Keeping your Dollars in the Community Matters. Here’s why (and how).
By Molly Newman
For time-crunched athletes, shopping at a big-box store is just so convenient. You can get your canned tomatoes, your toilet paper, and your garden supplies all in one place. And hey—while you’re there, you might as well toss a new pair of running shoes into the cart, right? Or maybe you’ll just order a case of energy bars from that huge online “bookstore” along with the latest bestseller. You’ll save time for sure, and you might even save a few bucks while you’re at it.
Believe it or not, where you shop matters as much as what you choose to buy. For yourself, your sport of choice, and the larger community, there are great reasons to look for locally made products and locally owned stores. Check out how you can support innovation, a sustainable economy, and your Utah neighbors with every shopping trip.
Why Buy Local?
The numbers don’t lie: “Three times more of every dollar spent at a locally owned business stays in the community,” says Kristen Lavallet, associate director of Local First Utah. Local businesses patronize other local businesses—from accountants to caterers—and pay sales and property taxes that chain stores are often able to dodge. Shopping at a locally owned business is a direct investment in your community’s economic health.
There are other, more purely selfish reasons to shop for athletic gear at a Utah-based store. “Utah’s running community is uniquely strong and supportive,” says Jeremy Howlett, co-founder of Altra Running. “The staff at our local running stores actually use the products they’re selling and know what they’re talking about. You can’t get that level of education from a big chain store.”
Independent stores also have locally controlled inventory, meaning that decisions about which products to carry are made in-house, not at a corporate headquarters hundreds or thousands of miles away. In addition, Lavallet points out, “Small stores are more likely to carry goods from other local small businesses.”
But perhaps the best reason to shop close to home can’t be boiled down to dollars spent or questions answered. Shopping at independent, local stores creates a connection between businesses and customers that builds a strong community. Small business owners foster community by sponsoring and attending events, supporting nearby schools and other nonprofits, and creating hubs for like-minded people to get together and enjoy their common interests.
Make the Local Switch
It’s not always easy to track down Utah’s independently owned stores in a sea of corporate chains. Fortunately, both official state resources and private nonprofits exist to help make your search easier.
Start your search at Local First Utah’s website, localfirst.org. You’ll find listings of more than 5000 locally owned businesses searchable by product or type of store. (A search for “running” brings up four stores; “bicycle” yields 19.) Each business is marked on a map and includes contact information for one-click access. Local First Utah also provides instantly identifiable green and yellow window clings to registered businesses, allowing you to identify locally owned stores and manufacturers at a glance.
For the ultimate “buy local” experience, look for Utah-made products at stores near you. Whether you’re a runner, a cyclist, a climber, or a skier, Utah’s thriving outdoor industry means you can find locally-made products from companies of all sizes. “Being Utah natives means we’re familiar with our local terrain,” Howlett says. “This is where we run, where we train, where we all grew up.”
Stay warm—or cool—while hiking, skiing, or camping with Kühl’s “Born in the Mountains” performance clothing. After creating the iconic fleece “Alf Hat”, this Murray-based company branched out into fashion-conscious men’s and women’s gear, all blending function with unique, eye-catching style.
For weekend car camping or weeks-long backcountry treks, SLC-based Easton Mountain Products provides tents and trekking poles to make any journey lighter, safer, and more comfortable. Check out their locally designed and manufactured Kilo series of ultralight shelters perfect for Utah’s climate.
Face the most technical climbs with confidence with Black Diamond Equipment gear. From carabiners to helmets, this SLC-based company produces everything you need to tackle any bouldering route or cliff face.
Take your tunes with you with Park City-based Skullcandy’s sport-specific audio gear. From sleek earbuds to high-fidelity over-the-ear models, your personal adventure soundtrack never sounded so good.
Created by local runners for runners, Altra Running’s zero-drop footwear combines the fit and flexibility of a minimalist shoe with the protection of a full running shoe. Available in versions designed just for men’s or women’s feet, Altra’s shoes are getting noticed—Runner’s World just named their Instinct men’s shoe the Best Debut of 2012.
Made for endurance athletes looking to perform their best, SLC-based First Endurance’s nutritional supplements do wonders for racing and recovery. The company was started by two racing fanatics (a cyclist and a triathlete) with a healthy obsession for sports nutrition, and the simple idea to create formulas developed to maximize endurance performance. Check out their shakes, liquid shots, and supplements, now endorsed and used by many elite competitors.
Heading for the mountains? Stop by Ogden-based Salomon USA’s flagship store in SLC’s City Creek Center first. You’ll find footwear and clothing for any outdoor adventure. Stop blisters before they start with a custom boot fitting.
Gear up for your next adventure with the complete range of equipment offered at Park City-based Backcountry.com. Choose from well-known brands or from Backcountry-exclusive lines that combine performance and value.
Whether you’re looking for a race-ready mountain bike or a comfy commuter, Utah’s independently owned bike shops can outfit you with the perfect ride. Browse the listings at cyclingutah.com/bike-shop-directory to see hundreds of options.
Running’s not as simple as lacing up your shoes and heading for the hills. Properly fitted shoes are essential to prevent injuries and maximize your performance. Local running shops carry a wider range of shoe styles and fits than big-box sporting goods stores do. They also provide runner-specific training and information that can make the difference between a miserable slog and a personal best.
Utah’s best independently owned running stores offer personalized shoe fittings, running clinics, and even expert foot health advice. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or are just thinking about tackling your first 5K, you’ll find an informed, supportive community ready to help you make every run a success.
Tip: Wear your oldest, most broken-in pair of shoes to the store. By analyzing the patterns of wear, the staff will be able to recommend shoe models that suit your unique stride.
Wasatch Running Center
This Sandy-based store offers custom gait analysis and shoe fitting. Looking for a multi-sport challenge? They have everything (but the bike) you’ll need for a triathlon, too.
Salt Lake Running Company
With three different locations in the SLC area, Salt Lake Running Company is as convenient as it is well stocked. Injury prevention classes, Good Form running clinics, and free yoga sessions help you stay strong and flexible.
What’s on your plate? More and more people are becoming conscious of the value of choosing locally produced, in-season foods. Minimizing the distance food travels from farm to plate means fresher, tastier meals with a smaller carbon footprint.
With 16,500 farms statewide producing an annual $1.5 billion in crop sales, agriculture is a vital part of Utah’s economy. Long growing seasons and rich alluvial soil mean crops from barley to sweet cherries thrive here.
Want to load your plate with some Utah-grown goodness? Look for the “Utah’s Own” label at supermarkets around the state, suggests Jed Christenson, marketing director for Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. “You’ll find them on both fresh ingredients and finished products,” Christenson says. “They’re an easy way to tell at a glance what’s been grown or made right here.”
For the freshest possible produce, meat, cheese, and more, stop by one of Utah’s 40 certified farmers’ markets. “The market has exploded in the last few years,” Christenson says. “The only problem we’re having is finding enough farmers to keep all the markets stocked!” You’ll find a directory at farmersmarketsonline.com. Salt Lake’s Downtown Farmers Market (slcfarmersmarket.org), the city’s largest, opens on June 9 and runs every Saturday morning until October 27.
Or, to guarantee yourself a steady supply of locally grown food all season long, consider registering for area Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. As a member, you’ll pay up front (usually $200-$600) for a regular share (usually weekly) of whatever your chosen farm is producing at that time. CSA farms range from tiny one-family operations to full-scale organic powerhouses. Get more details and find a participating farm at csautah.org.
Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t the only Utah-grown foods that deserve a place on your plate. The Community Co-Op connects members with local meats, dairy products, breads, and more via their membership program and Farmer’s Market sales. See more at thecommunitycoop.org.
Whether you’re a committed locavore or just looking for a delicious way to spend an evening, the annual Taste of Utah event at the Utah State Fair brings together 60 vendors serving up fresh, locally produced goodies from Fat Boys ice cream to Snap Daddy’s BBQ sauce. Check utah-state-fair.com for this year’s schedule.
Just need a quick snack for the trail? Utah-made PROBAR offers a whole-food alternative to sugary energy bars and gels. Made of organic, plant-based ingredients, these crunchy/chewy treats come in varieties from Honey Graham to Superfood Slam.
Every dollar you spend makes a difference. Take advantage of Utah’s wealth of local options and help build a better economy and a stronger community while you shop.
Molly Newman lives in Portland, Oregon, where she hikes, walks, and runs whenever it isn’t raining—and often when it is. A contributor to Outdoor Sports Guide since 2009, she also hosts regular trivia nights and homeschools her two sons.