I love when local businesses adapt to their communities and go slashy. For the uninitiated, a slashy business is one that serves many different purposes under the same roof (ie. a coffee shop/bookstore/tea room). To me, the more goods and services you can list under your open sign, the better. I also award slashiness points based on quirkiness, so an organic farm/night club scores much higher than a pet shop/doggy day care.

Here’s some of my favorite slashy local businesses. Their slashiness score is out of 5.

Adorn Style Lounge: Salon/Boutique/Art Gallery

Mom and Pops Mesa 073 Mom and Pops Mesa 067

Slashiness score: 4

Adorn has a wonderful, relaxing environment and owner, Melinda, is a hair styling goddess. But if you’re not ready to cheat on your hair dresser, Adorn has awesome affordable fashion and jewelry and is filled with really fantastic art.  I once got a dress there for $20. Who can beat that?

The Farm at South Mountain: Organic Farm/Café/Sandwich shop/Fine Dining/Wedding Venue/Artist Studio/Boutique/Naturopathic medicine clinic

Slashiness score: 5

If the farm adds one more service to their plethora of local slashy services, they will have to add “empire” to the end of their name. Every time I visit the Farm, it becomes an all-afternoon event. It’s pretty much impossible to just have breakfast there. You will inevitably become sucked into the art studio and 2 hours later, as you’re staring into the chicken coop, you’ll wonder, “What time is it? Quiessence, their fine dining restaurant, is offering a six course wine dinner tomorrow night. Check it out!

QCumberz: Thrift Store/Antique Shop/Used Bookstore

Mom and Pops Mesa 001 Mom and Pops Mesa 002

Slashiness score: 3

For $25, I once bought a nightstand, a necktie, and a copy of James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces at Qcumberz. When I can’t make it out to Changing Hands, this little place serves as my downtown used bookstore. They have an awesome room of used books, a big selection of vintage hand painted signs, and all kinds of fun, vintage furniture. Beware of the Qcumberz labyrinth. Each little room of treasures is linked to another, creating a fun maze to navigate. Tie a string to the front door before you venture in.

Inside the Bungalow: Yoga Studio/ Tea room/ Café/ Massage Treatments /Wedding Venue

Slashiness score: 5

Inside the Bungalow scores pretty high on the slashiness scale because it may be the only small business where you can have lunch, get a massage, do some yoga, and get married all under the same roof. This slashy haven is locally-owned and operated by a Mother/Daughter duo in downtown Mesa. Check out their vegan lunch options.

Share your favorite slashy places around town in the comments section.

Cheers,

Jamie

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littlephx

If you are chasing a dream, you should live in Phoenix.

Hollywood and New York City may have been the place for aspiring rock stars, millionaires, and artists of the past, but in 2009, Phoenix is the place where dreamers go.

Here’s why your dream is best lived in Phoenix.

Dream No. 1: “I’m a Writer/Artist/Street Performer/Rock Star”

In the era of YouTube, Facebook, and Digg, the opportunities for creative types are endless. Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine recently wrote an interesting blog post on his concept of 1,000 true fans. Kelly’s theory is that if a “creator” or “producer of works of art” (or artist, writer, filmmaker, musician, etc…) can gain 1,000 “true fans” they can earn a living. True fans are earned one by one as artists voraciously promote their work using online tools and media. The great thing about this idea is that by connecting directly with fans, creators are able to focus solely on their art and fan base without battling media giants, major art critics, and the like. The idea that you need to move to New York to become a writer or Hollywood to make movies is outdated. Why not live your dream in Phoenix where you can enjoy a low cost of living while building your fan base one at a time online.

Dream No. 2: “Welcome to Tito’s Coffee and Bicycle Repair shop!”

There is no better place to open a small business than the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Business Week just named Tempe among the top small cities to open a small business, and in an effort to fill the empty spaces along Mill Avenue, Tempe is offering free rent for one year to the entrepreneur who submits the best business plan. Check it out. There are still many places around town where you can find the perfect low-cost space to open your dream Hair Salon/Dive Bar. You just need to take the leap.

Dream No. 3: “…And that’s how I made my first million.”

The Phoenix Metro area is jam packed with opportunities to fill a niche or provide a service that no one else in town is offering. Maricopa County ranks 4th among U.S. counties with the highest number of millionaire households. There is serious money in this town. All you need to do is come up with a brilliant idea to help your neighbors release it. Phoenix has not yet reached its peak. There is still time for the rise and fall of major industries and businesses. You can be a part of this history.

While I realize most of my readers are already Phoenicians, I keep hearing people talk about moving elsewhere to pursue a dream or open a small business. The cost of living in most major cities is outrageous. If you did move to one of these places, you would spend more time worrying about survival, and less time living your dream.

Build your dream here and be a part of Phoenix’s renaissance.

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Last year at Christmas I decided to buy a fake Christmas tree in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly. I figured chopping down a whole pine tree only to throw it away a month later couldn’t possibly be good for the environment, so it seemed like the fake tree was clearly the greener way to go.

Three days after I set up my fake tree, I found this article:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1220_041220_green_christmas.html

Apparently, it’s not green at all to buy a fake Christmas tree. In fact, throwing away a whole pine tree every year IS greener than buying a fake tree because manufacturing fake Christmas trees harms the environment, and it’s all about this thing called the carbon footprint. Who knew?

Trying to shop local is sometimes like this. I try to support small businesses as much as possible, but sometimes this can get tricky. Like when I wanted to buy a new plastic trash can for my house. It’s really easy for me to invite my friends out to a locally-owned restaurant because there are TONS of them in downtown Phoenix, but some of the little things I buy in my daily life seem to be sold only at giant chain stores. And I needed a trash can.

I want to shop locally for many reasons—to support my community and neighbors, to fuel the local economy, to contribute to the revitalization of my neighborhood (and some giant chain stores are evil…but I won’t go there). But when I was driving to get a trash can, I didn’t feel up for driving to a store that might not have what I needed. In that moment, going to Target just seemed easier.

If all of us changed our habits a little, we could make our community a whole lot better. So here’s my philosophy… know your community, make it a habit, and anything helps.

Know your community. During my trash can excursion, I realized that I already knew of a local business close to me that sells plastic trash cans—Bashas’. In hindsight, this choice seems obvious but since this store is not a part of my routine shopping habits, I didn’t think of it first. Knowing your community helps you make informed decisions about who you give your money to. Check out the business directory at Local First Arizona for listings of locally owned businesses in Arizona.

Make it a habit. Try to support local businesses even when you make boring everyday purchases—like plastic trash cans. When we make supporting local businesses our habit, we provide constant fuel to our local economy. Seek out small businesses in your area that provide goods and services you already pay for frequently, and make them a part of your routine.

Anything helps. It’s okay to start small. If you don’t normally think about shopping local, consider shifting to local businesses slowly. Make a commitment to eat out only at Mom and Pops, or shift a percentage of your total spending to local businesses. If everyone did this it would work wonders for our economy. If you’ve ever tried to be more environmentally friendly, you understand this. You probably started recycling before you bought a hybrid car or planted an organic vegetable garden. It makes sense to start small when making lifestyle changes.

Buying my fake Christmas tree was not the best choice for many reasons (Christmas at my house smells less like pine and more like plastic, for one), but I made an effort to help the environment and my experience encouraged me to become a well-informed shopper. Switching to supporting local businesses sometimes means exploring unfamiliar territory and trying out new places you might not like, but your efforts will definitely strengthen the economy and character of your community, and that makes it all worth it.

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This blog runs on locally brewed Americanos from Copper Star.

I will be forever indebted to Extreme Bean, whose lovely mocha lattes helped me survive that wretched college semester I spent trudging through Faulkner and Paradise Lost.

And Mesa’s Coffee Talk, now called Inside the Bungalow, will always remind me of that hot summer night a million years ago when they kicked me and my date out at closing time because we couldn’t stop talking, laughing and trading sappy expressions over hot cups of loose leaf tea.

The road of my life has been paved with local coffee shops.

Love, anxiety, heartache, sorrow… They are all made better with a little caffeine buzz thrown into the mix.

Because coffee is about so much more than beans.

Coffee is about the first time you learned that you could do almost anything in one night with a little faith and the comfy chairs at The Coffee Plantation.

Coffee is about arriving at Lux for a job interview and feeling like a ball of nerves up until that first sip of café au lait goes down smooth.

Coffee is about the sadness you felt when Willow House closed its doors, and the joy that returned when you saw the Open sign lit up at Hob Nobs for the first time.

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Coffee is about moments and firsts and liquid courage.

Coffee is about memories and community and people and ideas.

Next time you make plans to meet someone for coffee, ask yourself–Do you really want to make your life’s memories at Starbucks?

Here is a list of my favorite locally owned coffee shops in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Add the ones I forgot in the comments section. Cheers!

Copper Star

Fair Trade Café

eJoy

Lux

Drip Coffee Lounge

Hob Nobs

Conspire

Royal Coffee Bar

Extreme Bean

The Coffee Plantation

CupZ

Inside the Bungalow

Coffee Rush

Gold Bar

Jolta Java

Three Roots Coffee

Cartel Coffee Lab

first-fridays-may-09-021

I went to dinner with some friends a few weeks ago and somehow the conversation turned to New Orleans. The destruction and devastation of Hurricane Katrina still seems shocking, but it seems even more alarming that four years later the city is still just hanging on some places. Then we started talking about all the great things about New Orleans—Bourbon Street, the music, the restaurants with the mind blowing Cajun food. Who could ever let a place like New Orleans go? That must be why some people never left, we agreed, even in the face of a massive Hurricane… New Orleans is their home.

Then someone brought it all to a screeching halt.

He said, “That’s what I love about places like that. I bet if a storm came and flattened Phoenix, no one would stay. No one would care enough. No one feels connected to this place.”

And then I unleashed my wrath…

Because I feel connected to this place.

I love the feeling of getting out of a freezing cold office, walking out to my car and feeling the 115 degree heat infuse my body with warmth (…even if I can’t touch the seat belt for fear of third degree burns). I love the red velvet cupcakes at Copper Star, L.J.’s Pizza, the smell of creosote, and Changing Hands Bookstore. I LOVE two hour road trips undertaken solely for the smell of pine trees and snow, Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market, and sipping wine while waiting in line for Pizzeria Bianco. I love that I am a part of something here. I am one of many forming the identity of the Valley, bringing about its renaissance, knowing that its greatness is just around the corner. And I know how it feels to peek out my window on an early morning return flight and appreciate the tiny, bright blue swimming pools embedded in the desert landscape because they remind me I’m coming home.

Phoenix is an amazing place to be for many reasons, but mostly because of the people. I know this city is becoming better and better every day because of the spirit of entrepreneurship that is growing and flourishing all over town. I’m a local fiend because people all over this city are pouring their heart and soul into some amazing Mom and Pop’s. Supporting businesses like these means supporting my neighbors. That’s why I’m loyal to these places and that’s why I’m fiercely LOCAL.

You should be fiercely local too. Here’s why:

  • Small businesses make our cities interesting, quirky, fun, and unique. They bring life and personality and a sense of community. They are memorable and supporting them helps your neighbors thrive.
  • Going local is often CHEAPER (and who doesn’t appreciate that nowadays). Don’t believe me? It is extremely expensive for corporate grocers to import produce from many different places. Even Wal-Mart learned it’s cheaper to buy food grown locally!
  • Local businesses provide better service. When you shop locally you are funding someone’s dream and livelihood, and they rely on your repeat business.
  • According to Local First AZ, for every $100 spent in local businesses, roughly $42 stays in Arizona. National Chains leave us with only $13 for every $100 you give them.
  • If everyone shifted just 10 percent of their shopping to local businesses, we would see economic growth beyond our wildest dreams! Check out this research.
  • Local businesses are subject to greater accountability. Unethical business practices often go unnoticed in the corporate world, and by the time they are revealed the damage has already been done (ie. Recent banking scandals, Enron, Wal-Mart). When a local business acts unlawfully or unethically, they must answer to the public or risk going under. It is easier to hold a local business accountable for unethical practices because the effects of their business are not as expansive as huge corporations.

Small businesses are the heart and soul of our city. There are many great reasons why you should shop local. Help me compile a list of “100 reasons why you should be a Local Fiend” by posting your ideas in the comments section of this post.