This column appears in this week’s Grafton News.  I wrote it on behalf of Grafton’s Economic Developement Commission, and at the behest of the late John LaPoint, whose dedication of Grafton’s continued economic growth was unwavering.  Unfortunately, this was the first, and last, thing we worked on together.  I like to think he would have liked this one.  Rest in peace, John.

A dark sky early, a whipping wind and biting frost in the air, and a leaf-covered lawn. Those are some early signs. Then come party invitations, and your favorite oldies or soft-rock radio station will change its format, probably too soon for your liking. And while it’s inescapable and sometimes stressful and unrelenting, it’s hard not to like this time of year. The holidays are upon us.

And with this joyous season comes holiday shopping and gift giving. Today, we have more options than ever at our disposal to find that perfect gift for that special someone. Are you a Black Friday type, getting up early to get in line outside of a box store at 3 a.m.? Are you an Amazon phone app type, endlessly scrolling for ideas from your couch? Or do you just avoid the whole thing entirely until you finally give in moments before the zero hour?

This holiday season, we humbly suggest another option. One that not only will bring joy to your loved ones, but also will benefit the community you call home. On behalf of Grafton’s Economic Development Commission, we invite you to shop local on small business Saturday, Nov. 25.

The benefits of shopping locally are profound, and not typically understood. Economic studies have shown that, on average, nearly 50 percent of each purchase at local, independent stores is recirculated locally, compared to just 14 percent of purchases in chain stores. Independent retailers return more than three times as much money locally per purchase as the big guys. In addition to buying gifts, then, going local creates jobs and local wealth. Local shoppers do well for their communities by spending smart locally.

A deliberate focus on creating a robust local economy comes at an essential time for Grafton. More than ever, our town looks to its residential tax base to support schools, police, our DPW department, our fire department, and elder services, just to name a few. Creating and sustaining a stronger local economy is critical to Grafton’s long-term success, and benefits you, the Grafton resident. You’re not just buying gifts for others when you shop locally — you’re doing yourself a favor, too.

In Grafton, we are lucky to have so many local businesses that are so giving to local charities throughout the year. These days, there is no limit to the requests that are made for local businesses to donate to community groups, children’s sports teams, children’s activities, and those in need. When we shop locally, we help maintain these businesses that contribute so much to our unique sense of community. As has been said before, Grafton takes care of its own.

None of this is to knock big, box stores, malls, shopping plazas or the internet. They all have their place. Residents have jobs in big box stores, too. But certainly, there is room in your busy holiday schedule to put down the smartphone, step out of the mall, and have a friendly conversation with a local store employee about what gift your loved one might enjoy. And who knows, maybe you’ll get more than just a gift out of it. Perhaps you’ll start to feel a little bit of the pride and joy that makes this season so special to begin with.

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