By Jennifer Sadler

Not looking forward to plodding through holiday shopping this season? Imagine a shopping experience where you find creative and meaningful one-of-a-kind gifts, support your local community and contribute to a greener economy. Imagine exploring interesting, independently owned stores with friendly and knowledgeable shop owners and taking your time to choose the perfect gifts instead of battling lines and parking at the mall.

Well, you can have that feel-good holiday shopping experience right here in Columbus!

Buying local is a smart and sustainable practice that helps to support real people in your community. Shopping locally during the holiday season and year-round is more important than ever. When you spend $100 at a local store, $45 of those dollars stay in your community but when you spend $100 at a multinational store only $13 of those dollars stay in your economy. The average consumer, according to the National Retail Federation, spends about $700 during the holiday season. By shifting just a small percentage of your purchases from non-local businesses to independently owned private local businesses, consumers can have a profound impact on the central Ohio economy.

Local independent businesses like restaurants, specialty shops and boutiques, grocery and hardware stores, salons, galleries, cafes, bookstores and more contribute to the vitality, creativity and uniqueness of our neighborhoods. If you want more local choices and diversity, become a staunch supporter of your local businesses so they succeed. While up front costs may be a bit more, supporting your local economy is an investment in the community, and a chance to engage in a shopping practice that reflects your ideals and to give holiday gifts that reflect your values.

The people behind local and independent businesses and organizations, and the individuals working in the local creative economy are likely your friends and neighbors. Personal service and community connectedness are the hallmarks of most local businesses. When the owner has a stake in the community it makes a real difference in the service experience. Not surprisingly, many of these local proprietors are as well known for their community activism as they are for their merchandise or service.

In addition to the convenience of not having to travel far, shopping local stores has the added bonus of being good for your conscience. They’re greener—many of their products aren’t shipped in from all over the world, cutting down on transportation costs and energy usage associated with larger corporate chain stores. Independent businesses tend to operate downtown or nearby one another in walk-able neighborhood business districts. These areas like the Short North arts district downtown, gallery districts in Grandview, Bexley, German Village and others offer much more than fun and enjoyable shopping. They offer a full experience filled with unique shops, restaurants, cafes, galleries and loads of charm.

Proponents of the shop local movement often cite online shopping as a negative choice. But there’s good news for those who want to get involved but prefer the benefits of shopping online. You may have heard of the online global handmade marketplace phenomenon known as Etsy. Launched in 2005, Etsy was created to “reconnect producer and consumer, and swing the pendulum back to a time when we bought our bread from the baker, food from the farmer, and shoes from the cobbler.”

Columbus artists and crafters have a strong presence on Etsy and the site has made it easy to connect with them with the Shop Local tool. Shop Local allows you to find photographs, jewelry and artistic handmade goodies of all kinds that are created in your neck of the woods. Just typing in 43215 on this page will bring up nearly 30,000 items for sale by independent artists in downtown Columbus neighborhoods.

Several local entrepreneurial artists and crafters with shops on the online marketplace joined forces about four years ago to form Etsy Team Columbus (ETC) and are leading the way in a new kind of shopping experience. Not only can you find their work online, the group is highly active in the local arts community.

According to artist Kellie Gedert, one of the group’s leaders, ETC members have exhibited, sold or participated in a wide variety of local events such as Agora, Comfest, Eco-Chic Craftacular (produced by ETC), Craftin’ Outlaws, Independents’ Day, Tiny Canary, Urban Scrawl, Hit & Run Happy Hour and “too many others to name.”

“Our goal is to continue to stretch our creative wings, to respect ourselves more highly as artists, to support our peers, and to find ways to become more eco-friendly in the process,” said Gedert.

ETC recently invested in studio space at the 400 West Rich Street arts warehouse in Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood.

“Our goal is to build more community and support through our shared space,” said Gedert. “We will be offering classes and hosting more events soon.”

In the meantime, you can meet some of these innovative ETC artisans in person this weekend and shop their thoughtfully handcrafted goods for holiday gifts. The second annual ETC Holiday Trunk Show will take place on Sunday, December 4 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Wild Goose Creative, 2491 Summit St in Columbus. Enjoy unobtrusive holiday tunes, snacks, socializing and a laid back shopping atmosphere. Expect to find handbags, paintings, mixed media, jewelry, digital prints, pottery, mosaics, photography, stationery and much more with prices ranging from $5 to $100. Click here for more info and a full list of vendors.

In addition to supporting local shops and specialty stores, there are endless options for gift giving that still offer support to the community. Consider buying tickets to the theatre or a concert or give the gift of a membership to a local arts organization. Many organizations offer workshops around the holidays so that you can try your hand at creating your own gifts.

Columbus is known for its thriving independent artist scene. Seek out retailers that support local artisans by showcasing them in their shop. In addition to the brick and mortar options, Columbus boasts dozens of holiday arts and crafts fairs all over town during the season. Get into the hometown holiday spirit and exercise your buying power to make a difference in your neighborhood by shopping local. Below are some links to resources for finding small businesses in your area and some alternative ideas for gift giving that will support your community. Happy shopping!

Get Started – Find Local Businesses in Your Neighborhood:

Small Business Beanstalk - The SBB is a wonderful site where you can search local businesses by neighborhood. You can also sign up for the free Neighbor program and receive a community SBB card that will get you deals and discounts from participating SBB businesses around central Ohio.

Books & Music:

Find local independent book sellers at

Vinyl’s been making a comeback for a while and Columbus has some incredible record stores like Spoonful Records, Used Kids and Lost Weekend Records. Click here to find more local listings.

Support local bands and give the gift of live music! Check out CD102.5 The Alternative Station's events calendar for upcoming shows. 102.5 regularly sponsors Low Dough shows for $5 and other concerts featuring local music that you and friends might enjoy.

Holiday Arts & Craft Fairs and More:

North Market Holiday Open House & Craft Extravaganza, December 3 & 4  - The North Market walks the talk for the buy local movement every day, but don’t miss this great annual holiday show featuring dozens of local artisans.

Columbus Winterfair, December 2-4 - Features a handcrafted holiday market of artisans from Ohio and beyond.

Merry Kitsch-Mas Group Exhibition presented by Cobenick Studios, December 2-January 10.  Celebrate the the warm, fuzzy, crafty, kitschy goodness that makes giving the gift of unique art fun.

Columbus College of Art & Design Holiday Art Sale, December 3  - THE place to find a wide range of artwork from more than 100 talented CCAD artists and alumni.

The Barrel & Bottle - Wine & beer tasting with gifts in mind, December 9

Gifts of the Craftsmen at the Ohio Craft Museum, through December 23

Cultural Arts Center gift shop - Items range from fine silver jewelry to kiln-fired pottery, clay and bronze sculptures to mixed media paintings made exclusively by the center’s students and faculty. – Peruse the portfolios of dozens of local artists. Many offer payment plans!

ARTS CLASSifieds – Why not sign up for an art class with a good friend and enjoy the creative process together? Search art classes by zip code and medium.

Support Favorite Local Arts & Cultural Organizations:

Tickets to a concert, play or a dance performance make wonderful gifts – and you can share in the experience. Or purchase a membership so that loved ones can enjoy the benefits throughout the year. Go to to search for information about local organizations, events and exhibitions.

Shop for a Cause!

The new Kit & Kaboodle Thrift Boutique run by Colony Cats (& dogs) Adoption Center has all kinds of items from donated work by local artisans to vintage and gently used items. 100% of the proceeds go to help homeless cats and dogs.

More interesting statistics and reasons to buy local:

101 Reasons to Buy Handmade!

Columbus Commons courtesy of

Off the Wall:  Ohio Art League
Presented by McConnell Arts Center
Through January 8

Holiday Pops
Presented by Columbus Symphony
December 2-4

Old Folks Own, A Play by Is Said
Presented by New Harvest Cafe & Urban Arts Center
December 2-11

Yelp in Toyland (to Benefit CD102.5 for the Kids)
Presented by Camelot Wine Cellars
December 3

Joy!  Home is Where the Hearth Is
Presented by Columbus Gay Men's Chorus
December 9-11

Columbus Commons Holiday Fair
Presented by Columbus Commons
December 16-18

Convergence: Works by Julie Friedman
Presented by Cultural Arts Center
Through December 24

Forties Yuletide Frolics
Presented by Mayhem & Mystery
Through December 29