What is YEGified?!

I Heart is on the lookout for the Edmonton businesses that are keeping it as local as possible!

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

WHEN a large chain shop or restaurant opens a new franchise in town, we don't think much of it. Another McDonald's, another Starbucks, another Subway...they've become a part of our daily routines, always there on every other corner. 

YEGified!

And because we don't put much thought into it, most of us don't realize that that's just another big-name, usually-American corporation that is about to threaten the ma & pa shops who surround it, and who simply cannot compete with their prices and marketing capacity.

If a new Wal-Mart pops up in a certain district, a litter of retail and food chain shops follow, at times displacing the independent eateries and retailers that no longer can afford to stay afloat amongst the conglomerate brands that have come to rule the global marketplace.

Some might argue that these places, the Chapters' and the Tim Hortons', are creating economic opportunities for the city, jobs for people who need jobs, albeit low-paying jobs. And they're not wrong, but it's not all so black and white.

Much or most of the profits these large chains make does not get churned back into the local economy, but rather sent back to the usually-American corporation itself, back to the big wigs pulling all the strings from some head office in a foreign country.

Most, if not all, of the products that these dime-a-dozen shops sell are also from elsewhere, hauled over hundreds of miles via planes, trains and automobiles. Much of it isn't even produced in this continent, let alone within provincial limits.

A map showing all the Tim Hortons locations in Toronto...in 2007!

Then there's the originality factor, as one city alone can play landlord to dozens of any given chain, each one of which bares an almost identical identity! There is not much room for creativity when it comes to setting up a Burger King or a Gap.

Franchisees are restricted to architectural prototypes and standard menus, products and services. Nothing unusual, nothing exciting, nothing that sets them apart from the rest.

But, many cities around the world are now adopting a "keep it local" mentality, as like-minded groups and organizations work together to get locals to spend a portion of their expendable cash in the independent shops around town, rather than in box chains that have literally taken over every shopping centre around the world.

In fact, there are even groups like this right here in Edmonton, such as The Local Good, Make Something Edmonton, and Cash Mob Edmonton. These are groups dedicated to a sustainable, resilient and localized Edmonton, where there is growth opportunity for our local entrepreneurs.

I Heart Edmonton recently decided to create our own initiative, one that would recognize and profile those local businesses who are going above and beyond their "duty" to keepin' it local!

We call it YEGified! It's a certification of sorts, a way to determine what Edmonton and area businesses try to buy local produce, book local talent, brew local beer or coffee, display local art, distribute locally-made products, and contribute to local charities and non-profits.

The Local Good is about a resilient Edmonton with a more engaged & sustainable culture.

We feel that these are the businesses that need to be celebrated and praised for going that extra mile, simultaneously supporting other local entities and reducing their carbon footprint. That's why we started YEGified!

When we discover one of these local advocates, we will proudly profile them on our website and try our best to spread the word about their YEGification! But we need your help, Edmonton. Feel free to share with us any local business or organization that you think is worthy of being YEGified!

And one more thing: I am not saying that we should shun, ignore or protest these chain establishments that come to town, because that would make me a hypocrite! I'm not some righteous hippy saying screw corporate America! Nope, not at all.

I shop at Safeway, I eat at Boston Pizza, and I drink coffee from Second Cup. What I am saying, or adamantly suggesting, is that we all make conscious decisions about where we spend our money, and be aware that there are alternatives to the overly-marketed brands we all know.

Perhaps one or two days a week you could grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich from some ma & pa vendor instead of your usual place, or maybe work out at a boutique studio rather than the big box gyms. Try dinner on the weekend at a local restaurant like Ampersand 27 or the Blue Chair Café over Earl's or The Keg.

It's those small choices you make that can ignite change in sustainability in your own backyard. If we all work together at this, at keepin' it local, we can make a real difference for those places that make Edmonton special.

Ampersand 27 is dedicated to supporting other local businesses!

 
Here are some numbers of just how many Tim Hortons, McDonald's, Starbucks, Subways, KFC's, and Wendy's we have in the Edmonton area (including Sherwood Park, St. Albert, etc.):
 
- Tim Hortons (80)
- Subway (67)
- Starbucks (54)
- McDonald's (53)
- KFC (35)
- Wendy's (18)

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