Celebrate Plaid Friday – support local, independent Oakland businesses

24 Nov

Things have been pretty heated in Oakland for the last month. Many Oaklanders who have worked together in the past (some for many years) are now debating each other about Occupy Oakland. Some Oaklanders love it, others hate it, and others love the idea but have been turned off by recent actions. I’ve seen and been part of many heated debates online and in person about the effects of Occupy Oakland on our city.

Last week, I got into a particularly heated debate with a close friend of mine on Twitter that quickly devolved since there’s very little room for nuance or explanation in 140 characters. I left the conversation feeling very angry (and I’m sure he did too). Later that day I picked up the phone and called him, and I’m so glad I did. It turned out that though we had been talking past each other on Twitter, we actually agreed on quite a bit and respected each other’s perspectives.

I hope others are doing the same – having real conversations with each other about Occupy Oakland and what it means. We need to remember that after this phase of Occupy Oakland is finished, just like after elections when we might disagree, we all have to work together again. The problems in our city are not going away, and we can address them so much more effectively if we work together.

So on this Thanksgiving, I hope Oaklanders will come together and support each other. One easy way to do that is to shop locally on this Plaid Friday and this weekend.Plaid Friday was created in Oakland a couple of years ago as an alternative to Black Friday and to support and promote local businesses. Shopping locally keeps more money in our local economy and helps ensure that local businesses – many of which are struggling in this down economy – are able to stay open.

Every year Plaid Friday gets bigger and bigger, and now many cities across the country participate. You can celebrate Plaid Friday by shopping at any local, independent store, but many businesses participate in Plaid Friday with specials and entertainment. You can find the full list of participating stores on the Plaid Friday website. But even if you’re not so into shopping, you should head to downtown this Friday for In the Black: Blackout Oakland, a community festival to keep independent local businesses in the black. Here’s some more information from the Facebook event:

This is an opportunity to boycott large corporations and still find fantastic gifts. We have it all: downtown stores, vendors, pop-up shops, restaurants and local food vendors plus art, live performances, and a fantastic roster of local DJs and musicians will be participating in the festivities.

Sounds pretty fun, huh? Stop by downtown Oakland on Friday from 11am-6pm to enjoy the festivities and to support local businesses.

But maybe you really, really hate shopping and don’t even want to step into a store on Friday, this weekend or ever. Don’t worry – you can still support local businesses! This year, Oakland Grown is offering a local gift card! Oakland Grown is a super awesome organization that promotes and supports local businesses, and I’m proud that Living in the O is one of the few non-business members of it.

Gene at Our Oakland wrote a great blog post a few weeks ago explaining the gift card:

Gift cards have grown increasingly popular because they make gift-giving easier. No more wrong thing, wrong color, wrong size, because the recipient gets to pick it out. But gift cards can be impersonal: “I care about you enough to get you something—go get something from this generic big-box national retailer.” The Oakland Grown gift card gives the recipient flexibility, but at the same time says “I care about you, and I care about the city we live in and its people, too—support a local, independent business.” If you enjoy shopping or exploring Oakland, you could even join your friend or loved one to see what they choose.

Oakland Grown is starting with a small pilot program, with a few dozen Oakland merchants participating, but they’re planning on scaling it up in time for the holidays. And if you’re wondering, the company powering the card is an Oakland business, too.

You can buy a gift card online at the Oakland Grown website or in one of the participating stores. The list of participating stores is a bit small right now, but features some great places, including my favorite Oakland jewelry artist, Rosemary Dudley Designs. The list has been growing though and should continue to grow throughout the holiday season. So if you’re not so into shopping but love gift giving, the Oakland Grown gift card is a great option.

Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope to see you downtown tomorrow celebrating Plaid Friday!

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