Originally published in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor on December 22, 2022.
In 2020, an Amazon truck lived in my neighborhood. I walk the dog multiple times a day and there it would be, lurking around the corner each time I left the house. I started to think that the driver was just going around the block, again and again.
Then, I started to talk with friends and family and realized that during 2020, they were ordering everything online, even their groceries. I was still going to the grocery store, old school style except in a mask. I understand it is convenient to order things online, but these people were creating new habits without knowing it. Yes, they had ordered items online before, but now they were ordering literally everything online.
I worked from home long before the pandemic sent everyone to their home offices, and today, I do not see the Amazon truck as much, although I do see it at least a couple of times a day, and I see Fed Ex and UPS trucks several times during waking hours too. This means at least six times per day I notice a delivery truck in my neighborhood.
This online shopping phenomenon is not in my head. Census.gov reports that e-commerce sales increased by $244.2 billion or 43% in 2020, rising from $571.2 billion in 2019 to $815.4 billion in 2020. I could keep throwing figures out, but after a google search that turned epic, the facts show that online shopping continues to increase.
People have grown used to shopping online so that is what they do. Let’s face it, just thinking about a possible holiday or birthday gift has an ad flashing by on Facebook showing where that item is available for purchase online.
In my career as the Mayor of HeidiTown and expert road-tripper around Colorado, I always seek out a town’s downtown. After all, this is the heart of a place. It’s where the stories reside, not at the Walmart with its gargantuan parking lot at the edge of town.
One cannot get to know a place by visiting a chain restaurant or convenience store. Quite frankly, they all look exactly the same. That’s the name of the game, and while perhaps there is a place for that in the big scheme of things, it isn’t what gives the town character. A town’s personality comes from its community, and more often than not, that resides downtown. This article is somewhat self-serving because I have a fear that online shopping has the potential to change the face of the
little towns that I love.
If the population of a region chooses to spend the majority of their money online with corporations like Amazon, the small town becomes a thing of the past. This is a hard truth, but it is the truth.
So, what have I done?
Shopping locally during the holidays or for birthdays is sort of a no-brainer if the recipient lives in the area. This year, my husband and I have made a concerted effort to shop locally for everyone on our list. In fact, we spent a fun day in downtown Greeley this Saturday, a place we frequent during the year, buying gifts at places like Brooklyn Finds Design
and The Nerd Store for his family in Parker, Colo. We also had lunch at Fusco Pizza, a brand-new restaurant next to The Nerd Store, and enjoyed a pint on the way out of town at Rule 105 Brewing.
But what about those of us with friends and family who live states away? How do we buy “local” for them? My parents live 1,200 miles away, making free shipping from Amazon an easy way to get them gifts and I have done that in the past.
This year, I googled small businesses in their Oregon town. They’ve only lived in the Rogue Valley for a short time, and not only did I want to support the business owners there, but I also wanted to get my parents to explore their own neighborhood. I wanted them to experience a bit of the charm that exists in their chosen community.
It worked, and I ended up purchasing each of them a gift certificate from a small cheese shop and a tea shop in the Rogue Valley. The owner of each store sent my gift certificate directly to them in the mail at no extra cost to me. Even if it is too late to shop local for the holidays, I hope that in 2023, you’ll make an effort to shop in those downtowns you like.
Whether it’s Berthoud, Loveland or Greeley, or somewhere else, break those online shopping habits. You may find that shopping at local retailers is a lot more fun and social than clicking “buy now” with your mouse.
Author’s Note: This is part of a bigger series on shopping local and the positive effects it can have on a community.