On day two of Local February, I needed to replace a lightbulb in the house. I live within walking distance from Publix, so under normal circumstances I would have either added ‘light bulbs’ to my grocery-shopping list or walked the few blocks to Publix while enjoying this sunny and crisp February morning. Instead, I made the short drive to Murray Hill and visited Curry Thomas Hardware.
While the Home Depots and Lowes of the world have dominated the hardware store category over the last two decades, I’ve noticed that product knowledge and professional advice are not these store’s greatest strengths. This was amplified a few months ago when I was trying to fix a leaky sink faucet and was told three different things by three different associates at the big box. It took me three days and the help of YouTube to correctly identify and replace the necessary part.
Family owned since the mid 1940’s Curry Thomas is a throwback to the time when the person behind the counter could not only sell you a product, but could also give you rock solid advice on how the product works and should be installed. On this morning, I was able to procure an energy efficient CFL bulb for the exact price of the same bulb offered up the street at Lowes (yes, I checked). Once I checked out, the man behind the counter smiled and said ‘thanks for your business and please come again.’ Don’t worry, I will.
I then headed down(town) for Community First Saturday (www.facebook.com/CommunityFirstSaturday). Several local businesses converge on the Northbank Riverwalk on the first Saturday of every month for this event sponsored by the Jax Chamber (www.facebook.com/JaxChamber) and Community First Credit Union (www.facebook.com/communityfirstcreditunion).
One can choose lunch from one of six food trucks (www.facebook.com/JaxTruckies) lined up along Coastline Drive. I chose a rice bowl from Gourmet Aviator (www.facebook.com/GourmetAviator) and a slice of spinach and mushroom pizza from Brucci’s (www.facebook.com/BruccisPizza). Yes, I can eat pizza seven days a week if ‘forced’ to.
Another great locally owned small business present was E2Ride (www.facebook.com/e2ride.bike.tours.adventures?ref=ts&fref=ts) owned by Leigh Burdett. E2Ride offers guided bike tours of Riverside/Avondale, San Marco, Old Mandarin, Springfield and the Beaches. This is a great way to see the city for those that live here or for tourists coming in from out of town. Leigh has extensive knowledge of the area’s history and her tours will open your eyes to the hidden secrets we pass by each day.
Yet another cool locally owned business at Community First Saturday was Rethreaded (http://www.facebook.com/Rethreaded). Rethreaded was started by Kristin Keen and sells goods like blankets, pillow cases, scarves, jewelry, tote bags and the like. What sets apart these items are who they are made by. Rethreaded employs women who have found freedom from the sex trade internationally and are looking to turn their lives around for the better. By the way if you have some old tshirts, Rethreaded will gladly accept them for use in some of the products they make.
With the Davis Cup in town this weekend, I saw several domestic and international tourists strolling along the Riverwalk and taking in this unique event. Embracing our most beautiful natural asset, the St Johns River, can really set our downtown apart from peer cities. With all the talk about the importance of downtown revitalization, it’s important to get the most basic things right first. Utilizing our existing assets is the first step in making our downtown unique and vibrant once again.
Finally, it was time to get my monthly hair cut. I used to get a haircut at Super Clips because, well I didn’t know any better. I found though that oftentimes I would come home complaining about the quality of the cut and the general unfriendliness of the experience. The notion of ‘you get what you pay for’ rang true when I walked into Hawthorn Salon (www.facebook.com/pages/Hawthorn-Salon) in the Five Points neighborhood.
First off, I have to say that I just felt cool walking in this place. It felt like I was on my way to a chess club meeting and suddenly discovered how to get into the ‘in crowd’. Owners Jim Stracke and Lea Laskowitz built this space using quite a bit of reclaimed cypress wood with an open floor plan that is accentuated by an exposed ceiling which gives the salon a big, open feel even though the space isn’t that large. My stylist of the day, Bryce cut my hair using scissors and shaved my neck using a straight razor. I mistakenly thought that the entire profession of hair stylists had ditched these old relics years ago in favor of the harsh and unforgiving electric razor. The quality of my cut was outstanding.
During my visit Bryce and I talked about motorcycles, the Super Bowl and beer. Even better, I was treated to a cold can of locally brewed Intuition beer upon arriving. Apparently complimentary Bold Bean coffee, wine or beer is offered with every hair cut. Yes, this place is for me. Although I spent $12 more than my usual hair cut, this price difference was more than made up with the quality of service, people, shampoo (I never get my hair washed elsewhere) and the ice cold beer. This price difference was easily justifiable. Let’s see if I still feel that way when I get my first local-only grocery bill.
I’d be remiss to point out that if you see the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful bait tank in Five Points that people use to property dispose of their cigarette butts, please know that Hawthorn paid for those. It’s nice to see a local business strive to keep their neighborhood clean and our river free from toxic chemicals that harm marine life.
At least for today, the decision to shop locally has really been a positive experience for me. It will be interesting to see if this euphoria lasts all month.