Local is the new organic. At least that’s what they tell me. I’ve been on this journey toward sustainability for a while now, moving toward making choices about food, shopping, lifestyle that have less of an impact on the environment. Over Thanksgiving I was inspired by two online posts: Juniperks (a really awesome site whose motto “act locally, inspire socially” challenges folks to make small changes and encourage others through social media sites) had a challenge to buy something local; there was a flurry of groups and people encouraging people to shop small on Saturday (meaning to avoid box stores on Black Friday and spend your money at a small locally owned establishment instead on Saturday, though there is some irony that American Express was a founding partner in this). So, my husband and I talked it over and decided that for one week, we would only buy things in Salem.
Part of the reason is to buy local but as I’m discovering that is a somewhat arbitrary definition- local to where? Does a store in Salem that sells fruit strips made in New Zealand really count as buying something local? What if there is a store that is physically closer to my house, but technically in another town? What if the milk I want is from a farm nearby, but there is a store closer to me that sells milk, from Maine? What if that milk is organic, is that better than the non-organic, cheap sort of milk like substance that they sell at the convenience mart at the end of my block? What if I pass a store regularly but it’s in another town, should I then use more gas to drive to another spot in Salem? The series of questions that this small experiment raised is fascinating and quite profound. It’s been thoroughly thought provoking, and made us more conscious of our buying habits, many of which are somewhat impulsive.
Another part of the reason for this experiment is for us to explore our hometown. We’re relatively new here and probably always will be considering this is New England, where if your parents aren’t from here it isn’t likely you’ll ever really be from here. Nonetheless, we can try. Here’s what I discovered: you could live in Salem and not have to go anywhere else. Comfortably. The coolest experience I had was with a printing company. Instead of going to Staples a town over, I searched the google machine for a print shop in Salem, and discovered this gem – Deschamps Printing Co.
Henry George Deschamps founded Deschamps Printing Company, Inc. in 1916 under the name Deschamps Brothers Printing.
Henry, a World War I veteran, had returned home from Europe looking for work and was hired by the French Community Newspaper in Salem, Massachusetts as a journeyman typesetter. To Henry’s good fortune, his boss hired him to train on the new Murganthaler typesetting machine. So it was off to New York City for Henry in 1910 to learn his new trade. Henry flourished but soon grew bored with typesetting, realizing that he wanted to get his hands into the craft of printing. Thus, in 1916 Henry and his brother Paul started their own company, Deschamps Brothers Printing. Their service platform was to include both typesetting and printing services for a then growing local Salem economy.
The company continued to grow right up to the Great Depression and was able to hang on to its twelve employees through this period by printing for the federal government only to come out on the other side of the Depression stronger and better poised for continued growth.
Today, two generations later, Deschamps Printing Company, Inc. is a thriving company employing thirty-five craftspeople. It is a completely state-of-the art, mid-size printer offering both offset and digital printing services.
How cool is that? I get to support Henry (or at least his progeny), support my local economy, get quality work for a cheaper price. Plus I had the joy of calling and talking to an employee who wished me a Merry Christmas (Merry Christmas! In Salem!) and sounded like she meant it. She was expecting me when I arrived to pick up my order, and it was perfect.
Our week of Shopping Salem is officially over. But our journey of discovering Salem, of falling in love with our town is just beginning.