Monday night begins the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Accompanied by friends, my family will be holding a celebratory dinner along with the ceremonial retelling of this story according to Jewish ritual, the Passover Seder.
There are many themes in this ceremony, the precious value of personal freedom, religion as a source of strength during adversity, many others. And if you will bear with me, the value of shopping locally here in Los Alamos.
The Seder has four parts, each punctuated by drinking a glass of wine; the first two, a reenactment of a painful slavery and the miraculous liberation are told before the meal is served. Certainly enjoying a plentiful meal is appropriate at that point in the story. Since it takes about one to two hours to get to this highlight (and did I mention two cups of wine?), it is not surprising that after dinner the kids are getting tired, the adults a little punchy, and everyone a little sleepy, so the thought of fast-forwarding through the post-meal parts three and four is enticing. Indeed, this is often the case so that the kids can get to sleep, the guests can get ready for work the next day, and whoever is stuck with doing the dishes can finish them before some ungodly hour, if you will pardon the pun.
It is also unfortunate, because parts three and four of the Seder, and the second two glasses of wine, celebrate the plenty that life can offer us and the final Days of Redemption to come, one that according to Jewish tradition, will arrive only when humanity comes to deserve it. In other words, the first two parts commemorate and acknowledge the past, while the next two face forward toward a future that we ourselves may be able to create.
The historical trajectory of Los Alamos County is at a similar junction. Within the next few months, the first phase of the Trinity Site project will be complete, and the new Smith’s Marketplace will provide a wider variety of products locally. It is up to us as a community whether this variety at Smith’s will be the only advantage this project will provide, or whether the new anchor store will reshape our overall shopping habits. Having to leave the Hill less often for necessities, will we look to and frequent our variety of retail businesses available already? Will we seek out our local merchants more often?
There are already promising efforts that bear highlighting. Several Facebook groups publicize and encourage local shopping. The “Los Alamos Restaurant Report” gives up-to-date news and reviews of local eateries. “KEEP IT LOCAL- Los Alamos” has almost 1,300 members accentuating local availability of products and services.
The Los Alamos Food Co+op is aggressively preparing for the inevitable “dip” due to the novelty of the new store, ready to serve a community where stopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s is not longer a convenient side trip.
I expect the same can be said for CB Fox, Metzger’s, Pet Pangaea, Fusion Multisport and many other local businesses. The County and the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation are developing new programs to highlight the surprising number and range of products available locally right here and now, and other programs to support new retail.
While Smith’s Marketplace is evidence corporate America is ready to spend millions to court our local dollars, it is up to us, the citizens, to do our part to revitalize our town by modifying our spending habits. It is not hard. The national average of local retail spending is about 30 percent. In Los Alamos it is 10 percent. Raising that rate to 15 percent is a 50 percent increase in local spending. A small commitment to increase our local spending will reward us with a more vital and vibrant community. And it will encourage and enable others to open more stores and restaurants. It is a future we hold the power to create.
Let’s spend our time here in Los Alamos and White Rock, enjoying Ashley Pond and other new projects under construction like the new White Rock library, Nature Center and Golf Course Community Building. It may not be Final Days of Redemption, but spending less time on NM-285 and I-25 is sure going to feel a little bit like it.
David Izraelevitz is a Los Alamos County Councilor.