Sylva borrows mantra of national buy local movement

As the holiday shopping season nears its final frenzy, Sylva’s business community is stressing the importance of buying local.

The Downtown Sylva Association has seized on a national campaign called the 3/50 Project to encourage local people to patronize their own business community. It’s built around the idea that if half of the country’s employed population spent $50 per month in three locally-owned, independent businesses, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue.

Downtown Sylva Director Julie Sylvester learned about the 3/50 Project from several local business owners. The association’s merchants have decided to use it as an ongoing promotion that will stretch beyond the holiday shopping season.

“I really see it as an education campaign,” Sylvester said. “I want people to understand that if they spend a total of $50 at three local businesses each month, that’s really what will make a difference.”

Steve Dennis, owner of Hollifield Jewelers in downtown Sylva, has embraced the 3/50 Project’s mantra at his store.

“When Julie first came in, I was impressed with the idea,” Dennis said. “Folks should be aware of the impact of buying local, but sometimes you have to rattle the cage a little bit.”

Dennis said it’s difficult to convince consumers to pay more at a time when they are struggling, but he said the campaign encourages them to think about the long-term value to the community where they live rather than merely price points.

“Folks will use big boxes and convenient set-ups out of habit more than necessity,” Dennis said. “They go because they’re convenient — not because they’re better. That’s where the education comes in. The cheapest isn’t always the best.”

Dennis has placed a 3/50 Project flyer on his counter and has enjoyed explaining the program to his patrons.

Sylvester said the DSA members have embraced the campaign as an organizing principle.

“There’s so much you can get out of a local store,” Sylvester said. “The money you spend in your own community comes back and helps grow the community.”

While the DSA is focused on 3/50 the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is spreading a similar message through its “Love The Locals” coupon campaign. Director Julie Spiro has dispersed 1,000 coupon books featuring local retailers to high-volume traffic locations in the county.

Spiro said it’s hard to tell exactly how much the books are used, but the campaign delivers an important message.

“All we can do is put something out there to try to help the local retail and business owners and get some people to their stores,” Spiro said.

The Chamber also maintains a holiday shoppers’ hotline that helps customers locate specific items in local stores.

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