The virtues of thinking local | Nandell Palmer

“Try Federal Way First. Shop local. Buy local.”

Reading those words from the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce’s newest ad campaign recently, I was jolted with pride. The ad went on to say, “live local and think local.”

This campaign is long overdue.

Federal Way can count on me to do my fair share to adhere to this message in every aspect of business and pleasure.

There’s one caveat, though, with regard to “think local” on my part. I will confess that this one needs a little tweaking for me to fully get on board. One’s thought can change a whole lot of things for better or worse.

When I am hungry, a burger or salad from any joint will do to fill that hunger. But if I think about it, I am able to make a more calculated choice in where I choose to purchase those items.

The company that always dispenses “Sorry, but we’re unable to give to local charity because our headquarters is in Kalamazoo, Michigan,” runs the risk of not having people like me think locally when shopping.

That spiel doesn’t work all the time. I wish to implore the companies that use this phrase to try saying the same thing in a different way. How is it possible for diverse companies to speak with one voice? The bottom line is that it’s tired!

I understand that people operate businesses to make money, and it is foolhardy on any manager’s part to feel as though he has to cave in to every charity’s request.

But don’t tell me that a clothing store manager at a Federal Way location has to wait eight weeks before she can get clearance 2,000 miles away from the head office in order to give away a soiled T-shirt or a holey pair of socks to an underprivileged boy or girl.

If managers can be trusted to carry out the day-to-day operation of a business, then they should be given some modicum of autonomy when it comes time to make decisions dealing with their local communities from which they operate.

I will go on the record for saying this: Any Federal Way store manager who has a heart for her community and shows that benevolence, both in words and deeds, will make me a lifelong customer any day. She wouldn’t have to worry about my going to Southcenter or the SuperMall.

Not for a minute should any business take for granted the thought pattern of a customer. For the most part, if you give good service and good product, people will remember you for a long time to come.

A few weeks ago in Auburn, I was telling a young lady how benevolent Scott Lovrien was. Yes, the same gold-hearted manager of Chipotle in Federal Way. Before long, her eyes welled up with tears, and she took over the conversation.

“Oh, that guy?” she swooned. “I remember when I was in college and my money was low, and he would create these discount rates for college students.” Nowadays, she said that oftentimes she would drive from the Auburn SuperMall to Federal Way on her lunch break just to support Scott for his past benevolence.

When Lamont Styles decided to give away free haircuts to every man and boy present at the last Father’s Day forum for boys without active fathers in their lives, complete strangers were hunting him down to give him their business.

He was doing his good work through his business in the community, and in turn community people felt obligated in a good way to support him.

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of businesses in Federal Way that are the fulcrums of our community. Some of those that readily come to mind are Sylvan Learning Center, Bally’s, Ivar’s, The Century Theatre, Red Lobster, Rose Ehl and her Federal Way Farmer’s Market, among others.

At its last Crab Feed auction on June 20, the Multi-Service Center collected more than $60,000 from ticket sales, auctioned items, and donations. That could not have been possible without the generous support from local businesses. And to those corporations and local residents who did their parts, Federal Way salutes you.

A business cannot be too big or too small to make an impact within the community it serves.

When in doubt, just ask Debby Coleman. Two years ago, the mother of four became very despondent when her daughter, Anna, got sick. No friends showed up to give the family a word of cheer, she said. That’s when Coleman decided to go to her “home away from home:” Starbucks at The Commons mall.

Six days a week she ordered her favorite brew: A grande single shot vanilla latte with whipped cream. But over time, her broken heart began to soften. She struck up conversations with baristas, where they soon asked about Anna’s progress.

Months later, she received a gold card from Starbucks, an honor reserved solely for top-tiered customers. Last year, she got an invitation to meet with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at a roundtable session downtown Seattle, one of 50 people culled from the horde of customers to do so.

For 10 minutes, she testified about the superb service she received from her local Starbucks store, while Schultz looked on with heartfelt adulation and empathy.

Starbucks has long gone beyond the periphery of Seattle, but at no time does it ever feel like an international entity. The cost for a venti mocha at times could buy you a can of coffee at the supermarket. But Starbucks just doesn’t sell coffee; it offers relationships. Anna is no longer sick, but Coleman is still at Starbucks six days a week.

It behooves Federal Way businesses to cultivate those relationships — one customer at a time. The sooner businesses realize this, the better it will be for their bottom line. They will even get prospective customers like me not only to think local, but to dream local.