Once again the holiday season is here, and there are many ways to celebrate. Greetings and gifts, gatherings large and small, family traditions, memory-making — any or all of these are likely on your agenda for the coming weeks. As you make your preparations, I invite you to celebrate your community by shopping locally.
Whatever your vision for the holidays, local businesses can help fulfill it. Picking the perfect Christmas tree at a neighborhood lot is just the beginning of shopping locally. I’ll use downtown San Mateo as an example, since it’s the neighborhood I know best, but I’ll bet a walk down your nearest “Main Street” will reveal its own treasures.
To set the scene with holiday décor, try Edmond’s Plaza Florist and Draeger’s home department. If you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, here’s a sampling of what you can find in downtown San Mateo: fine and estate jewelry at Appelblom, Christensen & Rafferty and other longtime jewelers; gear for active pursuits from Atlas Skateboarding and Dance Theatre Shop; furniture and home accessories at Scandinavian Designs and imported foods at Dean’s Produce. There are unique and unexpected finds at one-of-a-kind boutiques like Golden Moon Gallery and Bay Home & Linens. And Talbot’s Toyland surely rivals Santa’s workshop!
There are many other interesting spots with gift potential, and the best way to discover them is by walking. At pedestrian speed, you notice a lot more about your surroundings, so you can enjoy that clever holiday window display, peruse the menu of an intriguing restaurant or read the sign announcing a grand opening. You might even happen upon that tailor — or locksmith or optician or barber — you’ve been looking for.
Now on to the menu! Food is an essential part of holiday celebrations, and local purveyors can supply traditional favorites. Faced with the year-end rush, it’s nice to know you can get a ready-to-eat holiday feast from Trag’s Market. Or maybe you’ll be inspired to try a local specialty you’ve heard friends rave about. How about crab ravioli from Pasta Pasta, sushi platters from Suruki Supermarket, or hand-dipped chocolates from Sharona’s Chocolate Shop?
Dining out is another way to shop local. Over the last few years, San Mateo has become known for the diversity of our restaurants, which offer something for every palate and budget. Whether your plans call for brunch at Three with the family, pizza from Amici’s for the game or New Year’s Eve cocktails at Viognier, we’ve got you covered.
That kind of variety is something to celebrate, and it’s just one reason to shop local. Another is service. When you visit a local business, you get face-to-face, personal attention, something that just can’t be duplicated online. You can often meet the owner, and get the benefit of their expertise and enthusiasm. If you have questions, or a special request, don’t be afraid to ask.
Local businesses become part of the character and continuity of a place. Who hasn’t been pleased to rediscover a favorite spot, still in operation years or even decades later? Perhaps a new generation has joined the family business, or that teenage clerk has grown up to be the manager. As a regular at a local shop or eatery, you too may be part of that continuity. Those casual business encounters, repeated time and again, help build a sense of community and pride of place. That too is something worth celebrating.
Many of the businesses referenced here have long histories in San Mateo, and they are in good company. It’s not unusual to hear of businesses celebrating 30, 40, even 50 years on the Peninsula. That longevity reflects deep local roots and commitment to their host communities. Local commerce is part of a positive cycle: your patronage builds business success, enabling businesses in turn to support non-commercial community needs. PAL, Samaritan House, Peninsula Humane Society — these organizations and many more rely on the support of the local business community.
When you shop local, you get the goods and services you need, while also investing in your community. Shopping local supports jobs and ensures that neighborhood businesses remain viable. And though we all gripe about taxes, it’s important to remember that sales tax revenue provides much of the funding for services we all depend upon, from public safety to street repair.
Shopping local is also a social investment and a great way to connect with people in your community. That smile and nod when you buy your coffee is a moment of connection, a spark of the good will we look for at the holidays. So come on out and be a part of it. Your local businesses are ready to make your holiday season great; you can do the same for them.
See you downtown!
Ann Fienman is the executive director of the Downtown San Mateo Association.