The crisscrossing red and blue lines jump off the black, painted-brick background under the green Bruegger's Bagels sign in Raleigh's Ridgewood shopping center. This is the work of nationally renowned street artist James Marshall, aka Dalek. (Yes, nerds, the Doctor Who reference is intentional.) His mural is a gift to the city he now calls home.
But it also has a bigger purpose: Dalek is supporting American Express' Shop Small campaign, coming to Raleigh Nov. 28 as part of Small Business Saturday—the day after Black Friday, when it is somehow societally acceptable to camp out in front of Best Buy at 4 a.m.
Yes, AmEx, a massive global corporation, is a weird champion for the little guy. And yes, this is very much a marketing effort—AmEx grossly bills it as a "movement"—and we shouldn't lose sight of that. Even so, as we've documented in these pages, it's not easy for small businesses to survive, let alone thrive, in downtown Raleigh, where the invading legion of condo dwellers is driving up rents. And this is being done in partnership with advocacy outfit Shop Local Raleigh, a program of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, and participating merchants don't have to carry American Express. So we'll give AmEx a pass on cravenness.
Besides, the idea is worthy: Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, shopping centers all over Raleigh will host pop-up shops and holiday-shopping events with free food, music and local celebrities—like Dalek, who will be at Ridgewood—to lure you away from national chains.
"It's our chance to show off how we do Shop Small Saturday," says Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh. "We received an email from Shop Small's marketing team that said they were pleased with the work being done here, and that Raleigh was a top performer in promoting and branding Shop Small Saturday and in getting people engaged."
Founded six years ago, Shop Local Raleigh has grown to count more than 100 local businesses as members. "The goal is always to get people to eat small and drink small, and then to go out and shop small," Martin says.
Consuming small has big benefits for local economies. "If your goal is to have more money stay in the local area, then buying products at local stores selling local products will do that, rather than buying at national chains," says Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State.
Walden cites a recent study conducted in the Chicago metro area that showed that for every dollar a person spent at a national chain, the impact on the local economy was $1.40. When the same dollar was spent in a locally owned store selling local products, the impact was $1.70.
"[By shopping locally] I feel like I know where my money is going and what it is supporting," says Dalek. "I feel like it builds depth to the community by investing in your neighbors. The push and pull of that dynamic is meaningful."
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