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Plaid is the new black, local merchants say

Union Leader Correspondent

November 23. 2011 10:07PM

Chris and Caitlin Caserta of Walpole Valley Farms plan to promote Plaid Friday. Here they are shown in 2010, selling their locally raised turkeys. (Courtesy)

As another Black Friday approaches, advocates of a new 'buy local' movement born on the West Coast are suggesting Americans rediscover their local retailers on what they are calling Plaid Friday.

The movement, which started in 2009, has spread to New Hampshire and has been well-received, local merchants say. It's part of a growing national trend of themed shopping days surrounding Thanksgiving, including Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

'The local movement is here to stay and Plaid Friday is just another off-shoot of that,' said Chris Caserta, owner of Walpole Valley Farms. The farm sells grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pigs, chickens, turkeys and eggs.

As a member of Monadnock Buy Local, the farm plans to be a Plaid Friday Hub. Caserta and his wife Caitlin will open their farm Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Caserta said he will be wearing plaid and giving away cooked samples of his grass-fed beef and gift certificates for farm tours.

'We thought it would be a fun way to participate,' Caserta said.

Gallery owner Kerri Johnson, of Oakland, Calif., said she was brainstorming with friends and other business owners three years ago about what small retailers could do on Black Friday, other than close for the day. At the time there was a movement in California to boycott large retailers, she said. Instead of a boycott, Johnson envisioned a day in which people slept in, then around noon strolled into their local community for a cup of coffee and some leisurely shopping.

'It was sort of the Black Friday alternative, just to give people another choice,' Johnson said. 'This is about spending your money locally instead of spending it at the big-box stores.'

And it worked, she said.

'It's definitely galvanized business,' she said.

Plaid, which participating retailers and in-the-know shoppers wear on the day, represents the diversity of all the independent and locally owned retailers, she said.

Close to home

Jennifer Risley, co-chairman of Monadnock Buy Local, said Buy Local learned about the movement last year, three weeks before Thanksgiving. The network, which includes about 100 retailers, nonprofits and some individuals, quickly got on board.

'There are so many people that want to buy local, but their behavior isn't changing,' Risley said.

Plaid Friday raises awareness about the importance of shopping locally to sustain a healthy local economy, and creates a fun shopping event for retailers and patrons.

'One of the things that we're doing is creating our own economic stimulus,' Risley said. 'If we could shift 10 percent of what we already spend to locally owned business, we'd be able to create more local jobs.'

She added, 'We're not about saying you can never buy at a big-box store, but think first, 'Is the item I want to purchase available at a local business?''

Bigger and bigger

On Monday inside the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, Beth Beaudin placed an order for a book. She saw the Plaid Friday signs when she entered the store, but had never heard of it before. As usual she plans to spend her holiday shopping dollars in her local stores.

'I want to keep the businesses in business here. I don't want to see a whole bunch of closed-up shops, and it saves on gas,' said Beaudin, who lives in Peterborough.

In participating retailer Hannah Grimes Marketplace on Monday, artist Andrea Lorette of Westmoreland was dropping off more of her handmade jewelry in anticipation of the Plaid Friday sales. The Keene store also sells wooden cutting boards made by her husband, Jim Lorette.

Hannah Grimes only stocks locally made products, including hand-knit sweaters, glassware, jams, roasted and flavored nuts, T-shirts, toys and Christmas ornaments, said store manager Gale Currier.

Currier plans to don plaid on Friday.

'It was successful last year. I hope this year it's even more successful as the word gets out. Buying local is becoming bigger and bigger and people are understanding why it is important for our local economy,'

This year Plaid Friday has spread to rural outfitter and gift shop Place in the Woods Trading Post in Antrim, where store owner Diane Kendall said she plans to serve hot apple cider and apples. She is offering several discounts and promotions, along with offering $5 off plaid shirts, she said.

A handful of other retailers outside the Monadnock region have also joined Plaid Friday including Clark's Hardware in New London, Runners Alley and Hazel Boutique in Portsmouth, The Country Bookseller and Sprouts Children Clothing & Toys in Wolfeboro, and White Birch Books in North Conway.

Holiday Market

In Manchester, Samantha DePrima, director of marketing and public relations of Intown Manchester, a non-profit company contracted by the city to operate a Business Improvement District, said that while she hasn't heard of the Plaid Friday movement, Intown has the same goal of promoting small and local retailers.

'We do promote local shopping, especially in the holiday season,' DePrima said.

This year InTown has organized the Downtown Manchester Holiday Market, which will be open the four Thursdays leading up to Christmas in the Brady-Sullivan building at 1000 Elm St.

Many local artisans are to sell their wares in the market. And Santa Claus is also planning to attend to hear Christmas lists and have his picture taken.


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