by Shawna Galassi
With nothing but “shoe leather and sweat,” a small group of citizens launched a Buy Local campaign in Atascadero this past year. Vision Atascadero was conceived in January after seven citizens got together to discuss issues that were causing divisiveness within their community. The members felt a need to bring something positive to the community and, after reading a book on the Buy Local campaign, decided that was a good place to start. “Now that the basic structure is in place, we’re focused on ideas we pick up locally rather than a model we’re trying to emulate,” said Bruce Bevans, one of the group’s founders. “At this point we’re more focused on our own community, what works for us, and what we think we can do.”
So far the group has signed up over a hundred businesses, which are readily identifiable by the Buy Local acorn sticker in the window of their business. The only thing Vision Atascadero asks of participating businesses is that they support the program by frequenting local businesses themselves. Some businesses have declined to sign up because the program is not supported by the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce. “There has been some negative attitude on the part of the local Chamber of Commerce,” Bevans said. “They feel they need to support all of the businesses in Atascadero. Some folks are reluctant to go against the wishes of the Chamber of Commerce.”
According to Bevans, the group has not taken a stand on the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter. “Absolutely not,” Bevans said. “We’re in the process of filing a 501(c)(3). We cannot take a stand. We’re trying to avoid the issue, but it’s the elephant in the room.”
Vision Atascadero’s focus is on educating the public as to the benefits of buying locally and keeping money in the community. “We’re trying to raise people’s consciousness,” Bevans said, so that people don’t automatically head for a Big Box store every time they need something. “We’re not asking them to buy local out of the goodness of their heart. It’s a benefit to the community and themselves.” The group is making their presence known through advertising and face-to-face contact with local merchants. Their website, www.visionatascadero.com , discusses the benefits of buying locally and has a list of participating businesses. They also have a list of local artists and links to the artists’ websites.