It’s easy to miss if you’re not for it looking, but the truth is that London Ontario actually has a vivacious community of local businesses that are thriving. Small start ups and young entrepreneurs have been popping up all over London over the past few years, giving this city an incredible, unique identity. While we might still have those big box store chains, we’ve created this ecosystem of local businesses supporting other local businesses whose roots are slowly, but surely, getting deeper and more widespread across the city.
Some of you reading this might find this completely surprising, as we have Tim Hortons on seemingly every corner, and five Winners within our humble city, and while the chains can do quite well, there is a whole layer of people selling local, hand crafted, quality goods and services all over this great city. At the same time, anyone reading this who follows #ldnont hashtags on social media, or who frequents the numerous markets, bazaars, fests, and craft and home shows that happen throughout the year will not be shocked by the news at all.
We will be diving into the many great local businesses that London has to offer, but before we do that, let’s look at why we should even care that London loves local in the first place. I mean, who cares if you buy your morning java at Starbucks or at Hasbeans, right? Well, the truth is that there are a lot of great reasons why shopping local is the better choice. Here are a few good ones:
Supporting local businesses is a great way to keep a healthy economy within your city. The money that big box stores make go directly into the pockets of those owners, who do not live in London. They spend their money and use the banks in whatever city they live in. Since local businesses owner live in London, the money that they make gets spend in this city, and back into other London businesses.
As local entrepreneurs start getting their foothold in the business world, they start to hire help, which opens up more job opportunities in London. Not only that, but because these are people who are pouring their life and soul into their local joint, they’re going to make sure that their employees are thoroughly trained, well paid, and are treated much better. Mass chains tend to have a lot of employees who don’t care about the store that they’re working at and are just there for the paycheque. But when you’re working with someone who has built the business from the ground up and is passionate about it, you cannot help but feel inspired to work hard and make every day count.
One thing that I absolutely love about the small businesses in London Ontario is how much they support each other. If you follow any local businesses on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll notice how they give shoutouts to each other, team up for contest/giveaway prizes, and engage with each other’s posts. These entrepreneurs are working together to spread the word to consumers about the incredible products and services that are available to us.
They also work together to make things as local as possible. Forest and City Company, for example, uses local, reclaimed, and upcycled materials in all of their items. Plant Matter Kitchen works with local farms to use their produce.
On top of that, local businesses support local endeavours. They are teaming up with charities to raise money for great causes. They are supporting local soccer teams. They’re teaming up together to bring us experiences like beer and yoga, or wine and paint nights. Head to any of our weekly markets, go to a lifestyle/home/craft show, or show up to any of the multiple fests that we have every year, and you’re likely going to come across a myriad of small, local businesses, and amazing hand crafted goods. Through all of these things, they are fostering a vibrancy within our city that is adding to our quality of living.
When you have tens or hundreds of restaurants, stores, or services across Canada (or North America, or the world), there is a lot of shipping and transportation that needs to happen to ensure that your customers are getting the same quality of product at each location. This adds to the carbon emissions, and the packaging waste that is already too much for our planet to handle. When you’re shopping local, the ecological footprint is reduced significantly. These local businesses are making their products and distributing their services directly here in London. There is no extra shipping, packaging, or transportation needed. On top of that, a lot of the small businesses in London, such as Plant Matter Kitchen, V Food Spot, and Globally Local, are using sustainable, eco-friendly practices that consumers can feel good about.
People love visiting towns and cities that have character. Bayfield is known for the fact that in the summertime most of the townspeople will gather together at the lookout and watch the sunset together. Niagara-on-the-lake is known for its wineries and bed and breakfasts. Stratford is known for its theatres and its pretty water views. Those places have character. If your city is full of the standard stores, goods, and restaurants that you can find anywhere else in Canada, what point is there to visit or want to move to that city? London is growing into an incredible little city with so much character. Did you know that we have EIGHT different local breweries in London? Eight! We also have a really strong vegan food scene here. In fact, people used to feel that you had to head over to Toronto to get a truly great meal, but recently London has been hearing the cries of the foodies and is building up an amazing variety of great restaurants. And our local hand crafted goods? Well just head to any home/craft show or bazaar and you’ll be amazed at home many high quality, hand made things you can get here!
It’s funny living in London, because when you talk to anyone outside of Ontario, you have to explain that no, you don’t live in London, ENGLAND, you live in London, Ontario, which is in Canada. Our city can sometimes feel like a smaller, lesser known rip-off of the UK city: we have the Thames River
, The Covent Garden Market,
and even our streets and parks have many of the same names. But the truth is that London, Ontario has its own unique identity. We are a city that supports the little guy. We are the city where small businesses thrive and people’s dreams can come true. We have the ONLY Anderson’s Craft Ale
in the world. We are the home to Forest and City Co, Purdy Natural,
The Early Bird Diner, and Roll Roll. And those are things that we can be proud of.
Better Customer Service
Let’s be honest here for a moment, when you walk into a Tim Hortons or a Walmart, the employees that you interact with have zero stake in whether or not your experience is a great one or just an okay one. They don’t care if you come back or not. They’re in a well-established place of employment and absolutely nothing about their job is riding on whether or not you tell your friends to shop or eat there. But when you’re dealing with a local business, the customer’s voice is EVERYTHING. Small businesses owners will work hard to give you the very best customer service possible because they need your business and they need word of mouth to be in their favour.
Small, local businesses also have much more knowledgeable employees. They can tell you where they get their produce, or how each item in the store was crafted. They have that knowledge because what they’re selling you isn’t something mass produced that was shipped to them. What they are selling you is something that they, or their boss, passionately created.
It Feels Good
Whether you’ve stopped at CommonWealth Coffee and grabbed a Boxcar Donut, stopped for a pint at Storm Stayed Brewery, or you’ve picked up a cute Bambeanie for a baby shower at OVer Collective, you’re helping someone achieve their dream. Your simple act of choosing local over a chain store is validating the time, effort, money, and hope that someone poured into making that product. It feels good to shop local. It feels good to know that you’re helping someone achieve their dreams.
Now that you know that London is almost bursting at the seams with small, local businesses, you’ll be keeping your eyes open for them, and will be surprised at just how many there are. Maybe you’ve been eating at these places, shopping at these places, without even realizing the fact that you’re supporting local. But now you will, and you can feel really good about it.
Living in London Ontario has a lot of benefits. Our city has a large number of great trails, parks and green spaces that are spaced out through the entire area, which means that no matter where you live, you’re never too far from enjoying a really pleasant walk. We have a good number of shopping plazas throughout the city so that every neighbourhood has conveniences and amenities close by. Our housing market is booming, with so many beautiful new builds popping up all around, and is so much more affordable than those in the Greater Toronto Area. On top of all of that, we have a large and amazing community of small businesses that are totally and completely unique to London. Our city has character and it is time to celebrate that fact.
If you’re wondering what kind of small, local businesses London has to offer, stay tuned! We’re going to be diving into different businesses here in London to showcase the amazing, talented, resourceful entrepreneurs that have decided to take the big leap and make their dreams come true in this amazing forest city of ours. In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to connect and get to know local businesses so that you can support them! Check out the following hashtags: #ldnont, #519shoplocal, #forestcity, #shoplocalldnont and #londonontario. On top of that, head to the Covent Garden’s farmer’s market on Thursdays and Saturdays and the Farmer’s Market at the Western Fair District
on the weekends. Keep your eyes peeled for events that come up like the fests, craft and home shows, and bazaars, as they happen throughout the year and are always full of a lot of the local businesses that don’t have brick and mortar shops.
But we also want to hear from you! Do you have a favourite mom and pop shop here in London that you love? Do you know of a small London business that is just starting to get off the ground that you want to acknowledge? Are YOU a small businesses owner in London and want to share your story of what it has been like building it up in the forest city? Do you have any other reasons why you choose to support local? Whatever your opinions are, whatever it is that you want to say, we want to hear from you!