Keeping money in the neighborhood

Electric Fetus launches MinnEconomy shop local campaign

WHITTIER — The chai tea, the black bean burgers, the band warming up in the corner of the Electric Fetus — what did they have in common?

They were all local.

The April 9 installment of the store’s MinnEconomy series brought together the brewer of Mischief Maker Chai, the folks from Tao Natural Foods, the artisan behind Camps & Cottages soaps and three local bands, all in the name of boosting the local economy. Launched in February, MinnEconomy is a shop-local campaign with a soundtrack provided by Minneapolis bands.

Electric Fetus General Manager Bob Fuchs said the idea for MinnEconomy grew out of a staff brainstorming session back in the fall. At the time, staff members were trying to come up with new angles for store advertising.

Fuchs, a regular in local co-ops, said it might have been the buzz around the benefits of eating locally produced food that inspired the shop local campaign. It seemed a natural fit for the Fetus, a store that for years has featured local products without making too much of a fuss about it, he said.

Followers of the local music scene know the Fetus is a good place to find albums by Minnesota musicians. They stock hundreds of local releases.

But music buyers may not consider that they’re passing work by dozens of other local artists when they pass through the Fetus merchandise section on the way to the records.

“We’ve been doing this forever,” Fuchs said. “We’ve been supporting local artists, whether it be photographers or jewelry makers or soap makers or bands.”

The Fetus plans to host the event the second Thursday of every month and invite a rotating guest list of local musicians, food makers, artists and craftspeople. Featured music and products are offered at a discount all month long.

The economy is local

Proponents of the shop local movement point to studies that suggest spending dollars at locally owned businesses keeps greater wealth in a community.

The consulting group Civic Economics garnered headlines with a 2002 study conducted in Austin, Texas, that showed $100 spent at a local merchant generated three times the local economic activity of the same amount spent at a chain store.

In a 2004 study in a Chicago neighborhood, Civic Economic found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the Chicago economy. When that same amount was spent at a chain store, only $43 stayed in Chicago.

Civic Economics further argued that local stores could be shown to have a greater economic impact per square foot of floor space than their national competitors.

It doesn’t take a study to convince someone like artist Adam Turman that shopping locally has benefits for the hometown. For Turman, an illustrator, designer and printmaker, buying and selling locally just feels right.

“You really feel like you’re there and you’re a part of it,” he said. “You’re helping them out, they’re helping you out, and everyone wins.”

“It takes a big city and puts a face on it,” he added. “In my case, many faces.”

Turman has produced work for a number of Twin Cities businesses, including Surly Brewing Company in Brooklyn Center, The Four Firkins in St. Louis Park and Peace Coffee in Minneapolis.

“I like the fact that somebody likes my stuff enough here to buy it here, so that people locally get to see it,” he said.

Turman puts his money where his mouth is and does a lot of his spending at local businesses, too.

“I even wear local stuff, locally designed apparel,” he said. “I drink local beer, I eat local food and, of course, dine at local restaurants.

“I try and support as many local businesses as I can with my way of life.”

Local relationships

Dana Flor handcrafts soaps and bath salts through her Minneapolis-based company Camps & Cottages, and was the featured artisan for MinnEconomy in April.

A long-time customer of Electric Fetus, Flor said she had sold her soaps through the store for years, as well. She touted the environmental benefits of buying locally produced goods, which don’t have the carbon footprint of items transported over long distances.

Flor said in-person appearances were rare for her, but she made an exception for MinnEconomy.

“I wouldn’t do this for anybody but the Fetus, but I adore the Fetus and appreciate their commitment to the local arts,” she said.

It seems buying locally pays in good karma, too.

A local business entering beginning its fourth decade, it makes sense that Electric Fetus would be behind a shop local campaign. Local buyers, after all, were the secret to their success, Fuchs said.

“Our success has been based on the fact that many people want to shop locally,” he said. “They want to support local businesses.”