On election night, the reality slowly came over me like a fever—which, hours later, became a non-metaphorical fever. Like many, I felt helpless, scared, and angry. As days passed, I saw friends and colleagues sharing this wave of reactions. Worried about things both momentous and small, each of us realized—in tangible terms—that every bit of our work and life adds up to something in the larger picture.
Amid the sense of extremity, it also seems something spectacular is budding—people want to do something in the name of dissent. People want to be held accountable for their impact and want to address what resistance will look like whether you’re an individual, a business, a friend, or an artist. People are holding a critical mirror up to themselves—some for the first time—analyzing their decisions, their purchases, their privilege, their roles in the bigger picture.
Although it can be difficult for me to separate my work as a journalist from my work as a boutique owner, there are moments when I pause to reflect on my industry in the most personal, honest way I can. Within my immediate community of independent retail establishments, I saw dozens of stores responding to the presidential election by pledging to donate portions of their proceeds to various non-profits—particularly those directly in the crosshairs of president-elect Donald Trump’s agenda: Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the ACLU.
Interestingly—but not surprisingly—there are very few big box stores making this kind of effort. Despite the much smaller margins small businesses are operating with, they give more.
As we head into the holidays—the time of year every store in this city relies on—many shops surely fear the impact this election may have on business. I can’t blame them for that. Economists are divided in their projections of the impact it will have during holiday season and what the ramifications will be if small businesses take too heavy a hit.
At this critical time, it’s imperative to cast light on what our independent stores do for our community and how they’re part of a growing solution. From sustainably sourced products to in-store manufacturing and jobs for people in our city, all are held together in small but mighty teams. These businesses tell the story: Portland brings vibrancy to our neighborhood districts and resiliency to our local economy in a direct way. Now is the time to think about how we vote with our dollars this holiday season and watch those dollars strengthen our city against the tides of corporate interest.
I asked some of my favorite stores for one good reason to support independent manufacturing and retail, and if they are pledging to donate to any charitable organizations this year. What they had to say mirrors so much of my heart and soul, and I hope it illuminates the human touch behind the small shops of our city.
“Shopping at a locally owned company of any sort is supporting your local community. It’s also supporting someone that had the balls to follow their dream, and is a great example to the next generation that they can do whatever they put their minds to. What bat-shit crazy person thinks they can open a shop in an economy of Amazons? A motivated dreamer.”—Charlotte Wenzel, Palace
“Your dollars tell a story. Supporting local is supporting your immediate community. We make jobs, we carry US-made products from design to production, we support independent designers, and we have freedom to promote free thought and ideas without corporate agendas.”—Pamela Baker-Miller, Frances May
“We create jobs and we give back to our communities! Plus we are committed to providing excellent customer service, helping our customers make better informed decisions, resulting in fewer returns and exchanges after the holiday!”—Marcy Landolfo, Communion
“Money spent at a locally-owned shop goes straight back into the local economy. Someone buying something from my shop enables me to pay my employees, which then enables them to take care of themselves and put their money back into the economy. It’s a very real chain reaction.”—Jessica Lawson, Dea Dia
“The experience you get at an independently owned boutique is so very different from that of shopping at larger stores. It’s in the small shops where one has an opportunity to learn more about where the product comes from, to connect to that and the people behind the products. To me, it’s about story and connection. Each shop is so individually unique and special, there’s warmth and a feel of home. In Portland, there’s a real community feel, the shops want to see all shops thrive. You can feel that while you’re shopping. It’s palpable.”—Betsy Cross<, Betsy & Iya
“Story! We can give you a story for each and every item in our store, which will make that item feel more personal to you or the person you gift with something special.”—Sarah Bibb, Folly
“It’s so easy to shop on Amazon. We’re all guilty of it—but if we don’t support the things we love about Portland, like small, locally owned shops, they’re going to disappear.”—Amy Fox, Altar PDX
If you are curious about pledges to charitable organizations, be sure to check out a new campaign titled “SHOP HERE” (@crystalcults on Instagram) created by local musician/model Jimi Hendrix (yes, that’s her real name). Shop Here is an interactive list of dozens of boutiques and Portland-based designers who are donating to a growing list of charities as a response to the election. All the boutiques cited here (and dozens more) contributed thousands of dollars to as many as 15 different non-profit organizations in the last week. The list continues to grow, ushering in a shared and resounding sensibility amongst Portland shops. Inclusivity is a value and our city’s small shops seek to do their part to protect LGBTQ communities, communities of color, women’s access to health care, environmental protection agencies, and access to education. THIS is what you are supporting with your dollars when you spend them at these shops.
As a writer always seeking new artistic content, I’m amazed by the incredible boutiques in this city because of their high design sensibilities and unique aesthetic range. Most of all, however, it’s awe-inspiring that our city’s shops are committed to bringing consumers to the source of the products they buy: learning the stories behind the garments, the home goods, the jewelry, the staff. Even if you think fashion is low on your list during this time of change, you’d be surprised to know that, as the second largest consumer sector in the world, it’s outrageously important to think about our individual roles in this larger picture. What you are buying matters.
Local Boutiques Making Charitable Contributions
Altar PDX: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood
Palace Vintage: Girls, Inc.
Rock N Rose: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
WildFang: Planned Parenthood
Folly: Planned Parenthood, ACLU
Frances May Shop: ACLU, PICA, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Planned Parenthood, SPLC
Betsy & Iya: Girls, Inc, Friends of the Children
Communion: Girls, Inc., Oregon Humane Society
Gem Gem: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Worn Path: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Dea Dia: International Rescue Committee, Standing Rock Medic and Healers Council