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          Front Page




Councilors Try to Spend Their Bucks Locally

By Rosalie Rayburn
Journal Staff Writer
    Albuquerque City Councilor Miguel Gomez won't have to answer the red or green question for at least a year.
    Gomez received a year's supply of frozen green chile from locally owned Bueno Foods as the winner of the Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance "Independents Week" challenge.
    Seven of the city's nine councilors accepted the challenge to buy locally from July 1-7 at independent businesses. The chile was promised to the councilor who spent the greatest percentage of his or her total spending throughout the week, not the most dollars, said Elissa Breitbard, president of the board of directors of AIBA and owner of Betty's Bath & Day Spa.
    Gomez made 94.9 percent of his purchases from local businesses, narrowly beating Councilor Martin Heinrich, whose local purchases were 94 percent of his total.
    Several councilors acknowledged that big chain stores offer lower prices. However, store location, familiar layout and attentive staff also shape their shopping habits.
    Councilor Debbie O'Malley said she shops regularly at local stores to avoid the crowds at "big-box" discount stores, such as Costco.
    "Going to big-box stores takes more time," said O'Malley, "You have to deal with some frustration, long lines, crowds of people and finding a parking space. As I'm getting older, I don't want that kind of experience."
    For Councilor Tina Cummins, convenience and saving time are the deciding factors.
    "I'm a single working woman. I see it, I buy it," Cummins said.
    The Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance, a promotional group formed in 2004, organized the event to highlight the value of local business to the community.
    Councilors Cummins, Gomez, Heinrich, O'Malley, Sally Mayer, Eric Griego and Michael Cadigan participated.
    Mayer, O'Malley, Griego and Heinrich, reached by the Journal before the contest, said that, even without the contest, they typically make many of their purchases at local businesses because the businesses are conveniently located and give personal service. Some said items such as children's clothing are more difficult to find in such businesses.
    O'Malley said it might be challenging for a big family to buy its groceries at locally owned stores because prices there are generally higher than at large discount chains.
    A study conducted in 2003 for the Austin Independent Business Alliance, an organization that promotes local businesses in Austin, Texas, found that for every $100 spent at a national chain store, the economic impact on the local economy was $13. For each dollar spent at local businesses, that number was $45.
    Local businesses tend to use other local businesses for services, such as photocopying and bookkeeping, which keeps money circulating in Albuquerque, O'Malley said.
    The North Valley resident said she regularly shops at the locally owned grocery store La Montañita Co-op on Rio Grande Boulevard. For dining out, she often goes to the Flying Star, also on Rio Grande.
    For hardware, she shops at Samon's Electric and Plumbing. "I frequent it because you can buy a screw; you don't have to buy a whole package of screws," O'Malley said.
    Heinrich, who lives in the Ridgecrest neighborhood, buys groceries at La Montañita's store in nearby Nob Hill and the Ta Lin Super Market on Louisiana at Central.
    Most of his business clothes come from the Lobo Men's Shop on Central near University. "I feel better about buying a suit or shirts there than at Dillard's and watching my dollars go out of state," Heinrich said.
    Mayer buys supplies for her four dogs and two parrots at locally owned and family-run Pet Vet Market.