Until recently, I thought I had to accept the pain-in-the-butt necessity of having my 2011 Mini Cooper S serviced in Portland at the one and only Mini dealership in Oregon.
But now that I've discovered Prestige Auto Repair right here in Salem, specialists in Mini, Mercedes, and BMW cars, I'm overjoyed to know that a drive to Portland isn't necessary to have my Mini serviced or repaired.
This is the review I left several places online:
Chris and the other Prestige Auto guys were wonderfully competent and pleasant. I've been having my 2011 Mini Cooper S serviced at the Mini dealership in Portland, but no longer. Now that I've discovered how much better Prestige Auto Repair is (also, so much closer), this is where my Mini is coming for both routine service and repairs.
They figured out that my air conditioning wasn't working because of a slow freon leak. After adding dye, Chris said I should come back in two weeks for a visual inspection to see if the leak is still there. I found the whole Prestige Auto Repair experience to be way more satisfying than going to a dealer, because with Prestige you are talking with the person who is actually working on the car, not a service advisor.
Plus, dealerships don't have a friendly dog to pat like Prestige does -- another benefit. (This is an option; if you don't like dogs, they can put the dog in a back room.) Plus, plus, the cost of repairing the air conditioning and checking a balky hood latch was decidedly reasonable. I give them 5 stars!
Buying local isn't always possible, car-wise or otherwise. If you want to buy a Tesla, for example, you're going to have to go outside Salem.
Still, outside of these exceptions, this experience helped me realize more strongly the truths Melody Warnick talks about in the "Buy Local" chapter of her wonderful book, This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live.
If you spent $25 at a local Salt Lake City retailer, $14 of it stayed in Salt Lake. At a big chain, only $3.50 did. Economists call this the "local multiplier effect," and the most obvious reason for it is that the people making money from an independent business aren't out-of-state megacorporations but entrepreneurs who live (and spend and pay taxes) in the same communities where they work.
If you own a local store, you usually employ more people locally than a comparable chain would, because everyone works in town, not at headquarters -- so a neighbor who's a CPA does the books, not the accounting department in Omaha.
...One study by a team of Penn State University researchers found that a high density of locally owned small businesses correlates with a higher regional GDP. Importantly for place attachment, it's also more social.
...Milchen told me..."if you're patronizing neighborhood businesses, a lot of those people are likely to live near you. You're likely to become familiar with them by face if not by name, and that's part of what builds a feeling of connection in a community, a feeling of trust and cohesiveness. those casual conversations you have with folks that may not be your best friends are a key part of what creates community fabric."
...Live Local campaigns slowly move the needle on a town's culture by inculcating the idea that our shopping habits are largely responsible for creating the place we live. "It begins with getting people to recognize that every time they spend a dollar, they're in some form casting a vote for the kind of community they want to see, says Jeff Milchen.
Another local business gem, among many, is Saffron Supply Company in downtown Salem. This hardware store has been in business since 1910. It is to Lowe's as an artisanal cafe is to McDonalds.
Back in 2004 I wrote a grateful blog post about Saffron Supply, "I'm the king of the world!" That's how I felt about a Saffron guy who took plumbing-challenged moi in hand, leaving me a happy customer when I left with everything I needed to fix a non-draining drain.
Here's how the post starts off:
King of the world, that’s who I am all right, in my own mind at least (where it counts). For I have replaced a rusted-out leaking drain on our laundry room sink, notwithstanding my normally plumbing-challenged handyman skills. There was something tremendously fulfilling about successfully dismantling the decrepit parts and installing the fresh new parts, adding the dollop of plumber’s putty, tightening the, um, whatever-you-call-its that needed to be tightened, turning on the water, and hearing the water run down the drain with nary a drip.
The list of those I’d like to thank for enabling me to achieve this marvelous accomplishment is short: the great guys at Saffron Supply in downtown Salem, that’s the beginning and end of it. This is the sort of place that can’t be allowed to disappear in the shadow of all the Lowes, Home Depots, and the like. I shamefully admit that I have a fondness for the bright lights, neatly stocked shelves, and cheerful employees at the Lowe’s store here in Salem.
But when you don’t know much about plumbing, and are carrying a plastic bag filled with a bunch of dirty, broken plumbing parts that no longer are plumbing for you, a place like Saffron Supply is where you want to be. It looks like it hasn’t changed much in decades. Wooden bins are filled with mysterious plumbing and electrical parts. When you pay, a pad is pulled out and you get a handwritten paper receipt. No women were in evidence, either staff or customers. I was careful not to wear a batik shirt last Wednesday, knowing that I would be entering the plain denim world of Saffron Supply.
Bottom line: shop at local businesses whenever you can. It'll be more enjoyable, and you'll be contributing much more to Salem's economy.
(Got to add: in case you're wondering why it took me five freaking years to realize that I could have my Mini Cooper serviced here in Salem, a three year/36,000 mile maintenance program was included with the new car purchase in 2011. I assumed that I had to have the servicing done at a Mini dealer. After three years, out of habit I continued to go to Mini of Portland, until I discovered Prestige Auto Service. When I talked about this with the Prestige folks, they told me that car dealerships try to give people the impression that warranty work and routine maintenance has to be performed by dealers, but actually this isn't true.)