Saturday, 11 January 2014

Chainstores and Chainsaws...

I'm a big fan of shopping local.  Actually I'm a big fan of physical shops full stop.  After several years of having to buy many things online while in the Falkland Islands you find you miss them.  It is such a pleasure to actually touch something I'm thinking of buying and physically compare items.  Of course I still buy online.  We're still too far from a good range of major shops not to and it can be very convenient.  However, where I can, I like to go to a physical store to look at things and, since they've gone to all the expense of employing people and running a shop, I prefer to buy in the real world too.

When it comes to big purchases it can be a challenge to shop local and it's definitely worth doing a bit of research online.  However, it can be very rewarding if you find the right independent store.

As friends and regular readers will know we have a wood burning stove which we use as the main source of heat for our house.  Farming friends have kindly offered us their spare dead wood, but it needs to be chopped and a bow-saw just doesn't cut it.  (Are you enjoying my puns?)  So, it was time for Husband's desire for a chainsaw (also useful in the event of a zombie apocalypse) to be seriously considered.  In preparation for this I bought him some chainsaw proof trousers (online, I admit, but it was only days until Christmas and you can't get them at the local clothes shop).

The chainsaw was a different matter.  A bit of research on the Internet, although Husband was pretty sure he wanted a Stihl, and we headed to a town some miles away to see if the independent Home & Garden store there - Webbs of Crickhowell - had what we were looking for.  With Miss C & Mr M in tow, it was a little adventure.  Husband went straight to the chainsaw display, pleased to see there were Stihls available.  After a few minutes I left him to it to take Miss C on a bit of a wander before she destroyed something - she seems to have just realised that she is two.  There was furniture to resist touching and a lovely vase that would have been wonderful to hold, but we navigated the store and an exciting set of stairs without damages.

When we returned Mr M was seated on the floor in front of a range cooker, watching Daddy examining chainsaws.  Husband was disappointed.  The chainsaw he wanted was above the very generous budget of money given by his mum for this purchase and he decided we should head on to Hay-on-Wye to see if he could get a better deal - or reconcile himself to something less powerful.

We took a walk around the store again while he mulled this and were approached by a gentleman (I'm pretty sure it was the store owner, actually) who asked if we needed any help.  "Oh, we're fine, we're just looking at Chainsaws," said Husband, nonchalantly - despite being some distance from the chainsaw display.

"Did you see anything you liked?"

"Well, yes, but it's above budget," admitted Husband.

"Did Mark (we'll call him Mark) help you?  I'm sure he can do you a deal."

"No, we didn't speak to anyone."

"Let me get Mark.  Mark!  This gentleman would like a deal on a chainsaw..."

And that is one of the reasons why I love to buy local.  The staff in an independent store are much more invested in their customers - and much more willing to make sure they have tried everything to help you leave the store satisfied.

The other reason I love to buy from independent shops is what happened next.  "Mark" took Husband back to the display and they began discussing the different models, assembling one from a box and discussing safety issues.  Miss C and I wandered off again as she began to get bored and after several minutes of 'Yes, it's lovely but don't touch..." we returned to find Husband and Mr M looking for us so that I could take Mr M while Husband had a bit of training in how to use a chainsaw and try out the two main contenders.  (Having never used a chainsaw before the value of this impromptu lesson was incalculable.)

Miss C, Mr M and I followed the two chainsaw wielding men outside and stood and watched - and listened - as Husband played with the new toys.  Sorry, not toy, serious & useful piece of machinery.

After a while longer of watching this, and Miss C's increasing frustration at all the waiting around, I decided to do what I probably should have done half an hour before - see if there was a cafe near by.  We headed outside and two doors down was probably one of the most glorious bakeries I have ever been in - another independent store.  The cakes looked gorgeous and were enormous.  The doughnuts were twice the size of a normal doughnut.  We bought a cream doughnut for Daddy, shortbread trees for Miss C & Mr M and a huge apple & blackberry pie (three times bigger than a Mr Kipling!) for me.  I think we will have to go back to Crickhowell very soon.

We returned to Webbs just in time to give Husband our phone number (after a year he still hasn't got the faintest idea what it is) as he completed the purchase of one Stihl Chainsaw - professional quality with an excellent discount to bring it into budget.

And of course, it wasn't long after we got home that Husband donned his Chainsaw proof trousers, ear defenders and goggles and headed out into the garden to tackle the branches we had hacked from the old apple tree several weeks ago.

Do you seek out independent stores or do you always find yourself shopping in a chainstore?

What was the last thing that you 'Bought Local'?


  1. Orli, Just Breathe14 January 2014 at 14:32

    I love buying local, and when we lived in Gib we did all the time, but here in London... It's much more complicated whereas internet shopping is so much easier. I try to get things from stores that sell hand-made at least, but at the end of the day except from fruits & veg, I buy most my stuff online and in chain stores.

  2. Local is a different kind of experience in London! Independent means exclusive and expensive, usually. My big thing at the minute is trying to eat in independent cafes, but it feels so much more comfortable to go to somewhere I 'know' - especially if I have the kids in tow!


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