Between now and the end of the year, The Village Green is presenting the series, “Home for the Holidays,” a reminder during this holiday season that when you shop locally, we all win! Today we are proud to feature Work and Play and their creation, The General Store, which they began in order to support the vibrant local community of makers and independent store owners.
Before Amazon Prime and the fluorescent lights of big box, and before you could order a no whip skinny latte from Starbucks, there was only one store, and that was the general store. In Maplewood, that store was Harry Baker’s Grocery, on Baker Street near Maplewood Avenue. In 1890, it was the only store in Maplewood Village.
Nineteenth century families journeyed weekly to general stores like Baker’s Grocery to make purchases and trade stories around potbelly stoves. You weren’t worried about the quality of goods because you knew Harry Baker. He and his shop owner compatriots were your neighbors. You purchased what you needed to support your family and in turn were supporting another local family.
When catalogs arrived, general store owners referred to them as town killers. They foresaw families purchasing goods from distant factories owned by large companies to save themselves the trip to town. They were right.
And then came Amazon. Amazon entered our overextended lives at just the right time, when we were willing to embrace its convenience at the sake of community. We’ve become accustomed to frictionless transactions, meaning there’s minimal to no obstacle standing between us and a purchase. Order with one click, or even your voice, and the box arrives on your porch.
We don’t hate Amazon. On any given day, you will drive past either one of our houses and see an Amazon box on the porch. But Amazon and big box should not be our sole source for goods, especially when you want a thriving downtown. That quaint village you love won’t survive and the downtown districts you desire won’t grow unless you support them and their owners (aka your neighbors).
We started the General Store Cooperative (SOMaGeneralStore.com) in November 2018 because we understand that convenience is a necessity of modern life. There’s not enough time in each day, and yet we want and depend on local shops.
Our online cooperative of around 100 local people brings a convenient way to support local stores and makers through one online shopping destination. You’ll find many of the local shops you love alongside artists and makers. This holiday season, we’ll also have an experiential holiday pop-up shop in downtown South Orange that will allow you meet the business owners and makers.
When you have time to go into any of our local shops, please do. But if you find yourself browsing Amazon, please try our site first. If we don’t have what you want, tell us. Help us help you support our town.