Grand Rapids Retailers, Local Leaders to Stress Importance of Buying Nearby to Area Economy

Shoppers supporting retailers such as MercuryHead Gallery benefit community

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Business owners and economic development leaders from Grand Rapids today joined James P. Hallan of the Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) to talk about the growth of new retailers and retail jobs in Grand Rapids and to  remind residents that where they spend their shopping dollars matters a great deal to Michigan’s local communities and state economy.

Speaking at MercuryHead Gallery – an art gallery and framing business located in increasingly trendy Uptown Grand Rapids − Hallan said the state economy would grow by more than $9 billion and nearly 75,000 new jobs would be created throughout the economy if Michigan residents made sure to buy from retailers in Michigan, rather than from out-of-state sellers that don’t invest in the state. Retail trade in Greater Grand Rapids has grown by about 2,000 jobs in the past year, according to Michigan’s Labor Market News. More retailers are opening in Grand Rapids as new residents and workers move in, and the Grand Rapids metro area could add even more retail jobs the rest of this year.

MercuryHead Gallery is a professional framing and print shop that also features work by a number of Michigan artists, giving Michigan shoppers an even greater reason to Buy Nearby and support the state economy.

“Here in Grand Rapids, boutique retailers such as MercuryHead Gallery, entrepreneurial startups such as Masen James Bakery and longtime retailers such as Mieras Family Shoes are offering customers unique goods and services every day,” said Hallan, MRA president and CEO. “Michigan communities benefit from having retailers that, in many cases, offer or use Michigan products. When shoppers patronize local businesses, it has a monumental impact on our state and communities.”

MercuryHead Gallery has been a fixture on East Fulton Street since 1999. Back then, the area east of downtown Grand Rapids was far from desirable, and it took owner Ben Perrin two years to renovate the run-down space before he could open the gallery. Since then, Uptown Grand Rapids area – which includes East Fulton Street, East Hills, Eastown and Wealthy Street – has become a mecca for shoppers looking for trendy dining spots, antique shops, boutiques and gift shops. Perrin has expanded his storefront to gain more room for his customized framing and printing.

“I wanted to contribute to the rebirth of this area of Grand Rapids, and this was my way of making a difference,” said Perrin, who runs the shop along with his wife, Laury Baker. “We offer a unique service that on one day can mean restoring a treasured family photograph for a customer and, on another, helping them find the perfect piece of art from a Michigan artist to grace their home. Our hope is to not only educate people about great art, but about how much good they do for Grand Rapids and their community when they Buy Nearby.”

Michigan Department of Treasury figures show that retail trade accounted for $93.7 billion in economic activity in Michigan in fiscal year 2014, the most recent year available, not counting food and prescription drug purchases. That’s a fifth of the state’s gross domestic product.

To encourage shoppers to visit nearby retailers and help Michigan’s growth continue, MRA has launched the Buy Nearby campaign, an ongoing, year-round, feel-good campaign intended to create excitement about the great shopping in Michigan and the advantages of supporting retailers and communities in Michigan. The Buy Nearby campaign includes the “I Buy Nearby Weekend” when retailers across the state will be offering shoppers special deals and promotions. The expanded two-day special shopping weekend, which this year falls on Oct. 1-2, taking in Sunday as well as Saturday, will include a drawing for a $500 gift card to one lucky shopper who posts a photo of buying nearby with the hashtag #ibuynearby.

Jonathan Klooster, economic development coordinator for the City of Grand Rapids, said the growing number of retailers in the city and surrounding area is making it an even more attractive place to live and work, and drawing additional visitors for Art Prize and other events.

“Customers who Buy Nearby in the Grand Rapids area provide the encouragement needed to draw even more retail stores to the city,” Klooster said. “We know many people already are aware of Grand Rapids’ reputation for great craft beer, great music and food, and one-of-a-kind finds in our stores. Buying nearby is a fantastic way to help boost the city’s economy and create more jobs while enjoying great shopping.”

Also joining in the news conference were Al Maxim, owner of City Antiques Resale Boutique just down the street from MercuryHead Gallery, and Sarah Wepman of That Early Bird, a newly opened café in Eastown.
“Whether you’re looking for vintage clothing, jewelry, glassware, old bikes, photographs or other antiques, City Antiques probably has it,” Maxim said. “We know many people are deeply committed to Grand Rapids, and buying nearby is one sure way to keep retailers like us in business while boosting the city’s economy and keeping their money right here in West Michigan.”

Added Wepman, “We try to buy locally as much as possible for the café and sell great food and coffee to residents who support businesses in their neighborhoods. Buy Nearby is what we do every day.”

Also attending Thursday’s news conference was Buy Nearby Guy, the campaign mascot that’s an 8-foot-tall representation of a shopping bag in the shape of Michigan, colored blue to mirror Michigan’s lakes and skies. Buy Nearby Guy is frequently featured in the campaign’s social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Buy Nearby Guy is a big and highly visible reminder to shoppers to spend their money in the Mitten, especially in the local community where they live, work, vacation or just visit,” Hallan said.

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The Michigan Retailers Association is the unified voice of Michigan’s retail industry, representing more than 5,000 member businesses and their 15,000 stores and websites. Retail is responsible for more than 850,000 jobs in Michigan.