Some time back, probably around this time last year, I wrote an article on “Old Fogyism” and our old friend Editor Tippett. George Ways Tippett was the original editor of the Point Pleasant Register and an ever-faithful and tireless booster of our community. He was often years ahead of his time in advocating for improvements that most of us would take for granted today but were once derided as “newfangled nonsense” and “unnecessary spending” such as fire insurance, municipal water works, electric streetlights, and paved streets.
He was also an outspoken supporter of the “Dine, Shop, and Support Local” idea, a century before the Main Street program began. This next bit is directly from one of his editorials, dated January 31st, 1883.
“There is a general principle underlying our economy which says it is best to patronize home enterprises, even if it costs a little more, but as a general rule it is not so; it pays to patronize home merchants and home mechanics in the long run. It is a fact here in our town that several business men who rely upon our people for patronage and support, send away from home for nearly everything they consume in their families. The money is thus taking away from home and deprived of its benefits.”
Even in 1883, it wasn’t uncommon for folks in Point Pleasant to take the packet boat (or after 1886, the day train) to Gallipolis, Huntington, or Charleston to do their shopping. Today, I find myself repeating the exact same thing Editor Tippett was telling his readers 138 years ago.
When you shop local, not only is often the same price or cheaper than going somewhere like Huntington (especially once you factor in gas prices), that money is staying in your community. Money you spend at the mall in Barboursville ends up in the pockets of big box stores, likely never to come back, and it’s taxed by Barboursville officials, who I’m sure appreciate the extra help in paving their streets and fixing their sidewalks. When you shop local, that money stays in this community. That merchant lives here, shops here, sends their kids to school here, and donates to local charity. And their taxes? Quite a good portion goes to our City and County, providing some of the money to pave the streets and fix the sidewalks and repair water lines and do so many other things that people often complain about.
Think about that next time you’re considering going to Huntington or Parkersburg. Ask yourself: Is this something I could find downtown? Maybe it isn’t, but you never know, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been downtown.
To quote Editor Tippett again, “What makes a live town, is live people.” Perhaps right now, there are certain things you would have to go to a mall to find. But if a store were to open in town that sells whatever it is you need from the mall, don’t be that person who puts it down and says “Oh, that’ll never work here! We aren’t big enough for that!” If dozens of our people are willing to drive over an hour to buy it in Huntington, it can work here, so long as those same people are willing to put their wallet where their mouth is and shop locally.
Tippett used the idea of a municipal waterworks, a hot topic in 1889, to spell this out to readers. He said, and I agree that, “we should all encourage every movement that contributes to the good of our community, and if someone comes in here next week and wants your opinion as to whether waterworks would pay here, don’t screw up your mouth and hobble off, but encourage it! If you have no interest in our town yourself, encourage it for the good of others.”
If, like me, you’re a late Christmas shopper, you still have some time to take a stroll downtown and check out our local businesses. You might be surprised at how many great gifts you’ll find. And if there isn’t anything to fill your gift list, encourage friends and family to shop local!
One last bit of wisdom from Editor Tippet: “Point Pleasant is not as large as some other towns, but it is a mighty sight better than most of them.”
A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, from our family to yours. My articles will continue after the New Year.
Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical & Preservation Society and director of Main Street Point Pleasant, reach him at email@example.com.