04 March 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Sustainable Local Business: Food for Thought on the Menu


The story of Linda Jean’s Grille in Wyncote is a story with larger ramifications for all our communities.  The situation cries out about the precarious financial status of small neighborhood businesses and their seemingly relative impotence against acts of nature and by bureaucracies.  However, the good news is that residents and consumers have more power than we sometimes think to rescue such endangered assets.


This is not a rant about PennDOT, SEPTA or the Greenwood Avenue Bridge reconstruction delays that put Linda Jean’s and other neighborhood merchants at risk across our region.  Such obstacles have parallels in the past and will probably continue in the future.  [Remember the Township Line (Elkins Park) and Glenside Avenue bridge closings several years ago?]  The politics are a different article.


Instead, this is a call to mobilize consumer and civic will in ways that will put our dollars where our mouths, hearts and wallets are.  I propose that we rally around our favorite merchants by pursuing some mix of the following initiatives to suit our personal purses and styles:


  • Consider partaking in “A Meal a Month” campaign, in which you (your colleagues, family and/or friends) make a concerted, scheduled effort to patronage a local restaurant for at least one meal each month.


  • Form a “local restaurant club” with your neighbors and friends.  Just as you might meet with a book club or a discussion group, focus on dining at these local establishments to keep them hopping and freshen your repertoire.


  • When your own place of business, school, sports, civic or religious organization needs nibbles or catering, think local first.


Reasons for such initiatives go beyond sentimentality in rescuing businesses at risk.  They’re a smart investment in simultaneously strengthening (1) sustainable communities and (2) viable local economies.  When we walk or rideshare a short mile or two to Linda Jean’s, for example, we minimize our carbon footprint over many alternative scenarios and support livable neighborhoods with diverse character instead of more homogeneous chains.  We also support a welcome form of commerce that builds our tax base.


Such a win-win outcome can be further facilitated by a couple of additional ideas.


(1)    First, interested citizens could develop a directory of local eateries and make this easily accessible online (perhaps on the township website) and at local libraries, through real estate welcome packets and youth organizations.  It would serve as an updateable resource for residents and make our community more attractive to small proprietorships.


(2)   Second, when our community shows this sort of commitment to its small entrepreneurs, we may have more appeal (and perhaps leverage) when marketing vacant properties to appropriate developers.


Meanwhile, this food for thought could be one of the specials on the menu at Linda Jean’s.


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