by Rachel Swan
Not only is "local" the new black; it's also the dominant paradigm for progressive business movements. And it's particularly important in Oakland, where growth happens organically, and the economy hinges on small independent businesses. A panoply have sprung up in recent years, and they've all but transformed the city's once-sterile downtown. Walk down Broadway these days and you'll find a retail corridor dotted with artisan clothing boutiques, mom-and-pop restaurants, educational sex toy shops, and small breweries. If you remember the scene as recently as ten years ago, it's just mind-blowing.
Such profuse growth might not have been possible without a strong jolt from local boosters like One PacificCoast Foundation, which hosts the annual Oakland Indie Awards each year. The sixth iteration on May 31st — co-presented by PacficCoast and the Express — will feature DIY cupcakes, T-shirt screen-printing, live murals, a Polaroid phone booth, and host Glynn Washington of the NPR storytelling show, Snap Judgment. The best part, medals for businesses with soul, inventiveness, "ripple effects," and green practices. Among the nominees are Beer Revolution, American Steel Studios, Spoiled Boutique, Ecologic Brands, Sarabek Images, and Best Music Co.
It's a fantastic event, and an important chance to recognize the businesses that, organizers argue, form the basic fiber of Oakland's economy. More important, though, is the message behind it: Shop within your own neighborhood, and support your local vendors. After all, 68 cents of each dollar go back to Oakland's economy when you buy local. That's a big chunk of change.
Oakland Indie Awards happens at Kaiser Center (300 Lakeside Dr., Oakland), Thursday, May 31, at 5 p.m. , $10.