Elissa Breitbard had a eureka! moment about two years back when she heard of the emerging Boulder Independent Business Alliance (BIBA) of Boulder, Colo., and what the organization was doing in an effort to keep independent businesses alive amidst an ever-increasing threat of chain stores and mega-marts.
Breitbard, also the owner of Betty's Bath & Day Spa in the North Valley, realized that if Albuquerque was to retain its unique character something would need to be done. That's when Breitbard took inspiration from our neighborly northward state and decided to start an alliance of her own. In March 2003, the Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) officially sprouted wings. And, with momentum growing this year, Breitbard hopes that AIBA will be a pivotal force in keeping local commerce "querque."
By working with other independent business owners in the city, Breitbard and the group's growing membership are doing some great things for the Albuquerque community. By promoting small businesses, AIBA is ensuring that local money stays local, returning to roads, schools and police departments instead of the pocketbooks of multinational corporate CEOs. In fact, studies have shown that with every dollar you spend locally, 45 cents returns back to the community; compared to only 13 cents that goes back to the local community when shopping at giant box retailers like Wal-Mart.
Breitbard says that shopping local is one of the best ways to keep Albuquerque true to its character, and through hosting fundraising events and educational forums, AIBA promises to become a critical resource in the city to consumers and developers alike.
Peri Pakroo, who serves as Treasurer of AIBA and is a co-founder of the alliance, says that AIBA is already helping to increase awareness not only among consumers, but among business owners as well. "One of the most immediate results was just a birth of excitement among a lot of small business owners, who are really hungry to interact with each other and share their experiences," says Pakroo, who is also the owner of p-brain media and author of The Small Business Start-Up Kit (Nolo).
Pakroo emphasizes that the goal of the alliance is not to engage in "chain-bashing," but rather to stay positive and help local businesses survive and prosper.
Two other local entrepreneurs and AIBA members, Nancy Rutland and Steven Stout, owners of independent bookstores Bookworks and Page One, respectively, have also been mighty forces in the movement to keep shopping close to home. Indie bookstores, in particular, face tough competition against chain stores, who have gotten more and more in the habit of creating "special deals" with publishers that limit smaller stores' access to books at fair prices. Local bookstores offer services to the community that chains don't, says Rutland, who works closely with schools and promotes local authors.
Stout, who has seen over 30 independent bookstores close in Albuquerque since he opened Page One 23 years ago, worries that the country is the midst of a trend that will force nearly all independent owners out of business over the next two decades.
If such a prospect scares the pants off you, and you want to know what you can do to help keep our local culture thriving, AIBA members say that it's as simple as shopping local. To find AIBA members, all of whom give back to the community simply by staying afloat, check out the AIBA website, www.keepitquerque.org. (CC)