The Red And Green Mile

Keeping It Querque For Christmas

Jim Scarantino
5 min read
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To get my Christmas shopping going, I needed a pin and a piece of string. The pin went into an Albuquerque map at the spot where I live. Then I measured the string to match the equivalent of a mile radius around my house and drew a circle.

I’m doing all my Christmas shopping within a mile of my house. And I’m going to buy everything from locally owned businesses. No national chains. No purchases online. Those catalogs sliding through the mail slot—“wish books,” my wife calls them—go straight to the recycling bin.

It’s all about self-interest. I live
here in a wonderful, vibrant city. I want it to stay that way. Local businesses, with all their character, charm and funkiness, enrich my quality of life. What I spend in a locally owned store gets reinvested here, not siphoned off somewhere else. Buying local is like getting money back on your Discover card.

Local business owners are unheralded heroes. They risk everything to stake out a spot on a street near you, keep the sidewalk clean, keep lights burning and invite you in to share their creativity and energy.

Numerous studies show that a dollar spent locally does far more good than a dollar spent in a national store. By some measures, only 13 cents of a dollar spent in a chain remains in the community. The
Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) estimates that buying locally produces 3.5 times the economic benefits of purchases at big-box stores. That translates to more jobs, more gross receipts taxes and healthier neighborhoods. When AIBA encourages shopping locally with the theme, “Keep it Querque,” they’re only talking common sense.

Keeping it Querque is also more fun.

My wife classifies me as “a very bad shopper.” I enter stores only as a last resort, planning those ordeals strategically to minimize the pain. I’m in and out of there as fast as I can, and even that’s too long for me.

I’ve certainly improved my attitude with this local shopping experiment. At the edge of my circle is Tully’s Italian Deli on San Mateo south of Constitution. There I find boxed
panetone , a traditional holiday bread that makes a great small gift. I get talking with Johnny Camuglia, whose family has run the shop for a generation. He recommends the panaccio, a baked dough filled with meat and cheese. I put in an order. Then he steers me next door to their new pastry shop. I am greeted by pumpkin-walnut biscotti, miniature vanilla cream pies, pignoli cookies, fig cookies, hazelnut cookies and– mama mia!– Italian wedding cookies I haven’t tasted since my grandmother passed away.

Had I done my usual locked-jaw-head-down-in-and-out-of-the-mall-get-it-done-fast shopping act, I would have missed all this.

My mile radius takes in Nob Hill. I head to the Bike Coop. That special woman in my life has taken up cycling. I think she looks great in tight, bright cycling jerseys. Plus, it’s cold on the bike trails and she could use some snazzy winter duds. Greg Overman, the owner, greets me when I step inside. I find the women’s gear and plenty of things I hope Santa brings me.

Two blocks away, I drop into Celebro Natural Living. Melinda Rand-Kenefic, the owner, proudly shows off beautiful clothing made from natural, cruelty-free fabrics. A Scarantino back East is getting one of its scarves.

I scoot across Central to
La Montañita Co-op. Besides food, they have a wide array of beauty, health and household products. Many of their items indicate they’ve been made locally. I concentrate on those.

Next up,
Satellite Coffee. I have in mind some of the fancy tea and coffee equipment they sell in the back. I remember Mark and Jean Bernstein, the owners, unpacking boxes after midnight, and swearing this would be the last store they would ever open. That was several Flying Stars and Satellite Coffees ago. After a double espresso, I move on.

Laru Ni Hati, I select outrageously extravagant shaving stuff for dad. This is the only salon I know with a bar. On employee recommendation, I try a Lillet apertif, a kind of fortified French white wine. It’s damn good. I marvel at how much fun shopping can be.

I’m off to Papers! for Christmas cards. I buy only cards made in New Mexico. In The A Store, I choose locally crafted jewelry. My watch indicates it’s beer-thirty, and Scalo is just around the corner.

My Moretti draught arrives as I consider the scant progress I’ve made in my shopping list. In fact, the list just seems to keep growing and growing. No way I’ll get it all done today. Or tomorrow. Or even this week. And that’s OK.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail

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