Sunday, December 8, 2013

Goodbye Amazon, hello Ninth Street

Column: Goodbye Amazon, hello Ninth Street
By Melissa Rooney, Durham News, 8 December 2013

Last year I hoped Americans would boycott the holiday materialism that feeds the corporate monster and its wealthy share-holders.

In retrospect, I couldn’t even do this myself.
Given busy schedules and long Christmas lists, it’s hard to pass up the ease and free shipping offered of online ordering, not to mention all the corporate discounts thrown at us this time of year.
Last year, I gave Amazon far more business than I’d intended. This year, I am fully committed to two rules: 1) Quality not Quantity; and 2) Local Only.
I stuck to mantra No. 1 during Halloween, when my husband made fun of me for giving just one atomic fireball to each trick-or-treater. “They’re a specialty,” I defended, “and they aren’t cheap.” As for the ensuing holidays, my kids have been duly warned to expect only one Christmas gift from each parent and grandparent this year – even my mother, whose Christmas shopping could support the entire economy of China (according to my husband).
On to Mantra No. 2. Buying local is easy if you are looking for home furnishings and art, but what about more practical items?
I recently spent a couple mornings on Ninth Street, reminding myself how easy it is to shop local in Durham. The first was with my kids (9, 10 and 3 years old), and we spent the entire morning in the children’s section of the Regulator book store (the kids now want to purchase Regulator gift cards as birthday gifts, so their friends can have the same experience). The second time, I went by myself.
I always look for bohemian “gypsy” dresses when window-shopping, and Native Threads – my favorite place on Ninth – has beautiful and comfortable African and Indian clothing as well as a plethora of thought-provoking paraphernalia from Tibet, Africa and other magical locations. Vaguely Reminiscent sells natural-fiber clothing, shoes, socks, jewelry, hair accessories, and the ever-popular “Durham, It’s Not For Everyone” T-shirts. Picturesque Barnes Supply Company has lawn, garden, and pet supplies/gifts.
My second favorite Ninth Street venue is the little white house that is Barnes Pottery Shed – finding the entrance is an adventure in and of itself. The Duck Shop sells Duke apparel and gifts at lower prices than on-campus stores (if you like those sorts of things – I am a UNC fan), and The Playhouse has quality educational toys and a great selection of kids’ music and books. My third favorite spot is Hunky Dory, an old-school vinyl-records and tobacco shop; I particularly enjoy inspecting the funky T-shirts and local offerings (often at reduced prices) in the back corner.
Nearby Brightleaf Square houses Bull City Art and Frame Company; James Kennedy Antiques (jewelry, pottery, African art, and medical, nautical, and scientific items); Offbeat Music (it’s worth just sampling music on the listening stations and perusing the buttons, stickers and shirts); several independent clothing and jewelry stores and more. Rather than scouring the Internet, it is far more fun to look for that out-of-print book at Wentworth and Leggett Rare Books and Prints (surprisingly very affordable); W&L also appraises and buys books.
When looking for the “Big Store” experience, Morgan Imports and Parker and Otis (beside Brightleaf) sell backpacks, clothing, shoes, furnishings, kitchen wares, wine, you name it! 

These are my favorite stores in this area, and I can spend hours in both.
For more local shopping opportunities, I can drive down West Chapel Hill Street, Foster Street, Main Street, throughout downtown Durham in a matter of minutes.

But independent stores aren’t only located downtown. A South Durham favorite of mine is Bean Traders on Highway 54. In addition to great coffee and pastries and a sizeable indoor children’s play area (with regularly scheduled story and craft times), BT sells “Durham” and other locally made items like T-shirts, reusable bags, journals, pot-holders, soaps, it’s different every time. For Garden’s Sake (on 751, just beyond the Fayetteville Road intersection) has plants, gardening tools and supplies, and a marvelous gift shop with many locally manufactured items, not to mention live (and happy) ducks, goats, chickens, and a beautiful lake. Foster’s, Rare Earth Beads, and other fun independent stores are located along Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard. And there are many more throughout Durham.
At the pinnacle of practical, the Triangle Pharmacy and Ace Hardware stores on Highway 54 and in Woodcroft Shopping Center are owned by Durham pharmacist Alice Dillard and her sister (and by their parents before). Ace is a co-op (not a franchise) which employs nearly 50 people, so the bulk of the money earned stays here in the community. The prices are affordable, and it’s a much more intimate shopping experience than any big-box store can provide. Plus, I can get my prescriptions filled while I shop. I love driving by the store on 54 just to see what new, original jingle is posted on their street sign.
I am lucky to live in a place where it is so easy to support the local economy, and I plan to take advantage of the opportunities this holiday season and beyond. I hope you’ll join me.
Melissa Rooney is a writer, scientist and mom.

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