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Editor’s Note: With the news of Amazon buying Whole Foods, the online marketplace has the power to once again disrupt the way consumers buy. The owner of independent local shop The Cookery wants to make sure consumers are aware of the impact of two megabrands colliding and what it will mean for stores like hers.
Cary Kelly says “small, independent businesses have got to evolve” if they want to compete with big chains. With only 2 percent of her stock available for purchase online, Kelly says building up her web presence is a big part of her strategy going forward. The Cookery (formerly Ah Love Oil & Vinegar) has operated in the Village of Shirlington for the past six years and is celebrating its one-year anniversary in D.C.’s Cathedral Commons this month.
In January, Kelly closed the Mosaic location of The Cookery after four years. There’s now a waxing salon there. Says Kelly, “Pretty much the only thing you can’t get online is a mani, pedi, massage or wax.”
The following is an edited version of a post Kelly wrote on The Cookery’s blog, Whisk & Relish.
The Emergence of Giants
Last week it was announced that Amazon is buying Whole Foods for over $10 billion. Wow. Whole Foods had a humble, but visionary, beginning in Austin, Texas, in 1980. John Mackey, one of the original founders, is still the CEO today and will remain after the buy-out.
This is our free market at work. John Mackey is being rescued from a weakening financial picture. Jeff Bezos is getting a great brand on which to build the online grocery shopping market, which he will undoubtedly do … and dominate. They will both be significantly financially rewarded for their innovation, and that is cool.
Peel back the curtain, however, and you don’t have to look far to find the small businesses that will be impacted by this. In all product categories except grocery, online shopping has been growing by double digits every year. Jeff Bezos wants to bring that same trend to online grocery shopping. This means small markets and food shops, including ones like The Cookery, will be pushed further to the periphery.
The driver of this online trend is our deep need for convenience. I get that. I’m incredibly busy, too, and when I can hop online to quickly get something I need, it’s magic. We have choices, however, and I am inviting you—OK, imploring you—to consider choosing the online shopping portal of your local small businesses to find what you need. You might have to shop at three or four sites to get everything on your list instead of one (the small country called Amazon), but that’s not too bad. You can sit with your tablet in your lap and push a few buttons, and then your shopping is done.
I’m not just asking you to consider this for my benefit and for that of my small-business colleagues. There are also benefits for you, the consumer.
- Even online, the money you spend shopping locally stays in your community, contributing to your schools, police, fire protection and infrastructure. The owners of those small businesses are your neighbors and fight for the issues that are important to you by joining PTAs and other local community boards and civic organizations.
- Your carbon footprint is reduced. Shopping on locally owned business websites means your product is shipped a very short distance. Many of the product offerings are local, so their total carbon footprint is very small.
- You get unique products. Small businesses represent small producers, giving you options that you won’t find everywhere.
Here are some more ways to stay home, shop conveniently and support your local businesses:
- Join a CSA for produce and dairy from a local farm or from one of the many farmers markets in the area.
- Bookmark the websites of your favorite local gift shops for quick access when you need a gift.
- Identify locally owned restaurants that deliver, or use one of the growing list of local meal delivery services or personal chefs.
- Seek specialty food shops like The Cookery that are locally owned for olive oil, sauces and other pantry staples. You can make purchases once a month or so and always have delicious flavorings on hand to enhance a simple meal.
- When you go out to dinner, choose a restaurant that also sells local products or has some locally owned shops nearby and do a little shopping before or after dinner for meats, cheeses or other items that might not be in your CSA box. (Cheesetique is a great example: Have dinner and buy up some cheeses for the week while you’re there).
These simple, conscious adjustments will literally change the lives of your neighbors who own food businesses in your town, while respecting your need to save time to spend with friends, partners and children and giving you healthier, economically sound, unique items to sink your hard-earned money into.
Are you with me?