THE BLOG

Can Shopping Local Save Detroit?

02/20/2015 05:04 pm ET | Updated Apr 22, 2015

      If there is one thing in abundance in Detroit, it's saviors.  From financiers to philanthropists to entrepreneurs, we have as many saviors as we do vacant lots.  As a recovering participant in the "save Detroit" movement, let me tell you there is no one person, no one plan, no one answer for Detroit.  And, more importantly Detroit doesn't need to be saved.

      Detroit needs work.  It needs improvement.  There are very real, very serious ongoing struggles.  But to say Detroit needs to be saved is to imply a need for rescue from without and to disregard the good within.  We don't need one great act of salvation from a singular celebrity savior.  We need 700,000 small steps (and just a few big ones) to keep heading in the right direction - 700,000 small steps that have already begun, and we need most of those steps to come from those of us already here.

      Grand schemes are great, but what can those of us more interested in small steps and the long run do to improve our great big small town?  The list is long: Say hello to your neighbor, plant a tree, carpool, talk about the schools - a lot, talk about transit, talk about race, VOTE!, read the Detroit Future City plan (whether you choose to agree with it or not), take an interest, volunteer, and support local businesses.

This is a big small step.  The economic benefits of shopping locally cannot be over stated.  Supporting local businesses strengthens neighborhoods, supports innovation, creates jobs, and in most cases even helps heal the environment.  According to the research firm Civic Economics, On average, 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses was recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores/franchises.  That is a lot more money staying in Detroit!  More information on these studies is available here.

The Balle Institute estimates that if 25% of Detroit's food could be sourced locally, it would generate nearly 5,000 jobs, create $20 million in new local taxes, and $125 million in new household income.

If Detroit stands to reap such benefits from localizing just 25% of food production, imagine the impact if we could localize 25% of the entire economy!   Clothes, furniture, books, toys, art, sporting goods, bicycles - you can find nearly anything through local businesses if you just know where to look.

That can be one of the major hurdles to shopping locally.  Small businesses and entrepreneurs who are just starting out are rarely the first resources that show up in internet searches.  They often have limited money for advertising and may not even have a physical location from which they can operate.  Well, Eastern Market is working to change that.

Shop Local Detroit

Eastern Market has been a powerhouse in local food for decades, and last summer, they launched the Sunday Street Market, a local alternative to the shopping mall aimed at connecting local businesses and entrepreneurs with consumers looking for unique non-food products and a vibrant shopping experience.  By leveraging an already well-known shopping venue at an underutilized time, the Sunday Street Market is able to offer prime and reliable retail space to makers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses for a small fraction of what a storefront would cost - and to offer those of us looking to support the local economy a one-stop-shop, if you will.

This summer, the Sunday Street Market returns with even more vendors, products, and services.  There is also a children's activity center every week, regular food truck rallies, and both new and returning entertainment and events.  Did you miss the Market Renaissance Festival (by the Michigan Renaissance Festival) last year?  They'll be back this year (August 9th)!  Feel like taking in a Detroit Derby Girls bout while noshing some amazing food truck faire?  You'll have two chances this summer.

So pick up some litter, drink a bottle of Dirty Blonde, and swing hit up some local businesses next time you need a new T-shirt or kitchen table.  Then, in 20 years, you can tell people how you saved Detroit.

The Sunday Street Market runs every Sunday June through October.  The Market is currently accepting applications for vendors for all market days.  The application can be found at EasternMarket.com.  The application deadline is March 9th, 2015.

Explore Eastern Market online at Facebook.com/EasternMarketDetroit and @EasternMarket on Twitter and Instagram.  Official hashtags: #SundayStMkt #EasternMkt.

Image courtesy of Eastern Market.