PORTLAND — The party is coming and the message is growing.
Portland Buy Local will celebrate its 10th anniversary Monday, June 13, at Rising Tide Brewing, 103 Fox St., as part of its annual meeting.
“Small independent businesses of Portland is what gives the city its individuality and charm,” Portland Buy Local Board President Tony Cox said June 3.
At 6 p.m., guests are invited to meet board members and business owners, with snacks provided and Rising Tide beers for sale. At 7 p.m., Buy Local members will elect officers, hear from the board and honor longtime members.
In 10 years, Portland Buy Local has expanded from 199 members to 451. Sixty original members remain. Participating businesses can be for-profit or nonprofit, but must be privately owned, operate in the city and not have corporate headquarters outside Maine.
Cooperatives, employee-, and community-owned businesses can join, but “the owner or owners have full decision-making authority over the business in regards to merchandise, trademark, architecture, and decor,” according to guidelines.
Memberships run the gamut of commerce and service throughout the city.
“The different types of businesses we attract is pretty exciting,” Cox, the owner of Casco Bay Frames, said.
He added that the group “gave a voice to many of the small, independent voices to work together to counter some of the threats to the chain businesses coming into Portland.”
Susan Tran’s involvement predates the creation of Portland Buy Local – she was on the committee that originally formed to see what could be done to support locally owned businesses.
“I felt like we were at a crossroads about where we were going as a city,” Trans said June 3. “I am the daughter of a small business owner and my dad saw the effects of sprawl.”
Tran works at Maine Public Radio, and is co-owner of Tsunami Tattoo. While perhaps not challenged by any “big-box” stories, she still sees the underlying need.
“It doesn’t really affect our segment of the services industry as much, but I was coming at it as a member of the community,” Tran said. “Leveling the playing field a bit, making sure we are supporting each other, is incredibly important.”
The focus remains the same, although Portland Buy Local uses social media more frequently and relies on the internet to advertise and get feedback from customers.
“It does help my customers see I am independently owned,” Cox said. “Positive reviews have become very important in my business and, from a consumer side, it holds small business owners more accountable.”
While it takes no stance on political issues, Portland Buy Local members did provide data on wage conditions in the city when former Mayor Michael Brennan sought to create a city minimum wage.
More than 70 members responded to a survey that showed the majority were paying at or above the $10.10 per hour wage the City Council enacted last year.
“It is important to stay neutral because small businesses are different,” Cox said. “I do feel like we are an important voice in the community, but picking sides would not represent all of our members.”
Portland Buy Local President Tony Cox June 6 at the business he co-owns, Casco Bay Frames & Gallery.