By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Spring has sprung, and pollen is in the air. The impact of allergens increases as I grow older. Sinuses swell, the nose runs, and my balance is just a little off. Don’t get me wrong; I love the new blossoms, the spring breezes, and budding trees. I could just do without the effect of sucking those little yellow spores into my respiratory system. It is always a sign of suffering to come when you start to get into your car, and you see a layer of yellow “dust” on it that wasn’t there a few hours before. Any of you that have allergy issues certainly know what I mean. It has been a mild winter, which probably means we are going to get an extra helping of pollen this year.
Another sign of spring is the increasing number of out-of-state tags that are showing up on cars on the Qualla Boundary. Interestingly, it didn’t seem like there was much of a drop off in tourists in town, at least as much as in previous years. I think the warmer winter weather helped some make at least day trips to our little town. There are several local hotels, restaurants, department, grocery, and craft stores who brave the winter and stay open, surviving and thriving on community clientele and traffic from the gaming enterprise. Harrah’s has helped us become a year-round destination, but we have not yet fully figured out how to capitalize on this flow of traffic, yet.
Ken Blankenship and now Bo Taylor is fond of saying that the Museum of the Cherokee Indian is the one Cherokee family attraction that stays open all year. It is true. We are fortunate to have places like the Museum and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, who also remain open, to provide a dose of culture even in the wintertime. Private, native-owned and -operated outlets like Talking Leaves, Native American Craft Shop, Medicine Man, and Bear Meat’s Indian Den made it through to spring as well. And, we had great food from Front Porch, Wise Guys, Paul’s, Pizza Inn, Peter’s, and a host of chain fast food joints in the cold months.
Now, some of those seasonal businesses are starting to gear up for season. Tourist favorites like Granny’s Kitchen and Newfound Lodge Restaurant have reopened their doors and are ready to serve. Many other businesses will soon follow. As I said, spring is in the air.
Several years ago, businesses in municipalities across the country started promoting locally owned and operated businesses through “buy local” campaigns, touting the advantages to the community of buying as much of their needs and wants as possible within their neighborhoods. The campaigns would include all forms of media, from television to billboards to bumper stickers. Homemade and homegrown was a motto for many communities. Those campaigns built relationships between the business community and the community at large.
On the Boundary, your tribal government collects a 7.5 percent levy or sales tax (instead of state tax) and a 4 percent Privilege or Occupancy Tax. That means any retail purchase on the Boundary puts at least 7.5 cents on the dollar into the economy of the tribe. Most of the time, we don’t think about where we are when we buy, especially these days when much of what we buy is ordered by phone or internet. Maybe we should. You see, if you purchase a $20 meal in Cherokee, one dollar and a half go to building a better life for tribal members-subsidizing healthcare, education, eldercare, rehabilitation services, and housing. If you wait and eat in another town that is off-Boundary, all that money goes to the state. If a visitor stays in a hotel in Cherokee and pays $150 for a night’s sleep, seventeen dollars and twenty-five cents go making life better for tribal members. If they stay in another town away from the Boundary, the tribe loses that income.
Just like doctors, farmers, and lawyers, retailers perform a vital service to the community. They meet a need that the community requires. Sure, they are in it for the money. They have families as well as lifestyles to support. They also supply jobs for many in the community; some of those employees are your neighbors and family members. You may even be employed by a local businessman or woman. By supporting our local businesses with our purchases, they can continue to provide paychecks and benefits to members of the community. Many of our business owners are members of our community who invest their own money to promote the quality of life on the Boundary.
The best return for our investment in the community comes from supporting the community’s economy. Always look for opportunities to buy local and buy Native first. Familiarize yourself with products that are available (and hopefully produced) here in Cherokee. Be prepared to recommend them to others when you are asked what the best place is to buy a product.
If you are a business in the Cherokee community, think homemade, handmade, and homegrown. Buy from local vendors. Keep as many dollars circulating within the local economy as possible. Build relationships with those year-round local clients by offering a local discount for your products and services. Having customer appreciation days in the off-season as well as on will let your local customers know that you cherish them.
There are some things we can’t get on the Boundary from local vendors, but there are many things that we can and should buy locally. For a healthy economy and the future sustainability of our community, buy local and buy Native!