« * * Christiansburg's famous | Main | * * Rob Solomon wants everybody to have health care »

* * Marie March wants you to buy local


Marie March is a serial entrepreneur, a restless, creative, and vivacious woman who actively strives to make Christiansburg, and indeed the entire New River Valley, more prosperous. At the top of her resume is ownership of Due South Barbeque, which with her husband, Jared, a Radford physician, she founded 11 years ago and is now providing great food to local and traveling customers.

She’s recently gathered a handful of like-minded local business owners to form “NRV Home Grown,” to promote area businesses. They are emulating a model formed several years ago in Asheville, North Carolina, for the same reason. That group is the Asheville Grown Business Alliance.

She told me as we enjoyed a meal at her Due South, “My husband and I enjoy visiting Asheville. We went a few months ago and saw stickers in storefront window indicating membership in the group. That whole business community has bought into the idea of local ownership. We thought we could mimic what they’re doing.  

“We want the local consumers to understand the importance of small businesses. We want to go into the school system and help children and families understand as well.”

This is an idea that’s been part of my mindset from childhood, when my dad owned and managed a commercial printing company that I later inherited. He always preached the gospel of keeping the money in the community. “Buy from Angles or Wades Supermarkets instead of Kroger,” he often said. Now, Angles is gone and Wades is struggling to hang on.

“Lots of people think if you shop at your local McDonalds and Walmart,” she continued, “you’re shopping locally. But that’s not what it means.”

McDonalds, Walmart, Lowes, Kroger, Home Depot, 7-Eleven, and many others are massive international corporations whose profits are siphoned elsewhere. 7-Eleven is even owned by the Japanese. Dollars spent at Walmart ultimately enrich the Walton family of Bentonville, Arkansas. The descendents of founder Sam Walton have a combined wealth of over $163 billion dollars and are America’s richest family.

“When you shop at my restaurants,” she said, munching a barbequed chicken wing, “that money is staying put.” Her restaurants buy food from local farmers and materials from local vendors. Her profits are re-invested in her other businesses, including the newer Fatback Soul Shack and a boarding house on East Roanoke Road.

She said that what separates the local businesses from the chains is creativity. “It’s like an art form. The owner can put so much of themselves into the businesses. How they manage their staff. How they treat their customers. How they formulate their products. Small businesses like mine provide lots of little benefits to our staff to keep them happy and motivated. Ball games. Picnics together. Walmart doesn’t do that for their staff. That stuff goes on with local businesses every day.”

Multi-national corporations have systemic advantages, especially in an era of cheap transportation and cheap energy. Walmart can buy shoes in the millions from manufactures in India, Indonesia, and Vietnam and have them shipped here, reaping the benefits of the economy of scale. I’ve heard that if you buy running shoes for $50, only $0.25 went into delivering them from overseas. According to Marie, Amazon can ship directly from their massive warehouses and they’re getting preferential rates from the US Postal Service. And they own their own credit card companies.

“We’ve found niches,” she said. “When someone spends $30 here, we’re spending some of that on local farmers. We use local honey for our sauces. My restaurant competitors are getting food that’s been produced regionally or nationally and shipped here. It’s not as healthy, as nutritious. When we can, we donate to local charities.”

Marie explained that businesses participating in NRV Home Grown sell business cards for $20 that enable consumers to save when they shop at other participating businesses. She and her partners are looking to recruit 1400 businesses. “We have 100 already,” she said. “It costs them nothing and gives them visibility. There’s no reason to say no.

“I am all about creating camaraderie, inclusiveness, togetherness, and visibility. We need to educate the consumers, from the children up. They’re the entrepreneurs of the future.

“I’m always doing things,” she beamed. “I want others to realize they can do things as well. But if they don’t, I’m going to!”

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>