It began with Walmart. At least for me. When Walmart grew in strength, size, and influence, I began to understand the negative impact of convenience on a community’s health and heart. My kids were in Waldorf School by then. Parents, teachers and children banded together to create festivals in honor of nature’s changing seasons, and the impermeable nature of our lives, both within and without. It was the most bucolic period of my life, abundant in a loving community.
The drive to support local economies was further imbedded into my psyche and actions when I served as the community developer for the Anaheim Packing District. It was my job to introduce this new venue to a fully established community. It was like breaking into the cool crowd with the secret password, which I gained when I told them my family had arrived in the area in 1767. My grandmother had gone to Anaheim High School and worked in the packing house in 1941, I told the people who lived in Anaheim’s Mother Colony’s turn of the century homes. Then they shared stories of an iconic small town Anaheim before Disneyland. One that resembled Mayberry. In this community, everyone came together in case of frost, a young boy could sell mistletoe on the corner street to buy his mother a Christmas present and everyone came to the Halloween parade.
Now, I live in a town of 1,000 people where the nearest grocery store in 20 minutes away, and the closest big box stores (like my beloved Trader Joe’s or Home Depot) are in another state. We’re east of nowhere out here where the rock lickers (climbers) and shit kickers (cowboys) and tree huggers (hippies like me) are learning to get along. When Amazon Prime was introduced, it was a boon of amazing luck. You could shop from home when it was ten degrees outside and blizzarding. But then I read an article that changed all that. Unfair Advantage, an artcle by Stacy Mitchell On How Amazon Undermines Local Economies, sheds light on how this conglommeration will soon consume, literally own, our buying options. It has opened my eyes. Afterall, we all vote with our dollars.
I’m happy to wait two days for a book from Spellbinder Books, an independent woman-owned bookstore and community hub in Bishop. Spellbinder’s shelves are brimming with a broad spectrum of books including, books local Native culture, ranching history, climbs, hikes, fishing, photography and wildflowers of the Eastern Sierra. Community members helped to create a robust used-book section with their donations.
Recently my friend Kristen Parrish, owner of My Vibrant Life, and I went shopping to the grocery stores within fifty miles to find the healthiest most inexpensive options. I was so pleased that the optimal place was the local Manor Market, which I already knew as the perfect place to grab a picnic, snacks, and a good IPA before heading out to the back country.
In 1969, Troy and Susie Oney purchased Manor Market and it has been family run and community-focused ever since. Localvores before it was popular, the Oneys raised grass-fed sheep and grew fruits and vegetables they sold at the store. Today, you can find local eggs, honey, beef, lamb, pork, organic produce, coffee, candy, and other favorites.
Troy has always been an innovator and opened a self-serve gas station in the mid-1970s and later traveled with his children, DeeAnn, Brenda and Kyle, to the burgeoning Napa Valley to stock an impressive wine cellar. Continuing the tradition, Manor Market wine cellar boasts of more than 300 carefully curated wines and Bishop‘s only beer cave. They purchase from family-run wineries like Matchbook Wines.
In 1982, Kyle took over the family business and has been carrying on the family legacy by donating to more than fifty non-profit organizations, including Future Farmers of America and 4H, and adapting to the times with 300 solar panels and self-serve meat counter.
“When I took over at the helm, everybody told me to specialize,” says Kyle. “But I wanted to be a store for the people and provide something for everybody. Manor Market has always been a labor of love for our entire family.”
Manor Market is the kind of place I want to support. It’s the store where they remember your name. For fifty years, they’ve lived by their motto, Us Little Folks Try Harder. That’s really the point, the little guys are part of your community. And in the end, we need each other.