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Independents' day: New organization promotes local businesses in Scarborough

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Independents' day: New organization promotes local businesses in Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH — What takes less time, is more convenient, supports local businesses and keeps more dollars in town?

Shopping locally.

And now there is a nonprofit organization that helps independent business owners  in Scarborough and will soon benefit residents and local boosters clubs, too.

Buy Local Scarborough is the brainchild of Town Councilor Karen D'Andrea. Sprouting from last May's Small Business Town Hall Meeting and Resource Fair, Buy Local Scarborough was a dream D'Andrea hoped to grow from connections she made at that meeting with community small business owners.

The group has registered more than 60 independent businesses and D'Andrea expects to have at least 10 more by the time it puts out its first directory in December.

"For me, the most important part of this and really to the core of what I was trying to do is create a community with some economic sustainability," D'Andrea said Wednesday. "There's always talk of economic development, but never talk about economic sustainability until, of course, there's a problem with the economy. My feeling is you have to prepare for the future."

D'Andrea cited studies conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that indicate $45 of every $100 spent at a locally owned, independent business remains in the local economy, while a community retains only $14 of the same amount spent at a national chain or franchise business.

By spring, the organization plans to issue what she called a "Declaration of Independents" card that will give purchasers special discounts at participating local businesses. Modeled on dining discount cards, the Buy Local Scarborough promotion will allow each business to create its own type of promotion.

"The card will be great; will hit a bunch of different facets," said David Hopkinson, co-owner of Henry VIII Carvery at the Gateway Shops. "We're toying with a couple of different things – a key card and a reusable bag."

He said Buy Local Scarborough is working with the school booster clubs to sell the cards as a way to earn cash for athletic teams.

Hopkinson is treasurer of the organization and has been a part of it since its inception. He said the the organization offers smaller businesses the opportunity to be on "the same marketing level" as the national chains because their joint marketing concepts help advertising dollars go further.

"My wife and I truly believe in that independent spirit," he said. "We want to work with other independents to help move this forward. When folks come to buy a sandwich from me, they're buying from the owner and not from an hourly employee, so there should be better customer service and a better product."

But Hopkinson stressed the Buy Local Scarborough mentality does not mean "bashing big retailers." They help communities by employing a lot of people, he said. Instead, the organization's role is to show people that they have another option.

Passionate Stitches owner Candy Macomber became a Buy Local Scarborough member just a month ago. Her custom embroidery and screen printing business is on Millbrook Road, off Route 1 near the entrance to Scarborough Downs.

"I don't have a paid salesperson; I've got to get the word out that I exist," Macomber said."Just getting people to know you're in the town, rather than (having them) go on-line and finding someone in California – that's one of the reasons I joined the group."

Local independent businesses working together can "help build each other's business up," she said.

But not every local business in Scarborough qualifies as a member, D'Andrea said.

"Our definition excludes some, like Avon salespeople," she said. "It's independent if that business owner makes all the decisions for the business."

She gave the example of Henry VIII – a franchise with three locations in Maine: "David Hopkinson and his wife, if they want to, can go to Broadturn Farm and buy their lettuce; they make all decisions on how that business is run and where they buy their products."

Harvey Rosenfeld, president of Scarborough Economic Development Corp., said he believes Buy Local Scarborough is a good idea, as evidenced perhaps by SEDCO's membership. Though his corporation's primary advertising is national, Rosenfeld said SEDCO chose to join Buy Local Scarborough because "we wanted to make sure people in Maine know we're here."

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.