Cambridge and Somerville Local First - 2011 Coupon Book - Shift Your Shopping to Local First

Reflections in Plaid

Nov 26 4:54 pm

by Joe Grafton

Well…that was interesting.

As the afternoon winds down on the day after Thanksgiving, I’m left to reflect on the whole Plaid Friday experience. I guess, if anything, it reaffirmed my belief in what we’re doing and injected new energy into our work.

It was surreal, hearing this Radio Boston piece comparing Plaid Friday to Small Business Saturday.  I’m no journalist, and a Google search turned up nothing, but I would guess AMEX has to have millions invested in that campaign.  And yet, here is the host asking which one will ‘stick’.  As you’ll see below, Plaid Friday came to New England with a much less resourced, but maybe as effective, approach.

Plaid Friday, if you have yet to hear, was created last year by local business owners and organizers in Oakland.   You can listen to one of the creators on WBUR’s Here and Now .  What I think is so amazing is that without any truly organized or staffed group trying to promote it or pitch it, communities all over the nation adopted the concept and set it free into their communities.

And the buzz, to me at least, looked serious.

The idea came to New England through sister organization Seacoast Local’s Karen Marzloff and SLF blogger and good friend of mine, Jody Colley of the East Bay Express.  Both amazing entrepreneurs from the independent alt weekly media, they also both work closely with their local business networks.  From there, Karen shared the story at our regional gathering of networks, which spawned the 10% Shift 2 years ago among other things.

And that was it.  Networks representing thousands of businesses agreed (NELBF), on the spot, to organize our own communities and work together to spread the Shift Your Shopping / Buy Local campaign throughout the holiday season. The four members of the Steering Committee (we’re really excited to see that number grow to 7 in 2011!) Laury Hammel & Stacy Mitchell (authors of the Op-Ed piece this week), Karen & I had a conference call on November 6th where we hashed out a plan for Plaid Friday promo in New England.

The Op-Ed, the social media campaign, the PR…all of it came together as just one of the many things all of us are responsible for in our burgeoning, yet vastly under-resourced, networks.

And what does this really mean? Well, as wonderfully amazing as the people in the local movement are, I’m not sure that a fraction of our collective time is the equivalent of hundreds (thousands?) of hours of professional manpower and potentially millions of dollars that AMEX put towards their campaign.

What I do think it says, however, is that the tipping point for ‘local’ is getting ever closer. That the work we’ve been putting in locally in our communities is paying off.  That you: our readers, followers, advocates and evangelists, are talking to your friends and redefining social and cultural norms. That the Shift is starting to ‘sink in’ in our communities. And that we, the people, do have some power left in this society and exercising it can actually be fun and feel good. Two great matches for the holiday season.

As I was writing this blog post, I saw this come across my screen:

Plaid Friday trending on Twitter

Plaid Friday trending on Twitter...nice allegory

Trending on Twitter in Boston ~ #PlaidFriday is on that list and, while Black Friday is #1, its promoted.

One day, I hope, the work done by local networks will get the support from all sectors that it should.  We’ll be able to dedicate full time resources to campaigns like Plaid Friday, offer even more support and promotion for our members and continue to build on the idea that if we all come together, as a community, that we can make the world a better, more sustainable place.

But until then, we’ll keep trying things.  Some will be a hit,  others will not.  And when we find something that works, like Plaid Friday, you better believe we’ll do it better the second time around.  Plaid Friday Nationwide, from the grassroots…coming November, 2011.


Plaid Friday is simply the START of the Holiday Shopping Season, please Shift Your Shopping this year.  Shop-A-Palooza and Midnight Madness comin atcha next week!

Photos from The Boston Local Food Festival

Oct 03 5:58 pm

by Joe Grafton

It’s pretty safe to say that The Boston Local Food Festival presented by The Sustainable  Business Network of Great Boston exceeded everyones expectations.  While estimates have yet to be announced, I was there and think the number is at least 10,000 people, and likely many many more.

Here’s a selection of images from the day

A view from behind the stage....the festival was supposed to close down one of the bridges, but the night before the permit was not approved by the city. Instead, a dense network of vendor tents on the lawn made things a little tight but packed with local love.

A view from behind the stage....the festival was supposed to close down one of the bridges, but the night before the permit was not approved by the city. Instead, a dense network of vendor tents on the lawn made things a little tight but packed with local love.

Festival Sponsor, Katsiroubas Brothers Fruit & Produce

Festival Sponsor, Katsiroubas Brothers Fruit & Produce

Unsurprisingly, the area in front of the Taza Chocolate booth was packed

Unsurprisingly, the area in front of the Taza Chocolate booth was packed

Cooking Demos, like this one by friend & SLF Blogger JJ Gonson, were a hit....

Cooking Demos, like this one by friend & SLF Blogger JJ Gonson, were a hit.... were butchering demos were butchering demos. Bringing meat eaters closer to their food.

The festival was packed all day long.  This was taken the @ 3:00 PM.

The festival was packed all day long. This was taken the @ 3:00 PM.

Some great roots music took the stage to close things out

Some great roots music took the stage to close things out

The festival organizing team:  Emily Kanter (Festival Organizer), Laury Hammel (SBN Executive Director), Erwin (Festival Organizer), Fan Watkinson (Festival Organizer), Nicola Williams (Lead Festival Organizer)

The festival organizing team: Emily Kanter (Festival Organizer), Laury Hammel (SBN Executive Director), Erwin (Festival Organizer), Fan Watkinson (Festival Organizer), Nicola Williams (Lead Festival Organizer)

Finally, here’s an interview with festival organizers (with a late appearance form me) from a documentarian traveling across the country on a cross country, called the Sustainable 1000,  doing 1,000 interviews in 250 days.

How Local Food is advancing the Local Movement

Aug 28 3:55 pm

by Joe Grafton

Note: This post was written in conjunciton with the Loving Local: Celebrating the Flavors of Massachusetts blogathon, organized by the author of In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens.  This week long blogging effort is intended to raise awareness about locally produced food and further strengthen the local food movement.  We encourage our readers to donate to Mass Farmers Markets as this effort runs in conjunction with Farmers Market Week.

Local:  It seems like that word is popping up everywhere these days.  From food to finance, energy to retail, there is a growing cultural meme around local.  Frankly, I’m not surprised.  Local just makes sense and as time goes on, more and more economic impact studies prove the case that  Local Works.

Being on the ground in the movement, I feel I have an inside perspective on how the movment has evolved and is evolving.  That’s why Local Washing and its main perpetrators is of GRAVE concern to me.  That’s why I believe that the groundswell around Local First efforts will soon lead to substantive funding from government and foundations.  And that’s why I know that the movement owes a great deal of gratitude to Local Food advocates.

It seems to me that, of all the industries and aspects of Local, food is the one that is leading the way.  I think in large part, this has to do with the amazing work done by pioneers like Michael Pollan, our own JJ Gonson and the creators of Food, Inc.  I think it has to do with the way  in which Big Agribusiness works, and how that makes people feel.  I think it has to do with the way we feel about farmers.

But what I think it has to do with most is community.  That’s ultimately what local is all about.  Bringing us back together to do the things that worked for people in the past, but to do them in new ways that can last into the future.

And one of the hallmarks of community is coming together to eat.  When people are buying, preparing and eating local food, they tend to feel better about the purchase because the feel connected to the food system and they tend to enjoy it more because it is fresher and it tastes better.

But let’s not just make a case based on warm fuzzy feelings.  The truth is that if you look at the data, local food is exploding in our communities.  Farmers Markets are growing at a staggering rate.  Local food oriented businesses are springing up and expanding (Sherman Market, Dave’s Fresh Pasta, The Dairy Bar).  The Boston Local Food Festival is coming in October, and is going to be HUGE.  Heck, even Restaurant Week got into the act, offering a Local option through numerous participating restaurants.

Local Food has its challenges.  Prices can be high.  People don’t know how to cook and prepare food like they used to.  (Note:  both of those inhibit my personal consumption of local food). There are still a vast number of people who don’t ‘get it’ or are unaware of ‘it’ at all.  But this much is clear to me…local food and its advocates, suppliers and pioneers are out in front.  And I say to all of you early adopters out there:  Thanks for leading the way, and get ready to make more room at the Local table because we’re coming in force behind you.

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Shift and Save With A Coupon from Sherman Market & Somerville Local First

Aug 03 1:06 am

by Joe Grafton

We’ve had a lot of conversations recently about reaching outside the community of local shoppers with whom we’ve already connected.  The launch of our new website is a convenient time for us to test out different ways to do this, while at the same time rewarding those who are already talking to their friends and family about going local.  So with no further ado, Somerville Local First is excited to introduce Shift and Save Coupons and our first offer for Sherman Market.

Buy a Shift and Save coupon to redeem at Sherman Market (not cafe) for all your Local Food Needs and Wants

It seems like big discount, online coupons are a hit with consumers these days, so we’re going to give it a shot.  First, here’s some info on the beta version of Shift and Save Coupons:

  • Price – All coupons cost just $10
  • Discount – All coupons offer at least a 50% discount (i.e. $10 for $20)
  • Quantities – Initially, there will only be 100-200 coupons available, and no coupon will be offered for longer than 30 days.

We hope these coupons will help you save some cash, support local businesses, and discover new businesses.

We’re hoping you love this idea, but maybe you won’t.  Please feel free to post comments here and elsewhere on the site (or email us)to let us know if you’re using them and what you think.


Local Somerville Businesses Support SLF - Amazing SomerFun Video by Paper Fortress

Jul 23 12:30 am

Somerville Somerfun 2010 Event from Paper Fortress on Vimeo.  The speech ends and music begins at about :45.  Music by Josh Lederman & The CSARs

by Joe Grafton

SomerFun did not quite work out how we had hoped and planned (note to organization:  outdoor events are affected greatly by rain), and set SLF back financially for a bit.  But we pulled together and persevered that day.  We learned a lot and we still managed to create a great experience for those who braved the showers.

As I wrote about in a post about the Street Attack video series earlier this week, one way in which we are blessed is the support of the creative community.  As I watched this video, I saw images of so many supporters.  I saw business owners, artists, nonprofits and community members all enjoying being together and doing so out in the community.  I saw people supporting SLF and each other.  Which brings us to Paper Fortress and Stebbs Schinnerer.

Stebbs is a pretty big deal, I think.  He went on tour with Johnny Cupcakes, renowned T-shirt artist.  He’s created stunning videos about Union Foundry, a Recover Green Roof & Green City Growers collaboration building a garden on top of a restaurant and documented the Floods in Union Square.  It’s painfully obvious from watching any of his videos that the boy’s got talent.

And so as we were planning SomerFun, Stebbs and I started a conversation about documenting our event through his firm, Paper Fortress.  As the financial outlook started to worsen, I told him we probably couldn’t afford his work.  He told me:  ”Don’t worry about it, we’ll figure it out“.  And when the final numbers came in, our video budget went from little to nothing (or negative?).  But Stebbs didn’t seem to care.

He believes in what SLF is doing and, more importantly, cares about Union Square and his community.

Yesterday, when he sent me the link to the video via Gchat, I let loose with the gratitude and appreciation.  His response?

no worries man, seriously. i appreciate it but i want to help build the community around here, and if it means helping out with a little video here and there its no biggie at all

And that’s how independent business owners roll.  And it keeps us (and me) going through any of the tough times, and  makes it all worth it.

Thanks Stebbs!!!


Thanks also to local recording studio professional (and SLF Artist) Damon Leibert and Josh Lederman & The CSARs both from in and around the ‘ville, for providing the incredibly appropriate track “Pretty Betty”.  They play a monthly at SLF Member Precinct in, you guessed it, Union Square.

Why Local Works - The Street Attack / Somerville Local First Video Series

Jul 20 4:03 pm

by Joe Grafton

Street Attack: Vision Episode 4 Somerville Local First from Mykim Dang on Vimeo.

We’re so excited to present the first episode in a video series about The Local Movement, Somerville Local First and some of its Local Business and Nonprofit Members. We are incredibly grateful for all the time and effort that went into this project. It is a perfect illustration of what keeps our organization going. Here’s the story:

To be blunt: SLF is sorely lacking in resources. We’ve received no grant funding and little funding from government (although the City of Somerville’s Economic Development Department did help fund our coupon book last year, which was pivotal in our growth for which we are very thankful). So telling the story of the movement is always challenging. But the creative community in Somerville and Greater Boston, who appreciate the work we do, has helped us out tremendously.

In almost every case where we’ve produced something to build the movement, designers, writers, web developers, photographers and videographers have graciously donated their talent and resources.

And in this case, things are no different. Street Attack is a Boston-based alternative and digital marketing agency. Mykim Dang, host and producer of the series, also happens to be a former member of Fringe Movement, one of our favorite business incubator spaces. Mykim reached out to us in May with this offer. Street Attack would shoot, edit and publish a series of videos about the Local Movement, SLF and its members. They’d do it for free. And we could use the content in anyway that we wanted.

It is this type of outreach that demonstrates the power of community and the supportive environment it fosters. This is where we’re going in the movement, because it is where we should be. Faced with difficulties and challenges, we are reminded that amazing community members surround us, willing to offer their love and assistance. And they surround you too.

We would like to again thank Street Attack for this work and all their help. We hope you enjoy the series and share them with your friends, and feel more connected to the movement and our members.

The Relaunch of the Somerville Local First Website - A resource to find Locally Owned and Independent Businesses in Somerville

Jul 19 5:31 am

Welcome to the new SLF website!  We’re excited to completely relaunch our web presence in an effort to better promote the local movement and our members. At the same time, we hope to engage in meaningful dialogue with you, our fellow community members.

This site is intended to serve as a community resource: a place for learning and discussion.  To help you continue to Shift your Shopping to local and independent businesses, we are incorporating a number of new features:

  • The SLF Blog – Our new blog based site will feature wide ranging contributions every week from many different sources, including:
    • SLF Staff, Interns and Board of Directors
    • SLF Members – entrepreneurs, artists and nonprofit directors
    • Community Bloggers – community members who are passionate about ‘local’ and want to share their Somerville stories
    • National Experts – people around the country who are working to build strong local living economies
    • Multimedia galore!  - We’ll be posting photos, reviews, videos and more to the site in the coming months.  We hope these tools will continue to build the awareness and behavior change we need to take our movement to the next level.
    • Campaign and Event pages – We’ll have living pages dedicated to the link“>Shift your Shopping, link“>Harvest Fest and link“>JOIN SLF – We now have membership categories for businesses, artists, nonprofits and community members.  Each community can easily join our growing network and become part of the movement to build and sustain our local economy in Somerville.

This is just the first step to developing a community resource for local economies like no other.  We want to know what you think…in fact, one of the main reasons why we chose this format was to create and foster dialogue.  So if there’s something you’d like to see, something you like (or don’t like), please let us know.

Stay tuned this week for daily blog posts, including the beginning of a video series on SLF developed by Street Attack. We will also be hearing from our first Community Bloggers and providing more details on our Shift & Save coupons and mobile applications!

Shift Happens


Joe Grafton

Jul 15 2:18 am

Joe Grafton

Joe is the founder and Executive Director of Somerville Local First, a leading network of Locally Owned and Independent businesses creating sustainable local economies.  He is also a steering committee member of the New England Local Business Forum, a board member of The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston and the Chief Operating Officer for the Together Music Festival.  Joe is a Huffington Post Blogger, social media expert, published journalist and advocate for local economies across Greater Boston, New England and beyond.

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