Last updated: August 23. 2013 12:52PM - 12 Views

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I love a good burrito, and Chipotle makes a good burrito.I'm not saying that because Elida Road's newest fast-food spot gave me a free meal in its opening week (although it did). I'm also not saying Chipotle serves the best burrito I ever have eaten. It's just good and something different in Fast Food Alley.But I won't eat there often. It's not truly local, and buying local is everything.A few months ago, I met Jennifer Brogee in an Allen Lima Leadership class. She's co-owner of The Meeting Place on Market and a champion of Lima's downtown.Brogee bravely questions why local leaders work so hard to attract large businesses from outside the community while doing far less to help the small guy start up. And she's happy to share hard data on why buying local makes sense.A study in Michigan's Kent County found that buying from a locally owned, independent business keeps 73 percent of the money in the community. Purchases from a national chain leave about 43 percent of the money in the community. Think of the difference those dollars make when they stay in the pockets of your friends and neighbors, rather than flying far away.Local restaurants tend to supply from nearby vendors and generally pay their employees better. And better-paid employees spend more in the community.I always have bordered on fanatical when it comes to buying local. I harass Facebook friends about it. I post online reviews to lend neighboring shops an online presence. I'm willing to spend extra and drive across town to avoid buying from chains.Instead of Chipotle, try to grab a bite at Jalepeņos on Shawnee Road. The rice is the highest quality Himalayan long grain basmati. The meat is fresh, and the produce is delicious. When I wrote a nasty review after one bad experience at Jalepeņos, the manager personally wrote me and invited me back in for another try. Buying local means making connections.Instead of the Biggby Coffee drive-thru, visit The Meeting Place on Market Street. It hasn't forgotten the soul of coffee shops goes beyond a fancy iced drink. Locals go there to meet; there's live music. The Meeting Place supports and showcases local artists, offers a few board games and has an ever-evolving menu that swiftly reacts to community suggestions and tastes. Buying local means developing Lima's flavor.And you have no excuse for buying national chain pizza in Lima. How can you take a bite of Papa John's or Pizza Hut when we have Rigali's, Beer Barrel, Fat Jack's and Westgate Lanes? When your local bowling alley makes a better pie than national chains, you have no excuse for ordering Domino's, even though the online pizza tracker is mesmerizing.The Allen County Museum put together a slideshow of Lima's downtown in its heyday. Today's Main Street ghost town is hardly recognizable in the images of bustling streets, sidewalk sales, happy shoppers and packed parking spots. While others are celebrating the new Walmart Supercenter on Allentown Road, I'm remembering those mid-century images and wondering if life wouldn't be a little more colorful if we'd stayed loyal, stayed local and put our hearts and minds before our pocketbooks and lethargy.Just because it's convenient doesn't mean it's good, and you get what you pay for.

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