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A celebration of San Marco

14 Jan

Erin Thursby at EU Jacksonville has written a great piece this month on how to GoLO in San Marco:

photo credit: jaxlass @ http://travel.webshots.com

“Following up on our commitment to the GoLO initiative, we’re encouraging folks to buy local, shop local and eat local. This month, our GoLO spotlight is on San Marco.

Spending a day, or even a weekend in the San Marco neighborhood isn’t difficult. Some of Jacksonville’s finest dining, best independently-owned shops and entertainment from live music to staged theater can all be found there. Even the movie theatre isn’t a chain, but is the locally-owned historic San Marco Theatre.

San Marco began as the grounds of the lavish Hendricks estate on the Southbank in the late 1800s, but wasn’t actively developed until the Acosta Bridge (then called the St. Johns River Bridge) was built in 1921. Telfair Stockton, who owned the land, decided to model the business district after Venice’s Piazza di San Marco in Italy. The fountain lions, which have become an icon of the area, were added relatively recently, in 1997. They’re a nod to Venice’s mascot, found in the Piazza and all over the city, the winged lion of St. Mark. While our fountain lions don’t have wings, you will find winged lions adorning the manhole covers throughout the business district.

Shop Local

The San Marco shopping strip is cornucopia of non-chain retailers. As a bonus, it’s pretty, with its bricked walkways, fountain and bronze statuary. Bibliophiles can pop into San Marco Books, the fashionable can check out clothing store Olive’s new, trend-cutting home section and there are plenty of other places for the fashion addicts to shop (Rosie True, Reve and Lelia’s, to name a few). Gift seekers should always hit up Edward’s, the Ward Room and the Write Touch.

One of the newer shops on in the San Marco Business District is My Best Friend’s Closet, a consignment shop for ladies sized 14 and above. It was opened in April 2010 by Sandy Myers, who has been a resident and business owner in the neighborhood for over 20 years (she’s the former owner of Edwards, which is still in operation). Myers loves living and working in San Marco. Says Myers, “ I actually walk to work most days, and shop (except for groceries) in San Marco. I am a proponent for buying local, supporting small business. I love the feel of a neighborhood, where you go to a restaurant, a shop, a bank and you know someone there– like a small town in a big city.”

Beth Handline of Dance Trance finds San Marco to be “a very energetic and active place… It is great to have so many unique shops right in your own neighborhood.”

Krista Nilsson of Therapie says of those that shop local: “They get the one-on-one attention they deserve,” and that she enjoys getting to know her customers, “something that big-box retailers don’t often do.”

Read more.

The Economics of Happiness

6 Jan

Why buy local? It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the community. It’s good for the environment. Oh, and by the way, it can make you happier.

That’s the premise of a new documentary, The Economics of Happiness, that drives home the importance of “localization.” We all know that globalization has radically transformed where we get our goods and how we shop. It has also, the directors argue, brought the world to the brink of environmental and economic catastrophe by creating an unsustainable system of obscene waste and a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking.

The solution? Bring our economies back home. Localization, as defined in the film, is essentially a process of de-centralisation–shifting economic activity back into the hands of local businesses instead of concentrating it in fewer and fewer mega-corporations. The film’s directors view localization as a “strategic solution multiplier” that solves multiple problems: “In order to respect and revitalize diversity, both cultural and biological, we need to localize economic activity . . . . A systemic shift-–away from globalizing economic activity and towards the local-–is an almost magic formula that allows us to reduce our ecological footprint while increasing human well-being . . . [by helping] us to re-discover those essential relationships-–both with the living world and with one another-–that ultimately give our lives meaning and joy.”

So what should we be doing here in Jacksonville to be part of the solution? The folks at GoLO believe the first step is to rebuild a sense of reliance on what’s available locally–whether it’s food, handmade goods, or simply a store that’s in close proximity rather than a long car ride away. Simply by remembering–and taking advantage of–what’s available in our own backyards, we strengthen our local communities.

Of course, we recognize that we’ll rarely be able to buy everything we need or use from exclusively local independent businesses. But by thinking local FIRST–looking first to local and locally owned sources for the things we need and want–we can maximize the impact of our daily actions and purchasing decisions.

It’s a small step, really, but a big one for the future of the communities we love–not to mention the planet itself.

GoLo gets some love from the T-U

24 Dec

What a nice piece by the Times Union’s Charlie Patton!

One of Us: Riverside Avondale Preservation chief has eyes set on GoLo project | jacksonville.com.

The high cost of cheap

16 Dec

Cheapness, argues Ellen Shell, the author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, has ruined just about everything. Main streets, with knowledgeable clerks and friendly service, have been decimated by discount stores like Wal-Mart staffed with employees who neither know their store’s stock, nor particularly care. Customer service has all but disappeared (ever noticed that sign at the entrance of IKEA that reads, “No One Will Bother You”?). Local restaurants that want to serve up fine, fresh food struggle to compete with the all-you-can-eat shrimpfest at Red Lobster (where the shrimp is decidedly NOT fresh, since it was hauled in from a chemical-laden Taiwanese shrimp farm).

Sadly, in too many of our nation’s neighborhoods, you no longer have the option of being able to walk down the street to a locally owned, locally operated store whose proprietor has tailored his or her selection to the needs of the community; those stores have closed, leaving us no choice but to hop into our cars, waste untold time in traffic jams, and join the herds at BJ’s.

But in Jacksonville’s historic urban communities, we’re incredibly lucky. We still have the luxury of choice. We’re surrounded by cool stores and independent boutiques and funky galleries. We’ve got some of the city’s best restaurants and our pick of eclectic bars and breweries. We’ve got corner bakeries and terrific butchers and neighborhood bike shops and bookstores where the owners actually know a thing or two about books. And yet most of us still jump into our cars and head to the big box stores. Why?

Because we think they’re cheaper? Because we’ll have more stock to choose from? Because it’s more convenient to buy everything in one place?

That’s what we tell ourselves, but it’s a false dichotomy. If you can see past the bright, inviting graphics and clean aisles that sets a Target apart from, say, a K-Mart, you’ll realize that every big box store in every city carries the same exact stuff, the vast majority of it made  in factories overseas where cheap labor working in sweatshop conditions is used to produce mountains of disposable junk. And while you may indeed be able to get everything on your shopping list in one stop, you’re certainly not getting the best price. “WalMart actually has higher-than-average prices on about one third of the stock it carries,” Shell notes in her book. At the big discount stores, most discounts are applied to everyday necessities, like toothpaste and lettuce; brand-name clothing and appliances may be no bargain at all.

In our quest for cheap, we’re paying a very high price. We’ve traded homemade for foreign-made, individuality for homogeneity, and diversity for uniformity. (As Roger Price, author of The Great Roob Revolution said “If everybody doesn’t want it, nobody gets it.”) We’re also slowly strangling our local economies, creating vacant storefronts, and paving over our precious green space for another asphalt road to the outlet malls.

So, how do we get wean ourselves off the cheapness drug? Shell insists we have to kick the habit ourselves: “We can set our own standard for quality and stick to it. We can demand to know the true costs of what we buy . . .. We can enforce sustainability, minimize disposability, and insist on transparency. We can rekindle our acquaintance with craftsmanship. We can choose to buy or not, choose to bargain or not, and choose to follow our hearts or not, unencumbered by the anxiety that someone somewhere is getting a ‘better deal.”

Here in Jacksonville, it’s never been easier to kick the cheapness habit. Just choose to GoLO.

(Hat tip to Mark Frauenfelder at BoingBoing, from which this post was adapted.)

Some local shops get some holiday love

29 Nov

Going Local

Hooray to the many folks who resisted the lure of the malls on Black Friday and instead shopped in our wonderful historic shopping corridors! The weather was super.

Take a look at the nice piece on News4Jax.

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