Circle of livelihood

Why those who sell are buying into shopping locally

Monikah Niemczynowicz, co-owner of Café Flo in Chico, takes pride that her eatery supports local growers and vendors.

Monikah Niemczynowicz, co-owner of Café Flo in Chico, takes pride that her eatery supports local growers and vendors.


Rather than go to the big chain retailers, local businessman Dann Moser supports a neighboring business by shopping for his fishing bait and lures at the Tackle Box on East Park Avenue. In fact, the furniture store owner is so fanatical about shopping locally that he will pay a higher price to do so. “It’s crazy not to,” said Moser, who also dines at locally owned restaurants.

Red Tavern co-owner Maria Venturino says most of her upscale restaurant’s furnishings comes from Moser’s Esplanade Home and Office Furniture, or Nantucket Home. Much of the restaurant’s produce is supplied by area farmers.

This is a domino effect—one business owner supports another; a neighbor supports another. Or, as Venturino sees it, “what goes around comes around.”

The “Shop Local” concept appears to be abuzz around Chico, Paradise and Oroville in response to struggling economics and growing competition. But the word “shop” refers to far more than just buying at retail outlets. Add service laborers, restaurants, manufacturers, consultants, lawyers, medical-providers and local farmers to the mix.

The message: “More money stays in your community when you shop locally,” said Jessica Rios, founder and coordinator of Think Local, Chico!—a business alliance working to raise awareness about the benefits of supporting locally owned, independent businesses. Forty-five cents of every dollar remains in the community when spent at a local business, compared to 13 cents at a national chain, she explained.

“It comes down to loving your neighbor and treating your neighbor well,” Rios continued. “It gives a community character and values relationships.”

Mutual-aid society

Café Flo’s Monikah Niemczynowicz, who bought the Chico eatery last September with her husband, Jack, has become a member of Think Local, Chico! and is motivated by the group.

In order to make its operating practices more local, Café Flo will be implementing a new menu next month that will feature local organic and seasonal products. She is looking forward to the possibility of participating in a bulk group order, with other restaurant owners, of compostable products that would be too expensive to buy otherwise.

“Everything we can get locally will be purchased here in Chico,” she said.

Otherwise, she said, they purchase their products as locally as possible—all varieties of coffee and wine are California products. The new menu will be introduced June 20 at a grand reopening celebration including live music as well as booths dedicated to “keeping it local” and Earth-friendly topics such as composting.

For the Red Tavern, besides furniture and produce, Venturino purchases kitchenware from Collier Hardware and specialty items from Zucchini & Vine. Her light fixtures come from P F C Lighting.

“It’s a more traditional and helpful way of doing business,” Venturino added, referencing European villages where everyone in town works together—everyone gets bread from the neighborhood baker, meat from the town butcher, and so on. A benefit of supporting local businesses, she added, is to obtain their support for your business.

Example: Marc Kessler and his wife, Julia, hire Wizard Graphics for brochures and letterhead for their business, California Organic Flowers. The Chico Project takes care of marketing and brand development.

Downtown Chico typifies the Shop Local movement: people supporting locally owned businesses that add character to their community.


Kessler, a Think Local, Chico! board member, sees the benefit of money circulating. “In order to have a healthy economy, you need to have more money coming in rather than going out of the community,” he said. Businesses that sell nationally, like his, help that cycle when buying locally.

Indeed, while Rios “would like to see a lot more strength” in the local businesses, she sees a healthy economy consisting of a balance of locally owned businesses and larger big-box or corporate entities.


Think Local, Chico! plays a part in a larger organization called Business Alliance for Local Living Economies—or BALLE. The local group’s Web site ( provides general information as well as a directory of members, such as In Motion Fitness, Friendly Farm Alpacas, and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Bacio Catering & Carry-Out Cuisine is also a member. Owner Amanda Leveroni says shopping locally requires the same consciousness that is required for recycling and reusing. Like Venturino, she purchases produce from local farmers when she can.

Ed Burns, who runs JB’s Beverage & Bar Service, says another benefit to keeping it local is that business owners can trade their services when practical, something that could never be done with a corporate retailer.

Along with working on an extensive Buy Local Guide, Think Local, Chico! will soon be launching a local gift card that will be accepted at a variety of local establishments, in order to retain some revenue lost to chains.

Another aspect of Shop Local, Kessler explained, is to encourage start-ups. Companies such as Sierra Nevada and Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products have become highly successful trademarks for the area. “When you create an atmosphere where local businesses can succeed,” Kessler said, “that attracts other entrepreneurs to the area.”

Spreading the love

Chico isn’t the only community where Shop Local is taking root.

Katie Simmons, executive director of the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce, said her organization’s mission is to “educate and encourage people to shop locally to keep sales-tax revenue in the community.” She estimates some 1,200 to 1,500 small local businesses exist nearby, yet many people still commute or buy online because they are not familiar with their options.

It’s far more economical and environmentally friendly for residents to shop in town, she said.

To keep the wheels turning on the Ridge, the chamber is launching a Buy Local Consumer Awareness Campaign partnered with the town government of Paradise, Paradise Downtown Business Association and Paradise Business Association. For six weeks—July 9-Aug. 13, from 5:30 p.m. to dusk, at the Paradise Community Park and Fir Street—a variety of local merchants will set-up booths and offer information.

The Oroville Chamber of Commerce, too, is concerned about promoting a more community-based philosophy. According to membership coordinator Chris Robbins, because of “retail leakage” over the past few years, the chamber would rather have people shop in town than online.

While Robbins encourages people to shop at locally owned businesses, he does not discourage shopping at chain stores in town because at least some of the money still circulates locally. Still, Robbins stressed that local business owners need to maintain healthy commerce to continue to provide other community-based services, as local businesspeople also tend to volunteer heavily. “When you are struggling to keep the doors open,” he noted, “it’s a loss to the community.”

Local business owners admit they patronize corporate chains from time to time, and they’ll buy a product online either for their business or personally. Yet, they stress the importance of awareness.

“We all shop at big-box stores. We all shop online. We all go out of town to buy something cheaper,” Kessler said. “But the idea is to think local before you make that decision to buy something.”