Buying local is the gift that gives back


Here’s a news flash: the economy has tanked, and holiday sales are expected to follow suit. The National Retail Foundation (NRF) predicts slow sales growth in November and December — just 2.2 percent, a number that might be overly optimistic, according to other industry analysts who foresee as low as a 1.3 percent increase.

These numbers came to us from the think tank Minnesota 2020, which has compiled a report and gift guide highlighting the why and where of buying locally made goods — and from local businesses.

According to the group’s 2008 “Made in Minnesota” report, every dollar spent at a local, independent business returns 68 cents to the Minnesota economy. (Most national chains contribute less than half of that dollar — only 43 cents.)

Furthermore, buying locally cuts down on energy used to transport retail goods from far away. Those local business owners are often our neighbors, and they employ locally, too. An increase in local holiday shopping could mean more employment and a dramatic boost to the Minnesota economy.

But the best reason to buy in Bridgeland: you can get some really great stuff, and the 2008 “Made in Minnesota Gift Guide” is a great place to start. The online resource, found at, lists more than 400 local retailers and artisans and includes a handy interactive map with a description, address, website and contact information.

Sellers are grouped by category, and Bridgeland is well represented. Restaurants listed included are no secret to us — the Signature Café, Red Stag Supperclub, Birchwood Café, Restaurant Alma and Seward Café — and they’re the tip of the iceberg of local dining. Food and drink suppliers represent a tasty triumvirate of holiday treats: the Phillips Distilling Company, B.T. McElrath Chocolatier and PastureLand, which makes organic, grass-fed butter and cheese.

Art – especially the beautiful, breakable kind — is represented by Seward resident Allen Christian’s Downtown gallery House of Balls, Mastervisions Etched Glass Décor, Foci Glass, Fired Up Studios and Studio On Fire, which makes eco-friendly paper goods out of cotton and recycled papers. Seward’s Northern Clay Center’s holiday sale runs through Jan. 4.

Lake Street retailers Northern Sun Merchandising are on the list, as well — just one of many Bridegland stores that carry locally made products. Riffing off of the “Made in Minnesota” theme, The Bridge offers some other local gift ideas and venues.

Mill City Music
3820 E. Lake St.

“Papa” John Kolstad, who owns this East Lake Street shop, is a veteran of the local music scene and a champion of small, locally owned business. Stop in to the store or shop the online catalogue, which includes Kolstad’s own work and his son Cadillac’s band.

The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away
by Abdi Roble and Doug Rutledge
University of Minnesota Press

This year, the U of M Press has released several books by or about Bridegland people or places, including this book of photos of and essays about the Somali immigrant communities in Columbus, OH and right here in Cedar-Riverside. Roble’s photos reflect a culture — and more than a few individuals — that Bridgelanders will recognize. The book’s mission, writes Rutledge in his introduction, is to “provide a history of the Somali diaspora … and educate members of the host communities.” Also of note: Wood, Concrete, Stone, and Steel: Minnesota’s Historic Bridges by Denis P. Gardner

Wing Young Huie gallery
252 E. Franklin Ave.

This year, Seward-based photographer Wing Young Huie marked 30 years of documenting the people around us, from our own East Lake Street to “Asian America,” as he and his wife chronicle in their 2007 book Looking for Asian America: an Ethnocentric Tour. Huie is celebrating the milestone by making 30 of his prints available for sale; the proceeds will enable his future work, starting with the upcoming project along St. Paul’s University Avenue. (If interested, call or email to make an appointment, said Huie.)

Pop Wagner and the Twin City Playboys
Honky Tonk Ranch
Pop, Kevin Anthony and their Eagles Club regulars released this CD of country, Cajun and Western swing numbers this year on 409 Recordings. Our best sales pitch: check them out live every second and fourth Tuesday at the Eagles Club, 2507 E. 25th St.

East African Womens’ Center
Twice the Gift at Gaviidae
555 Nicollet Mall, skyway level
The Cedar-Riverside-based womens’ center is one of 40 nonprofits chosen to sell their creations through Jan. 1 at this unique retail space, set up by the Pohlad Foundation. Handmade items include decorative African weavings, a variety of different bags, aprons, kids pajamas and more , ranging from $5–$500. The best part: 100 percent of the proceeds go to the nonprofits — and half of that directly to the artist. Look for items with the above “logo” — a woman’s hands weaving.

For more tactile gifts in Prospect Park, visit the Textile Center’s holiday show and sale, through Dec. 30, at 3000 University Ave. SE.; or head eight blocks east to Gary Erickson Studio, 3338 University Ave. SE, #320, which will offer porcelain, stoneware, earthenware pottery and colorful leaf-imprint tiles Friday–Sunday, Dec. 5–21.