“Buy Local” campaigns have taken off in small towns nationwide as a push back to big-box chains and increased online shopping. Sylva is fertile ground for such a grassroots movement.
“I believe in community,” said Sandra Dennison, the owner of Fusions Healing Center & Spa, who organized the fledgling movement involving a handful of business owners and longtime friends. “If we spend locally, the money stays in the community.”
The push to promote local business comes as the stream of money flowing through town — whether from visitors or residents — seems relatively flat, at least over the past year.
“We don’t see the flow of traffic that we used to,” said Heather Kindy, who has run Main Street Bakery & Cafe with her husband for the past 18 months.
The slogan “Dig Sylva, Buy Local: Plant Your $ Where Your Roots Are" will soon show up on posters and T-shirts in area businesses. The logo, designed by Kindy, will appear on the website of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
Nonetheless, a slate of new businesses — including a second brewery, restaurant, consignment store and another retailer selling upscale women’s clothing — remains an encouraging sign.
“The climate is better than it has been,” Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson said of the economic condition of the town, where she said she has noticed a “real pull” to shop local in recent years.
The thought of starting the grassroots movement in Sylva emerged about a year ago, after Dennison went to Asheville for yoga class. There, she noticed bumper stickers and T-shirts whose messages indicated a kind of enthusiasm about supporting local farmers and businesses that has helped shape the image of that city.
Dennison hoped to infuse Sylva with a similar “young spirit” of sustainable living.
“I’m always thinking” of ways to market ideas, said Dennison, 37, who earned a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. She now is planning to pursue a master’s degree in project management there in coming years.
While an awareness of supporting local economies has spread across the country over the years — a nationwide movement called “Small Business Saturday” aims to divert consumers from shopping at big-box stores during the beginning rush of the holiday season following Thanksgiving — the impact of local spending in Sylva is perhaps more noticeable than that of larger towns or cities elsewhere.
“There is a national awareness of small business Saturday but we want people to understand small business Saturday is every day in Jackson County, not just on small business Saturday,” said Julie Spiro, executive director of the county Chamber of Commerce. "Local business provide a majority of the jobs in Jackson County.”
Buying local is also better for the planet in terms of carbon footprint, Spiro said. And sales taxes paid locally support everything from schools to roads to recreation.
To Amy Schmidt, who is part of the grassroots group and worked with her parents at her family-run Speedy’s Pizza, the local spending movement is a way to entice people into local businesses.
“We just want to get people shopping,” she said.