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Think Clarksville! Shop Clarksville!

Lately, the national economic news is rather bleak—there’s even been the reluctant mention of the “R” word, but how does it apply to our area? Further, what can we do about it?

According to a new U.S. Census report, the Clarksville TN-KY Metropolitan Statistical Area is now the 10th-fastest growing MSA in the nation. Even though the national news may be depressing, our local economy is in good shape. Jimmy Settle, business editor for The Leaf Chronicle, says of the recent slow down in the residential market, “It’s a temporary condition, and should be perceived as more of a correction in the market, than a troubling decline. The truth is, the economy in northern Middle Tennessee is currently one of the nation’s best.”

The other truth is the residents in Clarksville are doing more than their share when it comes to helping the economic growth for surrounding cities and counties. The numbers are quite staggering! (More on those numbers later . . .)

The entire nation is feeling the pain at the gas pump. Gas prices are at an all time high and climbing higher. We’re all thinking about how to save gas, which will then make more money available for the necessary expenses and the extras; extras like dining out, shopping for clothes and home goods, entertainment, and more. Where will we be dropping those shopping and dining dollars?

Statistically, a great many of you will head to Nashville. You “think Nashville” for those extras. You head to the malls, the specialty shops, theatres, restaurants and even grocery stores! The fact is that every time you spend $100 in Nashville, you give that city $2.25 to use for their infrastructure, schools system, and other municipal expenses. (That’s the portion of their sales tax directly designated for Nashville.) $2.25 doesn’t sound like much, but we all know how little numbers quickly add up to big ones. Do you think Clarksville could use that $2.25? Do you think we could use better roads, sidewalks, schools, sewer lines?

Tennessee’s economic stability is reliant on sales tax. Without a state income tax, Tennessee depends on sales and property taxes for revenue needed to run the government engines. Other states, such a Florida, don’t have a state income tax either, but they’ve got a huge tourism industry. That’s why your local government is so concerned about “putting Clarksville on the map.” Tourist dollars are wonderful—they spend money, they return to their homes and their sales tax stays here.

Now back to the numbers. Are you aware we’re losing $40,297,000 in furniture, home furnishings, electronic and appliance sales? We’re losing $15,052,000 in restaurant sales. And, this one blows my mind, $72,285,000 in grocery sales! How do you get the ice cream home?

Now, as a local business owner, this all probably appears to be self-serving and to that I respond, “You’re darn straight!” I want you to shop at Hodgepodge, but I also want you to find unique clothing at Rogate’s Boutique and Posh; decorate your home with La Dolce Vita; eat a home cooked meal at Lovin’ Spoonful Café and get your caffeine fix at Blondie’s; feed your artistic interests at The Roxy Regional Theatre and The Customs House Museum; Seasons (the museum gift shop) has the most unique inventory of gift items in Clarksville. Okay enough of the gratuitous downtown plug, but you were expecting it. There are numerous independent retailers, restaurants and services, as well as the chains, right here in Clarksville.

There are more benefits to shopping local than the sales taxes. When you shop local businesses, especially independent retailers, they will do the same—their business does well, they hire local residents; many buy supplies and inventory locally; they pay their property taxes; they sponsor little league teams; they shop locally (they don’t have time to go anywhere else!). Without getting too far off topic, there are other benefits to shopping independent retailers, such as: personal service, unique inventory, and the sense of community. You’re greeted, more often than not, by the owner—they know your name, your likes, what you gave your wife for Christmas and what she’d like for her birthday. If there’s something you can only find in Nashville, why not ask your local business to start carrying it. I can guarantee you, they will at least look into it.

There are other trickle-down benefits to shopping local. One example, again it’ll be downtown (sorry, it’s what I know)—you shop at the local shops and eat at the restaurants, their business continues and grows, more people come and even want to live nearby, more residents means more tax dollars and a dense population demographic which many chains look for when deciding where to build. So if you want Wild Oats (or whichever grocery store your leaving Clarksville for), show them you’ll support it. You can write them, but they ultimately look at the local numbers. Further, we’ve become a big box store community—you know the one—that statistic discourages new retailers and grocers. If you want local options—shop the existing ones more frequently. You’ll be glad you did.

If you have to go to Nashville, at least buy your gas here.

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Editors Note: Author Paige Thomas King is the owner of Hodgepodge, a downtown shop catering to specialty items and antiques (and wonderfully unique greeting cards). She is a 43 year-old Army wife and mother of three who has had the opportunity to live her dream of becoming a boutique owner. We have been residents of the Dog Hill Historic District of Clarksville for six years. King opened her business in November, 2004 and it has grown from 1,000- to 3,000 sq. ft. during that time—including the purchase of the building she currently occupies and the recent acquisition of the former Neblett’s Framing Outlet. She has been active with the business and property owner’s committee of the DDP—aka the Downtown Clarksville Association—since its inception three years ago. She is “passionate about the revitalization of the downtown area and look forward to a time when all of the store fronts are filled with retailers and restaurants; including those currently occupied by lawyers—they can move the second floor!”



  1. While I agree that we have to support the local economy and “buy local,” local commerce is locked into narrow “niche” marketing and doesn’t usually respond to demand.

    My friends and I travel to Nashville to see independent and art films (and spend our dining dollars there) because local theaters won’t give a single screen to anything that isn’t mainstream and/or targeting the “youth” market.

    We travel to Green Hills or Opryland theaters to view the global simulcast of Live from Lincoln Center performances (at $22 a head; there will be 11 operas broadcast Live in HD in 08-09) because local theaters said they “weren’t interested” in this programs which are perpetually sold out/SRO in Nashville. How hard would be to devote one of the smaller Great Escape theater screens for 11 Saturday afternoons a year? Dinner in Nashville and the show run $40-$50 a head that could be spent here if local theaters would smarten up and realize that there IS a demand for such things.

    I buy my organic dry goods at a favorite store in Vermont twice a year at a super price and ship them home because there is no whole food or co-op market here. (I’ve been looking for four years and the most you get is a token organics aisle at Krogers). It’s good, but not enough.

    I’d love to see a quality fashion outlet store(s) in town, perhaps a working gallery/arts complex with studios and an incubator arts programs in one of the city’s large old buildings.

    I’d love to see Franklin Street become a pedestrian walkway with a sidewalk cafe or two and weekly concerts there or in Public Square.

    I’d just about kill for a genuine Clarksville shoe store with attractive shoes designed for real feet and salespeople who know how to fit you to a good shoe. I found one such store — in Paris, Tennessee. On the way there my friend and I dined in Paris because you don’t drive all that way for just a pair of shoes.

    Fortunately, my friends and I are not shy about stating our preferences: some stores, like Kroger’s, do listen (they now stock Remoulade Sauce after our repeated requests).

    Franklin Street is my favorite street, in part because of its unique shops and quality merchandise. I love shopping there. But it is not enough to sustain the “downtown” as a destination.

    Many of us feel that while the city may listen to the desires of its residents, it is going to do as it darn well pleases regardless of that public opinion. True destination development takes a lot of meticulous planning, careful design, and an integration of the scenic and the commercial; it must be user friendly. That takes 10-20 years of development.

    In the mean time, in a “mean” economy, that’s a tough sell. And I’ll keep buying cards at Hodgepodge and poking around the other shops,just because I like them; I like “old main streets” — Franklin Street is one of those.

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