2012-06-15 / Front Page

Buy Local releases new list

By Jack Flagler Staff Writer


Dani Nisbet, center, owner of Belissimo Salon, and Laurie Moulton, right, co-owner of Fresh Look Cleaners, are two of the local business owners who began the South Portland Buy Local Organization. Here, they speak with Sade Peters, marketing and communications coordinator for Sea Dog Brewing Co. (Jack Flagler photos) Dani Nisbet, center, owner of Belissimo Salon, and Laurie Moulton, right, co-owner of Fresh Look Cleaners, are two of the local business owners who began the South Portland Buy Local Organization. Here, they speak with Sade Peters, marketing and communications coordinator for Sea Dog Brewing Co. (Jack Flagler photos) When the U.S. economy was nearing its lowest point during the height of the “great recession” in 2009, South Portland business owners Dani Nisbet and Laurie Moulton decided they needed to take action to turn things around.

Both business owners had been in the South Portland area for more than 30 years, Nisbet as owner of Belissimo Salon, and Moulton running Fresh Look Cleaners with her husband Dominic. Nisbet said in all that time, she had never seen the economy that bad, so they decided to go to all the local business owners they knew in the area (many, it turned out), and have a discussion about how to band together.

That was the start of the South Portland Buy Local Organization, which began with a core group of roughly eight business owners at a roundtable discussion, and now boasts more than 200 locally owned businesses as members. South Portland Buy Local released its second annual business directory June 12. The new directory includes about 20 more new businesses than the previous year’s version. The organization celebrated the event with a launch party at the Snow Squall Restaurant on Ocean Street the same day as the release.

Nisbet was the president of South Portland Buy Local until she recently stepped down. She has also served on the steering committee for an organization that brought local business owners together around New England, the New England Local Business Forum.

Nisbet said the original group of eight business owners that started the organization “had no idea what to do at all.” Now, two years after the organization got off the ground, she said when she told business owners at the New England Local Business Forum of the 200 South Portland businesses that had joined the organization in two years, they laughed in astonishment.

“I said, ‘What are you laughing at?’” Nisbet recalled. “They said, ‘That’s absolutely fabulous. Are you kidding me? How did you do that?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, but we did it.’”

When Nisbet stepped down as president of the organization, she was replaced by Suzanne Madores, owner of the Internet marketing company “Girl in the Orange Coat.” Madores has helped companies such as the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland and the Moultons’ Fresh Look Cleaners reach out to customers through social media, and now will apply those skills to continue growing South Portland Buy Local.

Madores said joining a buy local organization affords businesses the ability to use the skills they are individually good at to work cooperatively and help fellow local business owners in the network. This, she hopes, will cut down on the “unfortunate loss” of locally owned businesses that have closed their doors.

The directory launch event featured a brief presentation from Joe Grafton, founder of Somerville Local First, which brings together locally owned businesses in the Somerville, Mass. area. Grafton said a consumer’s power to choose where to spend money is one of the most important decisions he or she can make on a daily basis.

“In my mind, money is power. The best way that we can exercise our collective power as individuals and communities and organizations is to build local economies and keep our money where we live,” Grafton said.

“To me, there are a lot of things that need to change in the world to make it a better place, a more fair place, a more sustainable place. A lot of those things, we as individuals don’t have control over. What we do have control over is what we do when we take our wallet or our purse out,” he added.

South Portland Mayor Patti Smith echoed those thoughts. She said supporting local businesses is particularly important to Maine’s economy.

“Maine is all about small and medium businesses. Sure, there are some big players out there. But especially in South Portland, we love our neighborhoods. We love our little shopping centers. I think because Mainers like to take care of their neighbors, they like to shop locally,” Smith said. “When people spend their money here, a lot of that money stays in the community.”

Many of the business owners at the launch party took home bundles of the directory, which they will make available in their businesses around the city. To become a member of the organization, a business must be locally owned and independent, which means the business must be headquartered and registered in Maine and have at least one location in South Portland. The owner of the business must also be a resident of the city and have complete decisionmaking authority over the business. For more information, visit sopobuylocal.com.

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