I shop local, among other reasons, because I think about the businesses I would miss if they were no more, like Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Damariscotta.
Yes, I can buy books at a discount from Amazon and I sometimes do, despite the shoddy packaging and slowdown in shipping times during the pandemic.
But I shop at Sherman’s too.
Why? Well, I like to have a place I can go to pick up a book on the weekend if I need something to read.
My wife and I like to take our son there and let him browse the shelves of books and games and toys, then go next door for a treat at the cafe — an experience the internet cannot duplicate.
I like to support the bookstore as a sort of cultural center for our community, along with the library next door.
And perhaps most importantly of all, I do not know anyone who lives in Lincoln County and works at Amazon.
Sherman’s provides jobs in our community, jobs for people like me.
When it was just Maine Coast Book Shop, I worked in the cafe on and off from the fall of 2006 through the spring of 2010, around the time I graduated from college and started work at the paper.
When I was home on vacation or for a summer, I would check with the manager and more often than not find a few shifts available to help keep me in gas money.
I spent many hours in that tiny triangular kitchen, making lattes and smoothies, spreading cream cheese on bagels, reading the paper or talking about books and music with co-workers when things were slow.
I would miss Sherman’s if it was gone — and Damariscotta Hardware, and Renys, and all the other local businesses where my family and I shop.
We cannot say it enough — the dollar we spend in our community stays in our community.
The dollar we spend at Amazon goes to Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, whose personal fortune has swollen by tens of billions during the pandemic while his company pays little (1.2% in 2019) or nothing (2017 and 2018) in federal taxes.
I point these figures out not because I begrudge him his success. Working in the newspaper industry, I appreciate his investment in The Washington Post and interest in the sustainability of journalism.
(Call me a communist, but I do think Amazon — a business valued at $1.7 trillion — should pay taxes, especially as our country has more than $27 trillion in debt and adds multiple trillions each year.)
I point these figures out because our money does not make a difference to Mr. Bezos. If no one in Lincoln County spent a dime at Amazon this holiday season, it would make no difference to Amazon or its owner. But if everyone in Lincoln County shifted their holiday spending from Amazon and other mega-businesses to local ones, it would make a huge difference in the recovery of our local economy.
Last but not least, don’t forget about our restaurants, which have had a real bummer of a year. Gift cards make great stocking stuffers.