As someone who spends quite a bit of time working and at school, I was tempted to do my shopping online. There is something very satisfying about coming home from a long day and seeing a package outside the entryway of my apartment, feeling like I'd killed two birds with one stone.
However, as someone who once worked at a small local retailer, and additionally as someone concerned about Amazon's labor practices, I felt extremely hesitant to do so.
After all, though I continue to buy some things online, I know that Amazon stockroom employees are treated extremely poorly.
This year there was a national campaign to bring awareness to the fact that Amazon warehouses are sweatshops that dehumanize their staff, set unreasonable and unachievable goals for workers, create depressing work environments, and only recently promised a fair minimum wage.
Working retail at a small local business from 2007 to 2009 was a very happy time in my life. I felt very connected to the community and the stories of my neighbors.
I knew the postman, UPS man, bodega employees, bartenders and other shop clerks, and some of those relationships continue to this day. So, Saturday night I dragged myself out of the house and went shopping.
It's easy to forget when you're sitting in your underwear and surrounded by your dirty dishes while shopping online what a robust local retail corridor we have in Greenpoint.
This year I started my shopping at Bejeweled, which is sadly closing soon but is offering some great deals on winter outerwear and a huge assortment of jewelry.
I got some great gifts at Cato's Army Navy, including a super warm wool hat from Woolrich that suits both men and women (in fact my friend and I got a matching pair!).
At Burson & Reynolds, I got some excellent stationary to write notes to my special friends, as well as some cute items for my brother's new home. I overheard the shopkeeper planning her donation to a local school fundraiser and talking shop with other parents.
I went crazy at Word Bookstore for my parents and my favorite coworkers, and was delighted with the assistance of the knowledgeable staff helping me find the right book for my dad.
I then headed down to Duke's Liquor Store, where I was helped by three wonderful, friendly people who worked together to answer my obscure request. They made me want to learn more about alcohol (and you thought I already knew too much!).
They are a great retail success story, recently moving to a larger space, and you can see easily why. Their hearts are in customer service and selection at a variety of price points, and I was able to get locally made whiskey.
For my very closest friend, I am considering splurging on a class or cookbook from Archestraus. I have come to love the owner, who is a generous and community-minded host, who wants people to connect and build community in her space. The cooking classes seem fun and personal.
I also went and bought some supplies for gardening at World of Flowers, where the shopkeeper gave me expert advice on how to bring a dying plant back to life without making me feel bad.
Some of these stores have been here for a long time, others for less than 10 years. But each and every one of the spaces seemed connected and in love with our special neighborhood, and that is something that brings extra meaning into each gift I purchased.