Give a gift to your community this holiday season: shop local

I often hear how much people enjoy reading the Heights Observer and how much they feel it is needed because of the recent contraction in local news coverage by other media. I explain that the Observer is something different—we have no writing staff, and we don’t cover news the way traditional media does; we rely on contributions from Heights residents. We print the articles our residents write and submit—about what they believe is newsworthy.

Another thing that makes the Observer unique is the unwavering support of our local business community. Each month, we decide how many pages we are able to print based on the amount of advertising support we have. When we began publishing the Observer in April 2008, we printed 16 pages. We are now able to print 28 pages, and occasionally more, almost every month.

The majority of our community’s businesses are independent and locally owned. They know they are reaching you with their advertising, but they also recognize that supporting the Observer is good for the community.

The holiday season will make or break the year for many of our local merchants. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend $801 per shopper between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. With Black Friday, Super Saturday, and Cyber Monday, our independent businesses face lots of competition from national chains, big box stores and online retailers who benefit from international branding power, major economies of scale and an antiquated tax law that enables online retailers to sell items without charging sales tax (consumers are supposed to report those purchases on their tax returns, but seldom do).

Several studies show that if more of the dollars Americans spend on holiday shopping were spent at locally owned, independent businesses, they would generate far more economic benefit in local communities than money spent at chains or businesses outside of the community. In one such study, the strategic planning firm Civic Economics ( calculated that for every $100 spent at a local business in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, $68 re-circulated in the local economy—as compared with just $43 for $100 spent at a chain store in the same neighborhood.

This holiday season, we ask you to join FutureHeights in shopping local first. Take a look at our advertisers and see what they have to offer. Many local retailers will take the time to assist you in selecting just the right item, and several offer gift wrapping and delivery service.

Last month’s Observer printed a holiday gift guide that showcased a variety of items offered by our local merchants at a variety of prices. You can view the gift guide online at

Another opportunity to see what’s available locally is to participate in the ninth annual FutureHeights online auction. FutureHeights is the nonprofit that publishes the Heights Observer, and the auction is the organization’s largest fundraiser to support its community-building programs and operations. Now through Dec. 8, visit to see unique items donated by our local business community. There’s some really cool stuff to bid on, such as two six-month grocery packages from Zagara’s and a loaf of bread a month from The Stone Oven, just to name a few.

Still don’t know what to get? Consider a gift card to your favorite local restaurant or retail store.

If you appreciate the Observer, then please join FutureHeights in giving our local merchants preference whenever you make a purchase. Doing so is one of the biggest gifts that you can give to your community—and yourself—this holiday season.

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

Read More on Opening the Observer
Volume 6, Issue 12, Posted 11:16 AM, 11.26.2013