On Thursday of last week I made one small decision that changed the course of my evening, and afforded me a simple, but powerful realization.
I was biking home from work, through the Oregon District. I stopped in at Derailed to see if Mindy was available to tame my unruly bangs, a free service she offers between cuts.
She wasn’t available. I was bummed.
I was in the middle of unlocking my bike when I realized there was no need to get home right away, and a store I had wanted to check out was still open.
So I made a simple decision: why don’t I stay downtown just a bit longer. (Thanks Jackson Browne.)
I biked back to Scavenger in the St. Clair Lofts. On the way I ran into John Drake on the sidewalk in front of his gym and caught up with him.
I walked into Scavenger, introducing myself to the owner Jess. I quickly made a new friend, found a new supporter of Dayton Inspires and discovered my new go-to store for all future birthday and Christmas shopping.
I left glowing with appreciation of the fact that I live close enough to downtown (where I work) to enjoy the close-knit communal feeling of Dayton.
But this was my epiphany. Just because I live close, and I bike to work, that still doesn’t guarantee me the local, let’s-slow-things-down-a-bit lifestyle that I crave. I have to make the choice to take advantage of that every day.
Daytonians as a whole could do a better job of this. Actually, Millennials everywhere could probably do a better job of this. We have a vague idea of what we want in life, and what kind of cities we want to live in, and we like to gripe endlessly if our city doesn’t have that particular air of urban vitality that we’re looking for. But when it does, do we even take advantage of those specific elements that make the city cool? Or do we just pop our collars with a self-satisfied smirk that we live in a ‘cool city’, and then go right back to watching New Girl on the couch, working out at L.A. Fitness and shopping at Target?
Meanwhile, brave entrepreneurs are fighting to establish those completely one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, art studios and gyms that make a downtown vibrant, different and worth sticking around in. And they’ll keep struggling until the Millennials – the Pinterest generation that these stores are targeting – figure out that their role in this city is to be better consumers.
How do you become a better consumer? Create the future you want with your spending. Whenever you have the choice, choose to support the businesses that you would be sad to see close. Because they will, if you’re not there. Don’t just think, ‘Oh a new place opened downtown, I hope people go to it.’ You have the ability to change Dayton with every dollar you spend.
But this is more than just a buy local rant. Spend your time in the places that make Dayton, Dayton, where you’ve got a good chance of seeing someone you know. You never know what creative, awesome ideas can come from spontaneous collaboration over a beer at Fifth Street Brewpub.
Build a relationship with every single service provider you use – your hairstylist, your bartender, your dentist, your mailman, your barista, anybody. Relationships only happen if you develop local habits, but these are the kinds of habits you’ll never want to kick.
I wish I could cite some study that proves that living the Interstate-commuting, strip-mall-shopping, chain-restaurant-eating life will turn your soul into mush, but I have to assume that study is still under review.
Maybe you’ll just have to believe me on this. There is so much more to Dayton than you know, and it’s just waiting for you to discover it, support it, and make it home.