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Buy Michigan Now Experiment: THE FINAL BLOG

by Guest Blogger: Jennifer Berkemeier on Sep 30th 2010

I can’t believe how fast six months have gone by! It seems like just last week that my boyfriend and I made a pledge to try and change our buying, eating and recreational habits to purchase only Michigan-made products and shop at Michigan-based stores for six months.   What a difference a few months makes! When we started our experiment I felt like the six months ahead would be truly challenging; I felt buying only Michigan would be expensive and my choices would be severely limited. I was sure I would be giving up all my favorite foods and making other sacrifices. Six months later I can assure all of the Buy Michigan Now readers that my fears were unfounded and in fact the opposite proved to be true!

I am writing this final blog to give a summary of what I learned in the past six months in my efforts to buy only Michigan. First thing I did was to realize the potential benefits in buying Michigan; it takes a change in mindset and an understanding that each individual in our great state can make a difference. The second action item was to go to and take the pledge online, as well as to make a personal pledge to concentrate my buying habits to focus on buying only Michigan products, or buy from a Michigan-based store. Third step was to do a little online research and make some phone calls to stores near me to find out which grocery stores, pet food suppliers, restaurants, auto shops, outdoor stores and gourmet food and gift items were Michigan-owned or carried Michigan-made products. I was able to find new places to shop that were still close to my home, or I figured out how to re-route my drive to work and places I frequently go in order to make a Michigan store on my way. Finally, I kept my eyes and ears open for new Michigan shopping opportunities, reading articles and just talking to people at every opportunity, asking for others’ favorite Michigan items. 
Armed with my new knowledge and my passion to contribute more to Michigan’s economy, I set out on my mission. My first big surprise came when I found out how many Michigan-based grocery stores were located within 10 miles of my house. I quickly familiarized myself with the new products offered, the aisles and the hours of operation, and made those stores my “new” stops for big and small trips for weekly groceries or quick little chocolate and snack runs. I also reacquainted myself with all the wonderful and exciting independent grocers in our state, indulging in Michigan wines, beers, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, snacks, salsas and beverages. We can’t forget the local farmers’ markets for all things fresh and local, not to mention the unique gift items and a great way to fill a Saturday morning. There is no shortage of locally owned stores from which to buy delicious and healthy Michigan products.
A very fun part of this experiment for me was to find ways to fill my free time that would contribute to the Michigan economy. This was even easier than finding places to grocery shop! Michigan has endless opportunities to fill our time, whether we are young, old, single, married; whether you like quiet nights outdoors or buying tickets to a musical performance; whether you like staying at home or driving a few hours north. In the last six months I bought tickets to a Tigers game, tickets to a performance at the Seligman Performing Arts Center to see a world-class performance of classical guitar, drove up north and hiked in the beautiful Huron Forest, visited the DSO for a jazz concert, followed by a trip to the dueling Coneys in Detroit, purchased a kayak package for the Clinton River that resulted in a beautiful ride down a fast, twisting river watching herons and kingfishers and not one, not two but three total submerges in the warm river, rented bikes from the incomparable WheelHouse Detroit and rode all the way to Belle Isle and back, surprised my sister with a birthday present of a Taste-Full Tour featuring Michigan beers and Michigan BBQ, took my parents to Greenfield Village on the Fourth of July for a step back in time watching the historic baseball games that take place every weekend, resisted the urge to drain my bank account at the Farmington Art on the Grand art festival, and tested out many new local restaurants and coffee houses too numerous to mention, however the Basement Burger Bar in Farmington stands out.  
Because of this Buy Michigan Now experiment, I have uncovered a new-found passion for discovering unique Michigan items such as beer, gourmet foods and gourmet gift items; Michigan rules supreme in this area. One of my new favorite pastimes is to try a different Michigan beer any time that the opportunity arises; Michigan is fast becoming known for its award-winning selection of hops and malt mixes. At my local farmer’s market I came upon a new store selling gourmet olive oil, vinegars, unique pasta and other dinner items and was able to buy a birthday present on the spot for my brother in law; since then I have been back to The Olive Grove for another birthday purchase. Like a lightbulb going off over my head I have come to find out what a true jewel Eastern Market in Detroit is, offering shops like Rocky’s for gourmet peanut butter and bulk candy, R Hirt’s for cheeses, Calder’s milk and books about Detroit, Supino Pizza for the best darn thin crust around, Germack Nuts for (guess what) the biggest supply of Germack nuts, Russell Street Deli for an amazing Detroit treat on rye, huge variety of homemade soups and big glass of cold pop. In a pinch for a gift of beverage for someone on your list? Make the trip to Meadows Fine Wine and Liquor in Farmington Hills to find all the Michigan beer and wine separated out and labeled; if you have questions, the wonderful and helpful staff will answer anything you ask them. 
It’s not all about fancy cheeses and my favorite new amber ale. During the last six months I also had to find new places to buy pet food, lawn fertilizer and a place to get my oil changed. These more mundane items were also a cinch, and I scored at Chaps Feed, Aco Hardware and Uncle Ed’s Oil Shop, respectively. 
To sum up the last six months, I am very proud and excited to say that I spent at least 80% of my hard-earned dollars on Michigan products and/or at locally-owned stores. That is up from perhaps spending 20% of my money here in this state that I love. I continue to be amazed at how little time it took to get my Michigan radar up and running, how little effort it took to make some small changes in my thinking and routine to make such a huge difference in the way I look at buying and spending money. Just think, if everyone in our state upped their percentage to even 50%, what a difference that would make. If we could all get up to 80%, that much more, and how our Michigan economy would be booming instead of busting, if we were to hit 100%.
A few words of encouragement: give it a try; take a few minutes; be positive; open your mind and BUY MICHIGAN!
EDITOR'S NOTE: A HUGE thanks to Jennifer for her willingness to take the challenge and to share her thoughts with us.  Anyone else ready to give it a go?

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