Buying Local Celebrates Local

RG51 – buy local options
As of right now, you have less than seven shopping days before your favorite year-end holiday marked by gift exchanges. Whether you prefer Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Festivus, or some animistic ritual that involves repurposing a fruitcake, the point is the same. Time is running out.
Now would be a good time to begin lowering expectations for yourself. That winter parka you were going to knit for the one you love? Not gonna happen. That custom recording of oak savannah songbirds, recorded with your loving hands in the west Eugene wetlands? Maybe next year. That perfect replica of your child’s third-grade class photo, crafted as a mosaic using hand-torn shards of old Christmas cards? Tearing up those old cards is all you can expect to accomplish this year. That might even feel good, staving off a panic attack.
Panic is common this time of year. It’s what made you think last year that a solar powered paper shredder was the perfect way to get your accountant brother-in-law to appreciate the Great Outdoors.
Take a deep breath and think it through. Your list has people who live nearby and people who don’t. Boxing and mailing is a bad idea at this late date, unless interminable lines remind you of your magical childhood visit to Disney World. Gift certificates can more easily be mailed. But gift certificates are so risky. They’re easy to lose, they often expire before you get there, and you might have to go to the mall to get one.
Consider giving gift certificate certificates. They come in a variety of festive colors now, not only the traditionally drab gray and green. They can be used by the recipient to buy a gift certificate at any store. There are no hidden costs, they have no expiration date and they can be purchased at any bank.
Shopping for the locals is almost as easy.
If you want “buy local” embedded in the message of the gift, you should know about Unique Eugene. A dozen local businesses banded together a decade ago to form an alliance (www.uniqueeugene.com). They sell gift certificates that can then be redeemed at any of their members’ stores. You’ve probably seen their entry in the Eugene Celebration parade each year. Maybe you’ve been meaning to thank them for the fun they add to the parade. This would do that.
The sure-fire solution for the buy-local crowd is Holiday Market, except you may find yourself with too many choices. Wandering through the Lane County fairgrounds this time of year, I often feel like a fly on a spin-art machine. Holiday Market is colorful and dizzying, in equal measure.
They’re ready for procrastinators. Beginning tomorrow, they’re open almost every day until 6 p.m. They’re open Christmas Eve until 4 p.m. The only day they’ll be closed is Monday, Dec. 21. If you guessed all those pagan hippies are taking the day off to celebrate winter solstice, you’re wrong. “They’ll all be home making stuff to sell those final three days,” Marketing Manager Kim Still told me. They sell gift certificates (good also at Saturday Market, scheduled to reopen April 3, 2010) at the Information Booth.
Since December 24 is both a shopping day and a celebrating day, you could launch your festivities in the afternoon without admitting any last-minute strategizing. Just blindfold your recipient, guide them into the middle of Holiday Market, put cash in their hand and tell them to spend it. They’ll find something locally and lovingly made, even if they don’t bother to take off the blindfold. Guaranteed.
We should also thank the city of Eugene for finally tinkering with their parking policies and offering free short-term parking along several downtown blocks for December, making a quick trip to a local downtown business just a little easier this year.
Maybe next year, Eugene will offer parking ticket certificates. I’d like to pay for a parking ticket that hasn’t been written yet, and then give that “gift certificate” to somebody who frequents downtown (or would) if they had immunity from next year’s first parking ticket.
Imagine a moment of free parking in downtown Eugene! Could peace on earth be far behind?
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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) owns a media marketing management company, serving local and civic-minded businesses. Several members of Unique Eugene have been clients, including Holiday Market, but no billable hours were logged in the writing of this column.