had to downsize and specialize over the years to find their own niche market.

From one end of the state to the next, downtowns are coming up with innovative marketing strategies to get shoppers to “think local/think downtown” when deciding where to make their purchases. After all, buying local keeps money in your own community, it builds jobs, and it helps keep your hometown vibrant and unique.

Many of the campaigns operate under the umbrella of the Kentucky Heritage Council’s Kentucky Main Street program, which currently has 72 designated cities, representing a network of 41,528 downtown jobs and more than 5,853 downtown small businesses.

In northern Kentucky’s Bellevue in Campbell County, themed Shop Bellevue nights, held the first Friday of each month�like the one in October, where shop owners dressed like zombies, or in the spring, when shoppers get to crack open plastic eggs for prizes and coupons at downtown businesses�are so popular that sidewalk traffic is often shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the six-block downtown business district, says the city’s Main Street coordinator, Jody Robinson. The program also distributes free yellow umbrellas at downtown businesses with the reminder to “Shop Bellevue Rain or Shine.”

In western Kentucky’s Henderson, the city’s popular Think Henderson campaign included a fun Facebook initiative last summer to drum up continued downtown support. The Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Henderson Project handed out $2 bills at various events, financed by the Think Henderson organization, with stickers that read “Spend Me Locally!” They encouraged people to post on Facebook’s “Think Henderson 2 Dollar Bill” page where they received or spent their $2 bill.

“When we first started the Think Henderson campaign about six years ago, it really made people think about where they were shopping,” says Beth Strawn, executive director of the Downtown Henderson Project. “People were so used to just hopping in their car and making the 20-minute drive to the mall in Evansville. So this definitely brought about an awareness.”

Similarly, in Danville, downtown store owners’ participation in The 3/50 Project has become such a hit with local residents, “shoppers walk into downtown stores now so excited and proud, and say, ‘I’m doing my 3/50 today,'” says Julie Wagner, executive director of the Heart of Danville Main Street Program.

The 3/50 Project��is a national, grassroots initiative open to all independent businesses, which encourages citizens to spend at least $50 per month across three locally owned independent businesses in order to, as the campaign puts it, “save the brick and mortars our nation is built on.”

“We do a lot of things that just make it fun to come downtown,” says Bellevue’s Robinson. “Once you have them in the door, it’s so much easier to get them back.”

Think Kentucky Proud
Renowned Kentucky chef Ouita Michel, who owns and operates Holly Hill Inn in Midway, Wallace Station in Versailles, and Windy Corner in northern Fayette County, learned something in culinary school that everyone once knew: using local ingredients makes for the freshest, best-tasting food.

“For me, it was the study of French and Italian cuisine and the realization that they use local agricultural artisan products in their food,” says Michel. “And that’s why it’s so good. That’s why from the beginning of wanting to be a chef, I’ve had a commitment to local agriculture. Buying local is an old-fashioned tradition that we sort of abandoned for a few decades.”

But it’s a tradition that local food advocates like Michel�whose three restaurants have purchased nearly $1 million in Kentucky-grown meats, fruits, and vegetables in the last 10 years�and Sarah Fritschner, coordinator of Louisville Farm to Table, believe is coming back, and this time to stay.

Awareness of the fresh taste and health benefits of locally grown food has been building over the last few decades or so, thanks to efforts like the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Kentucky Proud marketing campaign. Added to that is the growing realization that buying local foods serves as a great economic development boost for our state, says Fritschner, whose program aims to connect Kentucky producers with large-scale institutional buyers�like hospitals, school systems, universities, and restaurants�within Louisville’s $3 billion food economy.

“My job is to help famers understand there is a market for their food, and to help people understand that there’s more to the food economy than just farmer’s markets,” Fritschner explains.

David Neville, owner of Capstone Produce Auction in Campbellsburg, agrees that introducing farmers to large-scale, institutional buyers is key, especially as former tobacco farmers scramble to find ways to diversify and survive.

“We are open to any size grower. Whether you bring two pecks of okra or 500 cases of tomatoes, we’re going to accommodate you,” says Neville, who opened the year-round auction (with a schedule that varies with the season) in late 2009. “But our target for our commercial audience is really those institutional buyers. Long term, those are going to be the folks who can eat up enough volume to make it commercially viable for a farmer to rely on produce production to support his farm.”

Already, Neville’s market has been a welcome produce outlet for growers from across the state. In 2010, its first full year of sales, the market sold from 283 producers representing some 20 Kentucky counties. “It surprised even me,” says Neville of the market’s quick growth, “and I don’t get surprised that often.”

In Christian County, the Fairview Produce Auction near Pembroke, which opened in 1996, sells only in wholesale quantities, says its general manager Ralph Burkholder.

Each growing season, the Fairview auction attracts wholesale buyers from across Kentucky and Tennessee and as far away as Ohio and Chicago who want to buy supplemental items to sell at their local farmer’s markets, at their own on-farm markets, or independent grocery stores.

The Jackson County Regional Food Center opened its doors in spring of 2011 welcoming local farmers and entrepreneurs. They provide a fully equipped licensed commercial kitchen facility, on land donated by East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which eliminates the overhead costs that come with taking an idea and developing that idea into a product that can be produced, processed, and packaged locally on a large scale.

What does all this mean for consumers? More choices and more ways to find healthy, locally grown foods. As the institutional trend catches on, not only will you be able to grab fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmer’s market or nearby on-farm orchard or store, but you might also just as likely find Kentucky-grown apples or strawberries in your child’s school lunch or Kentucky-grown beef in that hamburger you order at your favorite neighborhood restaurant.

It’s another way of buying local, supporting local�and one that tastes good, too!

Shop Local/Shop Downtown

Make a resolution to support your locally owned downtown businesses this year. One person really can make a difference in boosting your hometown economy.

One economic impact study suggested that if you spend $100 at locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to your local community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that $100 at a national chain, only $43 returns to the local community. If you spend $100 at an online retailer, $0 returns to the community.

Another study suggested that a mere shift of 10 percent of Americans’ shopping dollars currently spent with national retailers to local retailers would mean an additional $235 million into regional economies across the country annually, creating hundreds of new jobs.

Want to learn more?

The American Independent Business Alliance ( will host its 2012 International Conference of Localization Advocates on March 29-April 1 in Louisville. The conference theme is Go Local/Grow Local: Building Community Prosperity from Within.

Other resources

� Kentucky Proud’s Web site offers a searchable database by county to locate Kentucky-based producers of all varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other homemade products:

� To find a local farmer’s market in your area, log on to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s online directory:

� Kentucky Farm Bureau Certified Roadside Markets:

� Louisville Farm to Table:

� Local First Lexington:

� Louisville Independent Business Alliance:

� Shop Bellevue:

� Heart of Danville:

� Think Henderson:

� The 3/50 Project:

� The American Independent Business Alliance:

Keyword Exclusive: Main Street

To learn more about the Kentucky Heritage Council’s Kentucky Main Street Program, which educates the public on the importance of shopping local, go to Main Street.

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