Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
St. Marys can be a surprising place, with an impressive number of amenities for a small town. From sports to the arts, from religion to politics, there’s a depth of what this town has to offer. So it stands to reason that our downtown should be surprisingly well stocked as well.
It should also come as no surprise that the core was busy this Sunday past, even though most Sundays, nay, even weekdays, there are usually parking spots galore and relatively uncluttered sidewalks to be had. It was the downtown merchants’ annual Christmas open house day, with a blanket “we pay the tax” discount for shoppers.
While I hope that the end-of-day till totals were a pleasant surprise for all the store owners, I can’t help but feel that there would be a slight sense of disappointment as well: it takes discounts and deals to attract a steady stream of shoppers to their shops.
We know there are many excellent reasons to shop local: it uses less gas; it’s less stressful than driving, finding parking, and fighting crowds; and the money spent in our community stays in our community in a variety of ways. Why isn’t our downtown as busy every day as it was on Sunday? I think it comes down to two misconceptions: price and lack of selection.
Times are tough for shoppers and retailers alike. Anyone who pays regular price for an item these days – unless it’s an emergency – is practically a village idiot in light of all the sales and deals provided by retailers both concrete and virtual.
Even though retailers are taking a hit, the belief is that they’ll make it up on volume (aka: the Wal-Mart road to riches). To see a price that’s been “unadjusted” by bulk wholesale buying or cutthroat discounting is somewhat shocking.
But is it really? There have been enough documentaries produced on the true cost of lower prices that many of us are somewhat aware that some prices are too low to be considered true bargains. The “higher” prices – not always a given, by the way – paid at local shops stay local: they pay taxes, support community causes, and go into other local cash registers, completing a circle of life rather than the one-way route most retail profits go.
When it comes to selection at our local shops, I suggest naysayers actually have a look around at what’s on offer – or what can be ordered in. You can buy basics like underwear, bras and socks in town. You can buy a great bathing suit or party dress.
You can buy cool toys and the latest electronics, and pretty accessories for the home and for an outfit... and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At this time of year, when you’re buying presents based on hunches, you’d be surprised at what you can find in less time than it takes to find parking at the mall.
St. Marys is blessed with some crackerjack retailers who are aware of the broader shopping struggles, and regularly go above and beyond the call of duty: all you need to do is ask, or buy a gift card and let the recipient decide. You can’t force people to shop locally, but you can dare to be surprised by what our downtown can offer.
It’s not just the shopping season; it’s also the cold season, and the cold-and-flu season. Soup covers all the bases: it’s comforting, filling, and easy to take in a thermos or insulated mug when you’re on the move. This recipe will benefit your immune system with vitamin-rich butternut squash and sinus-clearing curry, garlic and ginger – adjust seasonings to your tastebuds’ content.
Curry and Ginger Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
4 cups water
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Place face down in a baking pan with water. Bake for 45 minutes or until soft when pierced by a fork. Let squash cool and save the water it was cooked in.
Heat oil in a soup pot on medium-high. Add onions and garlic and sauté until golden. Stir in curry powder, ginger, salt and pepper and simmer on low for a few minutes. Add cooking water from squash and heat through. Scoop out cooled squash meat and add to soup. Puree prior to serving. Serves six.