ABC7 On Your Side: Shop Around the Block

May 10, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"I'd rather come here, hey Priya, what's up kinda thing," said Bhasin.

The Goddess and Grocer specializes in selling locally produced items. Debbie Sharpe owns the three Goddess and Grocer shops as well as a local restaurant.

"We put so much more back into this area. It's not just taxes and payroll but we go and spend in other stores," said Debbie Sharpe, The Goddess and Grocer. "It's sort of like a domino effect in the neighborhood except the dominos are going around and around instead of going out of the neighborhood."

Sharpe's stores participate the 3/50 Project, an initiative which urges consumers to visit three local independent businesses. And spend $50 a month at an independently owned businesses. It's a national grass roots effort to save small businesses.

"Nine stores in my two block radius have closed," said Julie Horowitz Jackson, Virtu.

Horowitz Jackson says her store survived on North Damen Avenue by specializing in the home crafts designed by local artists and letting customers know how their purchase helps the artists, the employees and the community.

"If you have the opportunity, why not do it. You're not getting any less of a service/ You're getting even more of a service and I think you're helping further on down the line," said Horowitz Jackson.

Spending money in this economy is almost like voting. With every dollar you spend you decide which business thrives or dies.

The 3/50 Project estimates that for every $100 spent at independently-owned stores $68 goes to the community in taxes, payroll and other expenditures. For every $100 spent at a national chain, $43 dollars stays here. And spending $100 dollars, zero comes home.

Leonard Gingerella, a professor of entrepreneurship studies at Loyola's School of Business Administration, says many Americans are simply in the habit of buying at big chains.

"I think we've been conditioned to go to the bigger store because we go there and we buy lots of stuff so we just don't want to have minimum selection," said Prof. Gingerella.

With more stores signing on to the 3/50 Project, some local business owners hope to educate consumers about the power they hold to change habits, generate local profits and to invest in community.

"If you don't participate, they will go out of business. This also helps me. This helps my property value. I don't want live someplace where there isn't anything, it's not as safe," said Shannon McNamara.

"A lot of that stuff in the store is from Chicago so when I go out of town, I give it as gifts. I know that I'm helping out the city I live in," said Bhasin.

While the 3/50 Project estimates more of the money spent at local independent stores stays in the community, ABC7 spoke with some national retailers who point to their philanthropic giving and partnerships with local organizations that may not be reflected in the data.

To find local stores participating in 3/50 Project:

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