Illustrated by Patrick Yurick
Leave a comment: If you shopped local, did you find what you were looking for? How did it compare to getting trampled at a Walmart Black Friday sale?
Every year, we boycott Black Friday and spend all of our holiday dollars on Small Business Saturday, instead.
Small Business Saturday is a campaign started by American Express that helps small businesses stake a public claim in between the madness of Black Friday and the online deals of Cyber Monday. Last year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, more than 100 million people walked through the doors of small businesses nationwide.
I realize that Small Business Saturday is, in a way, a corporate shopping day, too, because it’s run by American Express with the sole intention of getting people to use their AMEX cards at these small businesses.
That’s fine with us, though, because shoppers spent $5.7 billion with small businesses this year on Small Business Saturday. By putting all of their efforts behind small businesses, and practically creating a national holiday out of it, they deserve to get a paycheck, anyway. After all, they’re driving millions of Americans out into the streets to support our local artisans.
So, we left with a final(ish) destination of Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton, Mass., to pick up wine for gifts and drinking throughout the month of December. Black Birch is a few hours way, so leaving early, we figured we had plenty of time.
We also figured the best way to “shop local” was to drive the entire way off-highway and on the backroads. And we were right!
The first place we came across was Country Mischief in Templeton, which was like the IKEA of antiques and primitive furnishings. They have more than 20 different showrooms and we spent at least two hours between their main store and their second store, which was a few houses down and just as huge.
They took the time to stop us, say hello, and offer us some coffee, despite how incredibly busy they were. It was a very nice touch that sure beats the Walmart greeters.
Next, we stopped at a few more shops along the backroads.
At one point, we followed a sign for fresh cider so far into the woods that I thought Johnny Appleseed himself must have made it. When we eventually found the barn (which was sitting on top of a hill that overlooked the gorgeous countryside and lakes), the owner was a little grumpy, and she didn’t take credit cards. We tried to explain the joys of Square, but she wasn’t into it. I wanted to stop and take a photo of the view, but I was afraid she’d chase me off with a broom.
With a craving for something hot, we stopped at this great little country store with a hidden coffee shop in the back called Cushman Market deep in the woods of Cushman Village. They had the most amazing caramel apple cider I’ve ever tasted, and every type of coffee you can imagine. I said “This is so good” pretty much every time I took a sip, and Patrick just kept nodding his head like the supportive guy he is. I also ate a lemon coconut cupcake, but, shhhh … don’t tell MyFitnessPal.
It was getting late, so we decided to head straight to Black Birch in Southampton. You probably haven’t heard of them before, because they just opened their doors this spring … but the locals definitely have – they’re almost completely out of wine!
We visited them for the first time in October when we did the Western Massachusetts Wine Trail for the first time. Western Mass isn’t exactly known for its wine, unless you’re talking about fruit wines (tomato, even!). During that trip, we found a couple we liked, but Black Birch knocked them all out of the park.
It didn’t take us long to drink the bottles of Cab Franc that we bought last time. In fact, we tried to shoot a #WineWednesday video with it, but I got a little drunk waiting for Pat to set up the shoot and the video basically consisted of me ranting about Internet privacy. Patrick made other excuses about why we couldn’t use the video, but I’m pretty sure that’s why.
We decided that Black Birch wine needed to be our wine for the holidays. And not just because we were “shopping local,” but because it’s really, really good. Think caramel and butterscotch from their Cab Franc.
We were actually greeted by the winemaker himself, who poured us all of our wines and was so excited about his 2012 Chardonnay in the cellar that he ran downstairs to grab us a glass straight from the tank! It was ridiculously good – smooth, creamy, everything a great Chardonnay should be, and we’ll be knocking down their doors in the spring to get some bottles.
I also might have insulted the winemaker (a couple of glasses in) by telling him this that his new red smelled like pickles (what I meant was dill). Obviously, it didn’t taste like pickles, and we even bought a bottle! Is there such thing as a wine muzzle? If there is, don’t tell Patrick.
After gushing about how much we love their wine and bragging about our two-hour trip (or what should have been a two-hour trip) to see them, we got to talking to one of the other owners (there are four). Ed asked us if we wanted to see the wine cellar, and yes, of course, we did. I feel like we spent forever down there happily talking about wine and Napa.
It’s no wonder they only produce about a thousand bottles of each wine, because as it turns out, they do everything themselves, including bottling! I told him I’d work for free if they ever needed help.
Speaking of which, at one point he asked what we did and Pat told him that we ran a marketing company. After a little pause, he said, “Are you guys Lantern?”
YES, YES WE ARE.
I’d like to say that our faces are just too famous for him not to recognize, but the truth is that after our last visit we left them a bunch of nice comments and Tweeted the crap out of them. I would have loved to have said “HIRE US! LET US DO AWESOME MARKETING AND VIDEO THINGS WITH YOU,” but fortunately for them, they’re having no trouble selling out of their wines all by themselves!
They thanked us graciously for the support, and we bought a bunch more bottles – though not nearly enough – of their delicious wine, and we made our way out to finish shopping.
After we left, we headed to Northampton, the magical land of small-business shopping. To make a long story short (for our TL;DR friends), we walked up and down Main Street stopping into every small business there was and grabbing a cup of joe at half of the coffee shops. Yes, it was a wired drive home.
After buying a gift at Happy Valley, we asked the owner if Small Business Saturday had helped business at all. She told us that it was a pleasantly busy day. She also told us about some small businesses who jacked up their prices for Small Business Saturday. Yeesh, now that’s the corporate spirit!
We also ate Yak for the first time at this little Tibetan restaurant – tasted a bit like beef jerky, but less gamey than bison or deer. We got yak soup and yak dumplings. I also got bocha, which is basically tea with steamed milk and melted butter in it.
When all of the stores closed, we started our trek back to the middle of nowhere with a trunk full of gifts and not nearly enough wrapping paper. It felt really good to shop local, and as you can imagine, our best experiences were at businesses where the shop owners were present and eager to tell us their story.