I arrived at my gym this morning at 6:30 am. Unfortunately, my gym was no longer there. The building was there, just no equipment or machines. No, it's not like I've been slacking on my workouts and somehow missed the fact that the gym went out of business. In fact, I was here just this past Friday morning, working out. And yes, this Monday, my trainer met me in an empty room with a "free" core workout session and a card with the gym's new address. So what the h*ll happened in between Friday and Monday that made the Pico Athletic Club pick up and move two miles West, to a "safer" neighborhood? What made this great local business with surprisingly hard-core trainers abandon *my* neighborhood, a mile-long stretch of the Pico Corridor that I've grown to love for its thrift stores, modern design furnishing stores, Caribbean-infused gourmet taco shops, artery-clogging chicken-and-waffle and hot dog and greasy-spoon diner joints, strange and wonderful gift shops, organic cafes, all-natural rotisserie chicken and wine bars, french bakeries, inexpensive-but-fabulous shoe shops, surprisingly stylish-yet-affordable clothing stores, eco-centric art galleries, an independent live theater group, the diviest of dive bars and, most recently, a new sports-and-karaoke bar that serves locally sourced food.
These stores have been fighting for prominence in between the auto-body shops and pot dispensaries. They've been fighting for the soul of a neighborhood on the cusp of moving permanently beyond its 20-year-ago gangland roots and falling backwards into the mire. They've been fighting to not be ignored by downtown politics that are more beholden to the whiter, richer power brokers a few miles West and by the major police station three blocks away that's focused on the more dire situation a mile to our East.
But what really happened is that, three weeks ago, there was a shooting nearby and, as much as my incredible diverse, socio-economically mixed, predominantly single-family/duplex homes and homeowner populated, walkable, friendly neighborhood is fiercely fighting back, fear is starting to win. What happened is that gentrification is turning back and abandoning this social experiment in true Los Angeles urban living. What happened is that the recession is winning. What happened is that the gangs located a few miles from my neighborhood are winning. And all the rest of us are losing. My gym picked up and moved two miles West after a client was held up nearby, the empty storefronts aren't finding new renters, and white flight might start to make its ugly destabilizing creep.
What also happened is that I'm getting furious. This white girl isn't ceding ground yet. I'm not willing to lose my affordable, walkable, quirky, unevenly gentrified, urban oasis where local storeowners really DO know my name and appreciate my business. This is a uniquely Angeleno neighborhood in its racial composition, its socio-economic mixture, and its history in and out of difficult times. And this neighborhood has more fight in it than the thugs a mile east give us credit for.
You might be asking what any of this has to do with a wedding blog. Well, money and local shop patronage is what it has to do with a wedding blog. Perhaps you've seen the 350 Project Button on my blogroll, and wondered why it's there. It's there because the best way I know to fight back is to support my neighborhood: to shop here and live here and keep my money here so more shop owners don't decamp two miles West. It's here because, for every $100 spent at locally, independently-owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. (Only $43 stays local if you spend at a national chain and generally $0 stays local if you buy online). It's here because, if I shop local, the local shops stay and keep this neighborhood full of variety and walkable destinations. It's here because, if half the employed population spent just $50 per month at local shops, it would generate over $46.2 billion in revenue. It's here because, I don't know if you've heard, but Los Angeles - the second most populous city in the United States - it battling with the spectre of 4,000 municipal layoffs and possible bankruptcy and needs all the local support and tax revenue and jobs and entrepreneurs it can get.
So yes, the LA Flower Market might be cheaper for flowers but, if I need any for a last-minute bouquet, I'll try a local bodega down the street first. I might be able to find incredible shoes online, but I think I'll try Charli's first. I'm sure I could find bridesmaids gifts at the nearby Beverly Center mall, but I'll stop by Darren's before that. I know Sprinkles makes a mean cupcake, but I'm leaning towards getting a dessert buffet from La Maison Du Pain. And yes, as amazing as the Kogi BBQ mobile truck is, I wonder if Skye's Tacos might do an even better job for taco (non-truck) catering. I'll have to ask. Because right now we have somewhere in the ballpark of $20,000 to play with for this wedding, to directly support businesses that matter as we craft a day that matters. We're going to have to spend it anyhow, so I may as well make my dollars count. Obviously price is always a factor in consideration - if the local dress shops only have $2000 dresses and I can get something online for $1000, I'll have to make some hard decisions about budget vs values - but, overall, this wedding can make an impact in a neighborhood I love.
We're putting our money where our values and our neighborhood lie. How about you?