Ask Eartha Steward: Celebrating independents |

Ask Eartha Steward: Celebrating independents

High Country Conservation Center
High Country Conservation Center

Last week, we celebrated the “locavores” here in the county who strive to get their food from local and regional producers. This Independence weekend will be a great chance to enjoy our local food, and in the meantime, support another important habitat for the locavore ” the independent, locally owned business. Local businesses help support the vibrant community and create the economic backbone of Summit County.

We humans are funny creatures, and our shopping habits are no less so. Big chains have lots of cash that they drop into advertising to bombard us with images, and sometimes in the ruckus, we miss the important information about the value of independent businesses, both personally and in the community.

Independent community-based businesses offer more locally-produced goods than their larger chain counterparts, meaning more local jobs and a broader market for local producers. They utilize a broad array of other community-based goods and services ” accountants, contractors, sign-makers, computer consultants, architects, attorneys, landscapers ” so there is a stronger network of local economy and relationships between business owners and their customers.

On the other hand, franchised chain businesses have a cookie-cutter model that eliminates the need for local planning, and uses a minimum of other local good and services. Most of their profits head straight back to corporate headquarters and a much smaller percentage actually makes it back into the local economy.

Independent businesses help ensure that we have access to a diverse selection of goods and services. Local businesses are driven by local markets, and this allows for more diverse offerings depending on the tastes of the customer (and owner!)

Though there may be less selection in a small retailer, a multiplicity of independent businesses creates great diversity. Our freedom to choose from a broad selection of goods is lessened when only a few national chains decide what reaches customers ” which may not seem that disturbing for some goods, but has a real effect when it limits our access to news sources, music, books, and other forms of expression.

And how could we forget? Independent, community-based businesses have a less negative impact on the environment! They consume less land, provide more locally-produced goods and services, and they’re right here in our towns, so we use less gas, create less traffic and pollution, and do less damage to our roads and highways.

We here in Summit are very lucky, since our community is small and close-knit enough that we can get to know many of the local business owners personally. They have invested their time, money, and love into this county and have a vested interest in the long-term health of the community. Local business owners serve on boards, councils, committees, and task forces (and we all know how many of those there are here in Summit County!) They are also essential in supporting nonprofit and charitable endeavors that support our broader community.

Many chains do give back to Summit County and they provide an important role in our tourist-driven economy. And certainly, not all independent businesses have ideal business models. However, it’s pretty evident that locally-owned, independent businesses play a vital role in the health and prosperity of the Summit community.

The Best of Summit ballots are being cast, listing one unique Summit County business after another. It’s clear we love our independent businesses and business owners. How could we not? They’re awesome! So, in honor of Independence Day, get out, enjoy the sunshine, and stop in to support our great independent local businesses.

Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Jennifer Kirkpatrick and Heather Dodd Christie, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.

Submit questions to Eartha at or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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