Thursday, March 24, 2011
well, it seems to be in the air. the past two years of gruelling recession that has made my favourite independent retailers tough it out has finally pushed a few to the breaking point. some have closed. through issues of cash flow and/or bureaucracy, others are doggedly struggling to keep their doors open. i honestly think that indie retailers are made from some of the toughest stuff on earth, and i urge you to shop locally wherever you are. these shops keep makers like me in business and keep the world filled with thoughtful, ethical, unique handmade goods and services.
in the past weeks, i have caught wind of a couple shops running campaigns to help them keep afloat - and they have online options to help from afar.
first up, reading frenzy in portland, oregon, just published a spring update here explaining their current situation and offering a bunch of brilliant packages, publications and prints to offset their current financial issues. reading frenzy is a wholly unique operation, housing a great selection of zines and book as well as hosting outstanding art events on their walls and in their windows. i feel like i first stumbled upon them while i was still in high school. it was certainly the 1990's. and believe you me, the city of roses was not quite portlandia yet back them. ready frenzy was a beacon. chloe has big plans for the future, too, and i would like to see them happen.
secondly, david at cranky yellow in st. louis has become embroiled in some complicated municipal politics, fines, and hoopla. the stories of david and cranky are a tangle of intertwined and fascinating detail. who decides to open a shop at age 20? and who decided to open this shop? i can honestly say that i have never seen another operation like cranky yellow. the aesthetic is all their own and the ethos is staunchly idealistic. reading up on this current trouble (in a independent business feature that david has launched called small time woes) it is clear that mistakes were made on his part in starting up the business. he admits as much. but it also illustrates how little state and municipal bureaucracy create pathways for indie start-ups and how difficult resolution can be for smallies like him. david has gotten a little flack recently for using social media and openly 'complaining' about the problems he has been having. to that, i would point out that these tactics have garnered better results than going through prescribed channels (which often consists of automated phone systems). also, he is publicly voicing complaints that i have heard countless times in private from independent retail business owners across this continent. i think this is a story that needs to be heard and considered.
the programming cranky has brought to st. louis is astounding (bands, art shows, publications, cat circuses). the fact that david does not speak like a politician or a lawyer does not negate that. many of these projects (like their mail service) operate pointedly without money. of course this makes surprise costs (even in the hundreds of dollars) daunting. but this business is not so close to the line because it is failing. it is close to the line as a message and due to a generosity of creative spirit. it's just too bad that cultural capital can't pay garbage fines.
both the reading frenzy and cranky yellow shops (links back there) stock entirely wonderful and unique wares. just sayin'. if you have gifts to get in the coming days, these might be places to look.