This past Friday I stopped by McDade's Market in Maywood after work (by which I mean "after dark"—I'd had an interesting week of Donna and me doing most of the bookkeeping for the JFP) and got a growler refill of one of my favorite pale ales; 64-ounces is a little over 5 bottles worth of beer, freshly poured from the cold tap and priced nicely.
With summer dawning, it's time to head out to the farmers markets, roadside stands, local pubs, restaurants and, yes, locally owned groceries and co-ops. Now is a perfect time—and this is a perfect issue—to remind ourselves that of each $100 spent with a local business, $45 of it is returned to the local community; $100 spent at a chain generally means only $13 is returned to the local community.
Local business owners who do well invest in the local economy; they work with local banks and credit unions, they hire local accountants and attorneys, they put more money into local charities, local schools, and local real estate. They buy cars and trucks from local dealers. The list goes on and on.
Of course, you'll find yourself in national businesses every once in a while—the only one I absolutely refuse to step foot in is Walmart/Sam's Club, and that's going on at least 15 years now. (There's one exception—one time in Natchez about eight years ago when Donna had left me stranded in a hotel room to chase an old Klansman and I had to buy a frozen pizza from Walmart.) But every time we choose a local business—Barefield Workspace Solutions instead of Office Depot, McDade's over Kroger, Montgomery Hardware over Home Depot—we're making a choice to help enrich our local area and keep the money flowing in the local economy at least as well as the beer does these days.
A recent conversation turned to our local dining economy, and I noted that, in Jackson, eating out has nearly become a "fine art" all its own. Wonderful restaurants keep upping the game in the metro area, with new flavors appearing all the time. The 2014 JFP Chef Week (with the winners celebrated in this issue on Page 13) had 26 participating chefs and head cooks, all with their own stories, backgrounds, charity choices—and all with a passion for what they're doing.
It's that passionate approach that makes the food good, the beer good (especially the local stuff, which we celebrate in this week's annual JFP Taste-Off with Raise Your Pints) and the company so good—it's the local folks who are working like crazy to make a difference in Jackson and surrounding communities so that the area continues to have an authentic sense of place.
How can you help? The best plan is just to try—shift some spending from chains to local places where possible, and think of every opportunity you can to "Go Local First" before you head out to a chain. Is it more "convenient" to shop a superstore? It might be—but you might also be enticed into buying stuff you don't need. Give a try to shopping a local place and see if you don't enjoy the experience a little more.
Meanwhile, I mentioned "passion"—I need to call out some new names on the JFP masthead who had already exhibited a great deal of passion for the work they're doing at the JFP, and who have moved into permanent or new spots because of it; our updated team is fully operational with this issue. This week, Amber Helsel takes the helm as assistant editor, moving to management over JFP and BOOM Jackson production and features. Amber started as an intern, was hired as editorial assistant and has consistently proven her worth, drive and dedication repeatedly, earning the promotion.
Taking Amber's old assistant spot is Micah Smith, who already writes a music column for the JFP. Put it this way: He is already indispensible to all of us.
Haley Ferretti has lost the "interim" in front of her name and is now our city reporter, working closely with News Editor R.L. Nave and our newly hired investigative reporter Anna Wolfe; Haley managed to swim strongly when we threw her into the deep end during our recent surprise mayoral election, and she's dug into some key city issues with strong reporting on her beat. Anna, a recent Mississippi State grad, joins the JFP from the Starkville Free Press (SFP), where she's already made a name for herself with her in-depth reporting and ability to write long-form stories that tell the truth about difficult issues—from suicide to abortion.
Anna isn't the only new addition—joining her from Misssisippi State is Carmen Cristo as our features writer; Carmen was also with the SFP, where she showed great talent in interviewing real people and writing their stories in compelling narratives. She's a trendsetter with terrific style and an avowed foodie, so she'll work closely with Amber on our fashion and food coverage, as well as write compelling features.
I also mentioned bookkeeping—this week Melanie Collins joins us as numbers-person-in-chief and already has her hands ink-stained with invoices, statements and credit-card vouchers. We're extremely excited she's here, and we look forward to our local business customers getting to know her well!
It wouldn't be a Donna Ladd Production without summer interns—we've got a gaggle of them gathered around the big table, interviewing, filing stories, attending workshops, packing into meetings at City Hall and the Old Capitol. This is a talented lot from a multitude of schools, from Mississippi State, Ole Miss to Alcorn State, Murrah High School and Jackson Prep, St. Andrew's and St. Joe's. There are at least two school editors-in-chief among the lot. The JFP's new space has never felt more collaborative than with this "new" team in place—not to mention a group of teen Girl Scouts who start this week, helping with Donna's latest youth media project plan. Stay tuned.
We're also thrilled for Operations Manager David Joseph who is starting a new restaurant management gig this week—we'll let him tell you where—but is staying on Team JFP as our operations consultant and cheerleader-in-chief. We also wish departing features editor Kathleen Mitchell and bookkeeper Aprile Smith great success as they move to new positions. We appreciate their work here.
So be sure to put all these great folks on your summer reading list by picking up the JFP each week, checking us out at jfp.ms on desktop or mobile, or subscribe to the JFP at Issuu.com/jacksonfreepress. And, as always, remember to Shop Local!
Todd Stauffer is the publisher of the Jackson Free Press and BOOM Jackson magazine.