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Local stores to consumers: remember us!

Editor's Note: This story contains material similar to text that appeared in other published work. An Editor's Note was published in the Nov. 13, 2009, Herald. That Editor's Note can be found here.

More than 20 East Side businesses have signed up to promote the 3/50 Project, a national grassroots organization that encourages consumers to spend $50 a month at three of their favorite independent retailers, restaurants or other local businesses.

"It's an excellent movement, and we've been doing our part to bring light to it," said Asher Schofield, co-owner of Hope Street's Frog & Toad, a novelty gift shop and one of the numerous businesses on Wickenden and Hope Streets and in Wayland Square to have joined the cause.

According to the organization's Web site, if half the United States' employed population spent $50 each month in a locally-owned independent business, the sales would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.

For every $100 spent in locally-owned independent stores, the Web site notes, an average of $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. By comparison, the organization says that $43 of every $100 spent in chain stores benefits the local community, while online purchases from national companies yield no local profit.

"It's really amazing," Schofield said of the project. "It's the first time someone has put some hard, fast numbers on why shopping local is important."

And he isn't the only one taking notice.

Since its launch in March 2009, the 3/50 Project has garnered national recognition. It has been featured in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports and the Chicago Tribune, and boasts a list of thousands of participants and supporters in every state. Participants are independent businesses, while supporters include community organizations, vendors and sales agencies, according to the organization's Web site. Registering as either a participant or a supporter of the 3/50 Project is free.

Participants and supporters are encouraged to share the mission of the 3/50 Project with other local businesses and community organizations. Schofield said he has done just that since signing up as a participant last spring.

"I talked to people about it a lot," Schofield said. "I've also been spreading the message on Facebook."

Tara Solon, the owner of Mignonette, a European gift shop on Wickenden Street, said she proudly displays a 3/50 Project sticker in her store's front window.

"One of the great draws of Providence is the quirky businesses that are here," Solon said. "They make Providence charming."

"People need to begin preserving the places they like," she added.

Solon said today's challenging economic climate has made supporting independent businesses difficult for the local community.

"In this economy, it's just been an unbelievable roller coaster," she said. "Everything I've invested is in this store. My life is on the line."

To save businesses such as hers, consumers "have got to get out there," Solon said.

But Solon said her support of the 3/50 Project does not ensure increased profits. "There's no financial gain other than raising the consciousness of the consumer," she said.

Even so, Schofield said the project has served as "a launching pad for thought" among East Side business owners.

He said they hope to launch a "Providence: Buy Local" movement within the next year.
"For me, it's about preserving what it is about our culture that I like," he said. "Providence has a wealth of really distinct, unique small businesses. I love that, and I don't ever want that to change."



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