All Georgia Spohn of Tampa wanted was to find a mock turtleneck sweatshirt.
“I can’t find one anywhere,” the 93-year-old said, while rummaging through the racks at the Et Cetera Shop in Hillsboro. “I have looked in all the other stores. If they don’t have it here, I’m just going to forget the whole thing. I will never shop online. I don’t even have one of those computer things. It’s too risky.”
Spohn is one of the many county residents who is dedicated to supporting the local economy, no matter the cost. While 2012 saw an increase in online and department-store shopping, many residents feel it is their duty to shop in-county — and only leave the area when it is absolutely necessary.
Steve Orbony of Hillsboro said he goes on an out-of-county shopping trip once or twice a year. He said the trip usually coincides with the Kansas State Fair, which forces him to leave anyway.
“It just doesn’t make sense to leave Marion County,” he said. “I live here. I work here. I figure I might as well shop here and support all of the local businesses. It might be more expensive, but you’re only hurting yourself in the long run if you don’t do it.”
Others, like George Griffith, try to shop out-of-county but always come back to Marion for one reason: they feel bad about not supporting the local economy.
“It made me sick when I walked in that place,” he said, remembering a recent trip to Wal-Mart last month. “Wal-Mart is killing our economy right before our eyes. We don’t have a strong local economy because people are refusing to shop at their neighborhood grocery stores. These places wouldn’t survive if we don’t help them out. Why should we support a franchise that is shipping all of their business to another country? It’s growing their economy, not ours. We’re paying the price right now for people’s foolishness.”
And that dedication is something that local business owners appreciate.
“In this economy, we’ve all got to do our share — and it is good to see that people are choosing to support businesses in Marion County,” said Carol Abrahams, manager of the Et Cetera Shop.
Judy Dannenfelser of TC’s What-Not Shop in Marion said she does whatever she can to help people to buy locally. If a person comes into the store looking for an item and she doesn’t have it in stock, she said she would take them over to one of the other antique stores in town.
“I have the keys to all the other shops,” she said. “So, even if it’s closed, I can go in there and help a customer out. I’ll never close my own shop to go to another one, but if they come back at closing, I’ll definitely take them over and see if I can help them out. That’s why I’m here.”
And if no Marion stores have the item, Dannenfelser said she will phone the shops in Hillsboro and Peabody to see if they have it in stock.
“I’ll scratch their back if they scratch mine,” she said. “We’d never survive if we didn’t support one another. It’s the only way we can make it in this economy. Not only does it help us, but it also helps to keep business in Marion County, which is always a good thing.”
Antique store owners in Hillsboro and Peabody said they see a few people come from Marion. But, mostly, they find that they send people to Marion. Due to their limited stock, they don’t always have the requested item. In these cases, the owners said they always send the customers on to Marion, where Dannenfelser can help them find what they are looking for.
“We’d get nowhere if we didn’t have this kind of relationship with one another,” Dannenfelser said. “If one of the antique stores is hurting, we are all hurting.”
Loretta Lynch of Wichita benefited from this relationship last Saturday when she was perusing the local antique shops for a chair.
“I really wanted to put something in my living room that was nostalgic and looked different,” she said. “More often than not, you find that people in this world are too greedy to be nice. But, the people here were very willing to help me out. I was surprised. People are not always willing to help these days. It’s wonderful to finally find a bunch of kindhearted business owners.”
Meanwhile, local storeowners are still finding that there is a percentage of Marion County residents who are unwilling to shop local.
“It just makes things harder on us,” Dannenfelser said. “It may seem like a convenience, but it’s hurting us in the long-run.”
Some said they have never even shopped in the local antique or art stores — and a few said they’ve never been in the grocery or general stores.
But, that is inconceivable for the many dedicated shoppers in the county. No matter what happens to the economy, they say they will always choose to go to their “hometown, neighborhood stores.”
“They’ll die if we don’t,” Griffith said. “Change starts at home. We can’t help the economy of our nation if the local economy isn’t thriving. By shopping local, we can all make a difference.”