Advice from a Shop Local Aficionado

Advice from a Shop Local Aficionado

The humbling part of being a small business owner is finding people who are even MORE passionate about your mission than you are. These individuals are gems, and we can all learn a lot from them.

One of our loyal customers, Lauren, is a shop local aficionado and is always sharing the best Hamilton has to offer. We wanted to know more about Lauren’s commitment to local, and to share her wisdom with all of you, so we did a little mini interview! Here’s the insight that Lauren shared about her experience with shopping small:


Q: Why are you so passionate about shopping local?

A: I am so passionate about shopping local for several reasons. I love knowing I am helping someone achieve their goals and dreams. It takes a lot of guts to start a business. The person behind the business, they are genuinely thankful of my/your support. They care about me and I care about them. So many of the people at the small businesses I shop at have become my friends- we know about each others’ families, etc.

It was something I was exposed to at a young age, and it left an impression. I spent a lot of my time in my childhood going to little shops downtown with my Nonno and Nonna. We’d go to the local butcher on Barton, then to the different stalls in the Hamilton farmers market, and they’d all know her by name and have her order memorized. That really stuck with me.

Q: If you were trying to encourage someone to shop local, what would you say?

A: The friendships I’ve made shopping at my fave local spots. You make someone happy.

And I think a lot of people perceive shopping local is more expensive. And that is 100% not true. Yes, some things are more costly- but that’s because it was made with love locally, not mass-produced in a factory across the globe. The quality of the item is going to be far superior- whether it is food or clothing, etc.

Photo Credit: Lauren C.

Q: In your opinion, what are the challenges facing local businesses?

A: The local Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) around Hamilton have done a great job on social media hyping up and highlighting their shopping areas, and creating events to increase shoppers and support. Despite this though there are still challenges:

  • Lack of government support. COVID has been tough!!

  • High prices for rent and supplies- even the price of bags and boxes has skyrocketed.

  • Establishing a core base of customers, and evolving the business enough to attract new customers, but not so much so as so detract the original/repeat customers.

Q: What advice do you have for someone trying to shop more locally?

A: Ask a friend. Over Christmas, so many friends and family reached out to me asking where they could find X item locally. Ask your friends and family. Take a walk through some of the BIAs, browse their Instagram, websites and other social media accounts. Ask other shop owners/employees if they know another local biz you can find X item at if they don’t carry it. Small biz owners love to support one another. It’s a tight-knit community. Attend farmers markets locally and eat what’s in season and grown locally. It’ll be the freshest and most nutritious- and often less expensive than buying it at a grocery store.

Q: What are your top 5 favourite local shops and why?

A: This is super hard to answer because I have a lot of places I love locally. But these are ones I shop at regularly and couldn’t live without:

I love to bake and cook. I discovered the casual gourmet when I was a Mac nursing student. I used to walk down on my breaks. They carry a fantastic selection of high quality kitchenwares. They sell the finest cookware and bakeware, including Canadian made cookware that is incredibly high quality for a really great price (Meyer)! They also carry a lot of eco-friendly products, which is important to me. They have a great selection of refillable cleaning items that are safe for the environment. And with COVID, they’ve evolved to include the CG Market, which features locally produced foods and provisions. The owners are amazing women who are so kind and caring. They go above and beyond for their customers.

Photo Credit: The Udderway Artisan Cheese Co.

I love cheese- always have. I started going there when they opened and I’ve been going ever since. I’ve gotten to know the owners, and they’re the nicest couple I’ve ever met. They truly care deeply about their customers. They make the BEST and squeakiest cheese curds I’ve ever had, as well as some of the dreamiest fresh mozzarella. This summer, they introduced scratch-made gelato- and oh my word it’s so good! They use all locally sourced Guernsey cow milk for all their cheeses and gelatos.

I sort of stumbled upon Picones when I was in university. I was wanting to make a dessert, and I needed vanilla bean paste. At that time, online shopping wasn’t like it is today- so I drove around to various shops and even bakeries asking if I could buy some. I went to Picones and asked if they sold it; the kind co-owner told me they usually do but they had just opened their last bottle to use in their in-house kitchen. She apologize for not having it and offered to give me the open bottle for free. That stuck with me and I have been a loyal customer every since. They hold a lot of the same values I do about supporting local and small- they feature a lot of local artisans and makers in their store, as well as amazing Italian and European items you can’t find anywhere else. Again, they take the time to get to know you; your name, and genuinely care about you.

I actually found out about J Waldron Butchers from the owner of The Casual Gourmet, Ilona. We were talking one day at the beginning of COVID before crap really hit the fan with lockdowns, and she mentioned Jamie Waldron. I looked up his site and he offered at that time a weekly menu, you’d select your items and pick them up at brux house. The meats were of exceptional quality and price and I vowed at that time to never buy large commercially produced meat again. You can taste the quality; no hormones or additives. He will go above and beyond to find the cuts you’re looking for and help you with tips on how to prepare. He’s recently opened up his own location down in Barton Village. They make amazing meat pies, and the best sausages ever!

I started using Dundurn Market weekly produce delivery at the beginning of the pandemic when I didn’t (still do and don’t) want to go into stores. They support local farmers and makers as well. They deliver great quality fruits and veggies weekly to my door. Items are always locally sourced when available. And they are very supportive of the community (period pop up- free menstrual supplies for those in need) and healthcare workers (they give away a market box weekly to frontline a healthcare worker on Instagram).

Notable Mentions:

  • Kitchen Island- AMAZING handmade pastries delivered to your door on Sunday morning. The cinnamon twists are to die for.

  • Box’d Local- features so many local makers and creators. Has introduced me to local businesses I otherwise may never have discovered and I’ve become a repeat customer to many of them. The boxes are great gift ideas too- it helps others see and discover local businesses, and hopefully encourages them to also support local.

  • Bichette - awesome store, great selection of clothing (many of the brands she sells are Canadian)

  • Citizen Kid - cool toys for kids. Often eco friendly, like wooden toys.

  • Pure Home Couture - Parisian inspired store; fantastic candles and soaps (their Verbena scent is my favourite!)

  • Hammerheads Seafood - sustainably sourced seafood, always fresh. Also, their Ottawa St location makes the best fish and chips hands-down!!

  • Cake and Loaf Bakery - been a customer since they opened. The only bakery I’ll go for a custom cakes (they made me a custom wheel of cheese cake once and it was out of this world- taste and looks)

  • Mind Your Bees - beeswax wraps made in Hamilton. They seriously keep your produce and cheese fresh for soooooo much longer than plastic wraps or containers. I use them for keeping bread fresh too.

  • Many more….


Well, there you have it, folks. Thank you to Lauren for letting us interview her and share some shop local knowledge with all of you. Remember, Shop Small or Lose Local.