If you have the choice, choose local!

Today I left work halfway through the day so I could change into comfy (and warm) clothes, get to the Post Office before it closed, and then head to my favorite local coffee shop to finish work and snuggle up with a warm cup of joe. This was a choice I needed to make for my own mental health and I learned a quality lesson from it. Allow me to share: if you have the chance to “work from home,” take it! I was frustrated, itchy from my wool sweater, and overwhelmed by all the Post-It reminders I’ve been accumulating on my desk. The moment I left work I felt like a better human.

Just by walking downtown I relieved almost all the anxiety and stress I was experiencing and I basically pressed the Reset Button on my day. I made it to the Post Office and had a very pleasant interaction with my favorite post-office-window-lady. I walked over to our local Shoe Repair Shop and finally got an estimate on the cost of repairing my sad-looking boots. Then I decided it was time to actually do the work that I left work to do (did I leave you tongue-tied with that last bit?).

As I turned the corner on the way to Jittery Joes (the best thing that has ever happened to my college career), I passed Starbucks (the worst thing that has ever happened to America). Okay, that opinion is way extreme. Starbucks is absolutely delicious and it smells like Heaven in every location I’ve ever been in. They are a successful company to say the least. But how do I know how ethical the company is? Or how they acquired the spaces their restaurants are in? Or if they contribute back to my community? The real answer to that is: I don’t.

I have heard some pretty shady things about Starbucks in the U.S. and in other countries (England, for example). I was really disappointed to hear things like, “Starbucks doesn’t pay appropriate taxes back to their host countries” or “Starbucks bought out all of our local coffee shops and people in my family were negatively affected by it.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make a political statement here. I don’t want to get in trouble with Starbucks or any of my friends/family who support the company. I am, however, making a statement about sustainability and supporting the local food movement. Drinking or snacking from Starbucks may be delicious (and overpriced), but is it worth the ethical dilemma? I think not.

So, I passed Starbucks without even thinking about their dumb Buy One Get One deal with dumb holiday drinks and carried on to sweet, little Jittery Joes. I walked into their downtown location (only about 5 shops down from Starbucks) to see it full of happy customers and the most lovely smells. I was so pleased to see that even with a special “deal” going on right down the street at Starbucks, Jittery Joes still had loyal (and happy) customers willing to skip out on the enticing trickery of the big, bad chain.

I ordered my delicious coffee with hazelnut and soy milk, sat down beside a beautiful bearded man, and started my work around 3pm. Three hours later, I’m still sitting here (and I predict that I may sleep here tonight based on the amount of work I’m skipping to write this). I feel comfortable here. I feel happy here. And I feel like I am supporting a good thing. Jittery Joes is a local business owned and operated by Athenians. I get more work done at any given Jitt Joes location than any other building on my campus and I don’t spend as much money on coffee, tea, or snacks as I would at a chain.

Jittery Joes is a wonderful example of a local chain that has seen a lot of success. Athens is actually host to many chains just like Jittery Joes (including Barberitos and Your Pie) that are successful despite the presence of large chain competition. It makes me proud to live in this city and extremely happy to have local options that support the economy of the city I actually live in.

All that to say, support local! If anything it’s because a lot of local places have more delicious food, more reasonable prices, and happier employees (probably because they have actually met their owner/bosses… and probably babysit for them on a weekly basis). Don’t fall for the tricks of the glorified, overpriced, trendy chains. Keep our consumption local and your money will stay local too.

[End of rant. Your regularly scheduled programming will resume momentarily.]

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