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Christy Desmith: Have dollars -- will spend locally

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH
  • April 5, 2008 - 5:26 PM

So far, I've been a good girl this recession. I haven't racked up credit-card debt on expensive, new dresses, haven't dipped into my savings for five-course wine dinners. To maintain my old, pre-slowdown habits, I haven't even preemptively blown a certain postdated stimulus check, not yet delivered to my mailbox, which is, nonetheless, burning a hole in my future pocket.

By the looks of things, others are behaving just as responsibly. Consumer spending is down. People are tucking away leftover dough. When I ask around my social circle -- mostly designers, artists and writers who work corporate jobs or otherwise -- friends describe situations similar to mine: I was laid off in February. But I'm hanging in there, thanks to a steady, though restrictive, diet of freelance income and unemployment insurance. Of the friends who still have jobs: Most are somewhat-to-very fearful of layoffs. They're terrified of spending, in any case. My neighbor, for example, tells of stockpiling what formerly constituted her expendable income.

In other words, the Minnesota economy -- long protected by our diversified and supposedly recession-proof industries of agriculture and biomed -- is elbow-deep in the dumps.

And I intend to do something about it.

I refuse to use my stimulus check to pay bills. Instead, I'll go on an old-fashioned, pre-Bush administration-style spending spree. However, in doing so, I'll direct as much money as possible to the state's economy -- into the pockets of neighbors, family and friends -- by shopping local, family-owned businesses for Minnesota-made goods.

My plan is, admittedly, inspired by former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and the smartest thing he ever said (indeed, in my opinion, it is the only smart thing he ever said): In regard to the stimulus package, "we'll probably end up borrowing this $150 billion from the Chinese. And when we get those rebate checks, most people are going to go out and buy stuff that's been imported from China."

I'll embark on my local-only bender with an extravagant dinner at one of the many restaurants that support area agriculture: Spoonriver (750 2nd St. S., Minneapolis; 612-436-2236), Red Stag Supper Club (509 1st Ave. NE., Minneapolis; 612-767-7766). Heartland (1806 St. Clair Ave. St. Paul; 651-699-3536) buys virtually everything from local farmers.

When that's done, I'll lighten my load at a play performed by local actors and, most important, written by one of the Twin Cities' wealth of fine playwrights. By chance, Gremlin Theater opens "Everywhere Signs Fall," a play by one of my favorite local writers, Minneapolitan Alan Berks, later this month at the Loading Dock Theater (509 Sibley St., St. Paul; 651-228-7008).

Finally, at one of the few locally owned boutiques that carry designs by Minnesota clothesmakers, like the Design Collective (1311 26th St. W., Minneapolis; 612-377-1000) and Cliché (2403 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-870-0420), I'll acquire the thing I've most longed to purchase since my bank account was bulldozed: fashion. Right now, I daydream of owning some environmentally friendly "urban yoga wear" by northeast Minneapolis' Foat Design, or perhaps a ruffled, tiered dress by St. Kate's graduate Amanda Christine.

Here's the best part: For the first time in a long while, I'll shop without guilt. Buyer's remorse? Try hometown pride.

Christy DeSmith, formerly an editor of The Rake magazine, is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.

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