Monday, March 15, 2010

I is for Indie

It's easy these days to despair at the state of the economy, and here in the US, it's easy to despair about the state of our government, health care, education, and myriad social woes.  Empty storefronts, foreclosures, and unemployment are rampant.  In the face of these crises, however, I see certain trends that give me hope.  One is that some folks are finally cutting back on out-of-control spending; another is that some families are rediscovering simpler pastimes (like the old board games I mentioned in G is for Games); a third is that some civic-minded individuals are recognizing the value of our old main streets as a place to gather, shop, and spend time.  

I'll say it right here: I hate shopping malls and chains.  They kill the souls of small towns and mid-sized cities.  They destroy the sense of a communal center, a solid, real, and enduring civic anchor.  When towns become endless corridors of strip malls and parking lots, what is left in which we can take pride?  If every town has a Chili's and a Starbuck's and a Walmart, and if all of those businesses are housed in cinderblock and corrugated metal excuses for buildings, what makes one town indistinguishable from another?  If beauty and enduring value are traded in for convenience and instant gratification, any sense of investment in community and heritage is destroyed.  In fact, what we are left with is nothing but empty consumerism.  

When I have the alternative of buying a freshly baked scone from a local baker, he will always win over Panera.  And when there's the option of getting a cup of coffee at a local cafe, forget about Starbucks.  The indie places I frequent source as much as possible from local suppliers (other indies!); they give back to their communities; and perhaps just as importantly, they give us all a sense of belonging.  Back in the 1980's one of the most popular US television shows was Cheers.  People loved that show about a local Boston bar because, it's true, sometimes you do "want to go where everybody knows your name."  

I don't usually use my blog as a soap box, but the first word that came to my mind when I thought about the letter I was "independent," and I thought about all the indie bookstores, cafes, restaurants, grocers, farmers, merchants of various wares, and craftspeople that I love.  In my own town of Lowell, Massachusetts, these intrepid folks make me proud to be a part of the community, and in the many other towns and cities I visit, they are what draws me onto a main street and makes me want to get to know the place better.  In some cases, they make me fall hopelessly, irreversibly in love with a place (as in Portland, Maine, or Savannah, Georgia!).  No TGIFridays or Dunkin' Donuts has ever, ever done that to me!   

I just want to mention one such indie place that knocks my socks off every time I go there: Frontier Cafe, Cinema, and Gallery in Brunswick, Maine.  If you visit coastal Maine, I cannot recommend it highly enough for the great food, the baked goods, the beer & wine and coffees, the movie house, and the art.  Who could ask for more?  Housed in a wonderful old mill (you know me and old mills) on the Androscoggin River, it is a very hip yet comfy place to spend an afternoon or watch a great indie film--double the indie fun!  

Thanks for letting me sing the praises of indies.  I want to spread the word about them whenever I can.  The more we each of us invests in our own local economies, the more we support the growth of unique, responsible, and cool places in our towns and cities.  So, that said, what indie businesses do you love?

the beverage bar at Frontier
fresh flowers abound
a comfy corner--
shortly after I took this shot a group of friends 
celebrated a baby shower here.
looking out a window toward the bridge spanning the Androscoggin


  1. well said lovely!
    very true & I hope more people in this disposable world that is being created realise that.
    nothing beats a good market, a friendly cafe & some community spirit around.
    hugs to you & a happy week

  2. Gigi!
    HELL YEAH! AMEN Sista! I want to take those words you just wrote, print them, and place in every mailbox around this country! Shopping and supporting small businesses and/or local is one of my biggest endeavors in life...and for the most part, we do this every single day of our lives. Happily, I can say I haven't stepped foot inside a Wal-Mart or fast-food/chain restaurant in at least 3 years. When we made this decision to ban big-box retail, etc., it was difficult at first because you become accustomed to the 'convenience', but after a few weeks, it became a fun challenge/game to meet our needs through small markets, locally owned businesses, etsy, and other creative artisans from around the world. Thank you for being you and for this post!
    Indie ROCKS!

  3. Ohhhh YES! YES! YES! How wonderful to see this in writing. I hate big chains. Here, we go from state to state and everything is the same I just love discovering the local fresh food, the small boutique, the local bookshop What joy in the world when you find one you wish to return to day after day! Thank you for this post

  4. Hear Hear Gigi! And that is probably one of the enduring benefits of this country called France that keeps me here. Yes - it does have its big super stores. But, depsite ridiculously high set up costs and heavy taxes and social security charges, the myriad of little stores and communities still exists and is thriving. France is very slow to change - but sometimes that can be a good thing. Traditional values have something to be said for them. As usual a very thought provoking post and one that has quite made my sunny day as I begin to take out my quills. Bisous to youxxx
    Hail the local coffee shop and renegade cinema I say ;-)

  5. I agree too. I don't think I've bought anything Starbucks or chain store (other than clothes and shoes) in the last four years. It helps, of course, that I live within steps from a local market and bakery.

  6. Hear hear!! Gigi, you have struck a cord with me, and I'm guessing lots of others too. I'm lucky enough to have as my nearest town a place that has managed to hang on to it's identity, albeit a rather upmarket one, but at least it is tasteful!
    The whole multi-national, strip mall effect has crept into towns in Ireland over the last decade, but thankfully we Irish are a fairly independent minded people and for the most part are pretty fierce about our identity.

    The dreams I have for promoting Indie businesses!!

  7. Dear Gigi,
    I have to say that it's the same here in the U.K. We have all been saying for years that every high street is the same. They all have the same shops, so you could be anywhere. When I was young, we had individual shops everywhere and we could all be individual but now, everyone looks the same.
    I guess that it's not all doom and gloom and that we have to move forward and not live in the past. We still have individual bakers, delicatessans, clothes and coffee shops existing in many places. Craft shops with potters, jewellers, glass makers etc. etc so we have to be positive. As long as we don't buy into the chain stores we can try and keep some of these individual shops alive.
    'i' was a great post, Gigi. Well said. XXXX

  8. said well! i always try to support local businesses. i avoid the big box stores, i favour the local cafe over starbucks. important to keep your small bit of economy in your town or city thriving.

  9. Dear Gigi, I feel that I must echo all of the sentiments you express in this posting. It is certainly the case in Britain where increasingly every High Street in every town looks, and is, the same.

    I divide my time between London and Budapest where there is a noticeable difference in that the café society, which used to be so prevalent in the UK, flourishes still in Hungary. It is good to see places where people from all walks of life continue to meet and mix.

    I discovered your weblog via Pamela Terry whose postings I also enjoy.

  10. Amen, Sister Gigi! I could echo your sentiments exactly. I can't stand malls and all the rampant chains popping up everywhere, and that once-independent shops attach themselves to a chain to survive. That's exactly what's happening in the town I live in, at least three stores in the past 2-3 years, once self-owned, have hooked up with a chain to keep going. It is soooo sad. Empty consumerism--that is such a great way of putting it all. Having a tiny shop in cyberspace this is still struggling to keep going I am humbled every time someone makes a purchase--for choosing my handmade creation over a cheap bauble from the mall that won't last the week. Supporting small and local business is the only way they will still be there to enjoy. Bravo for this post, Gigi! Happy Week, my friend :o) ((HUGS))

  11. Well said... love the part about out-of-control spending. It's been much easier to control spending for myself since the economy got out of whack. Makes you rethink old habits. I constantly ask myself... do I need this? Usually the answer is no.. and wow has my savings increased. I've enjoyed your alphabet series. Hope you are blissfully enjoying your time now spent at home! xoxo

  12. I agree with you. When we travel, we love to find towns that have little shops, cafes and coffee bars. We don't have much of that here. We live in a small town, but 2 interstates meet we get many of the chain restaurants etc. I really loved it when we lived places where the owner knew my name.

  13. Gigi, you're a superstar!! This is one of the best posts I've read in a long time. Tell it like it is! Big box stores and chain coffee shops make me sad. I live in a great neighbourhood, in Vancouver, with lots of independent shops and restaurants. Love it! Frontier Cafe looks fantastic. If I'm ever in that 'hood I'll check it out.

  14. This is such a wonderful post, Gigi....I love it! I purposely go out and look for small independent shops, bookstores and cafes to support and enjoy...I just love the character of them and it's so important to preserve the mom and pop shops, the american dream for alot of us....Have a wonderful evening, lovely Gigi! xxoo :)

  15. Brilliantly put. This should be talked about more and blogged about often.
    We all need to go back in time and remember the value in small shops, homemade bread, and community spirit.

  16. There is nothing like an Indie. Indie films, indie bookstores, indie cafes... I just love independent businesses. I try to support them as much as possible. The way independent bookstores are dying so quickly really distresses me. I felt like crying when Jackson Books in Salem, Oregon died. My town is not great for the indies. I guess because it's more expensive to shop at the indies. Or, maybe because it's a small mid-western city. Who knows?

  17. im in! frontier is my kinda place too. rock on.


  18. this is such a beautiful post. i try to shop, at indie stores as much as i can. i really do. but most people in my neighborhood, just can't afford it. i say this gently and with love~ i want the kids in my neighborhood, to go wal-mart, to get a book to read, if they can't afford it, full price at the indie book store.
    again, i adore indie. i go to a cafe almost every week for coffee, and little gifts. i know many are not able to do this, but it's something i save my pennies for during the week. i also love local farmers. swoon! jellies, fruit veggies, canning goods... pickles.
    i love ya!

  19. Oh, Christina, you are so right! I feel the same way about kids in my neighborhood. I want them to get their little hands on books, no matter what!! And I want them to have their own library cards so they don't have to pay a cent for 'em!

    And you reminded me that among my favorite indie stores are the junk shops and resellers in my town. That's where I find my treasures on the cheap!! I never buy new when I can buy cheap but beautiful used!

    Big hugs,

  20. Oh, well put Gigi! Strip malls are the ugliest things to sprout up in towns and cities everywhere. I love to support local as well, whenever I can. Just the other day I went to a market to get me some veggies, and they had these amazing purple carrots, locally this time of year! They were wonderful. Did you know carrots were originally purple? But they engineered them to look orange because they thought that it would be more pleasing to the consumer? This is what I was recently told, anyways. I much prefer the purple...and the local.

  21. oh i agree and love everyword... and you are so brilliant... using INDIE for your i....
    and then the images!! flippity flip girl...

    amazing... sooo good!!

    xxo, kim


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