Q&A Tuesday: How important are mom-and-pop shops?

save handmade from cpsiaToday, the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) goes into effect.  You might have read quite a bit about it already around the blogosphere, so I won’t reinvent the wheel – Cool Mom Picks has a page dedicated to this recent political move, and it’s become quite the hub of all information regarding this act.  There are a lot of great links there, and I encourage you to take some time to read this info.  Please.

In plain English, the CPSIA is requiring such stringent safety measures for children under 12 that it makes it all but impossible for those mom-and-pop shops we love to stay in business.  The original idea of the act was to require companies to put more responsibility in their own hands, and to increase the safety of their toys, baby equipment, and other child-related gear.  We can assume this has to do with well-known issues such as the questionable safety of toys hailing from China, and rare but recent scares of lead poisoning in the paint of certain products.

This is all well and good – but the kicker is that most of the companies responsible for these irresponsible measures can afford to up their safety measures.  The wonderful shops that create handmade goods for children cannot. So much so that they have little recourse but to close their doors.  And they weren’t the ones responsible for the shady safety issues to begin with.

So, today’s Q&A Tuesday has to do with today’s start of the CPSIA – maybe we can voice our dedication to cottage industries so that some “big people” in Washington can take a little heed to our small voices:

How important is it to you to buy and support small, local, and/or family-run businesses?  Describe some ways that you purposely choose to support a small business over other options in your everyday life.

If enough of you share your support – and therefore, how the CPSIA will affect your spending options – then perhaps we can collectively add to the conversation about this controversial act.

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. I’ve heard a lot about this in recent months and it upsets me to think of these goods not being available. While I haven’t bought a lot of them lately just because I don’t have a lot of extra funds, I like that they’re still there. I love the quality and the uniqueness of small shops and the variety of the goods. I hope that this doesn’t affect our ability to purchase from these shops in the future.

    Rhea – Experiencing Motherhood´s last blog post…Baby Boot Camp

  2. I have a question – I thought I had read something recently that said they had delayed this and that the act would not be enforced for another year. I’m trying to remember where I read that… I hope it’s true though, it would be nice to know that the lawmakers listened to us and read all of the petitions!

    Tabitha – From Single to Married´s last blog post…Pregnancy – My Mother’s Story

  3. This is probably going to spark some controversy, but if you read the pdf file on the page you linked to…Guidance on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for Small Businesses, Resellers, Crafters, and Charities…Table B shows a list of exempt materials which means most of us will not have to take any additional steps.

    I’m not saying that everyone will be exempt. But most of us will.

    That being said, I run a small business. It is extremely important to me. I was frightened too when I first read about this. But, we’ve been heard, and the law has been changed to protect at least most of us. Yes, it needs more work, but what law doesn’t?

    geekch1ck´s last blog post…Pennsylvania Etsy Shops

    • Interesting. Thanks for pointing this out. I would love to go back to selling otedama sets. I’ll check it out later today.

      Avlor´s last blog post…Scrapbook glue!!!!!

    • Thanks for sharing this.

      Yes, many people are exempt from this act (thankfully!), but not everyone. And while small changes are being made that will help the small business owner, I’ve still talked to quite a few cottage industry owners that have said in some form, they’ll have to raise their prices.

      One thing I do appreciate about this act is that it’s made people more aware of the importance of small businesses. I mean, hey – we’re talking about it right here! 🙂

  4. I lived in China for a few years and grew to love the little mom and pop shops everywhere—and I mean everywhere. There was a richness to the culture seeing people proud of the items they’d made, grown, or carried themselves. Coming back to the U.S., I had new eyes to see all the ‘just add water’ franchises and I was ready to commit to small businesses in our country.

    That said, the Target/Wal Mart mindset is a hard one to break here in the States. It takes conscious effort and commitment to buy locally and support the sometimes more expensive mom and pop products. I have to continuously remind myself (and ask others to do so as well) to think of the opportunities that should remain viable in this country for my peers and for our children.

    Sometimes I don’t wax so philosophical at http://burningbushes.org/. Today, I’m blogging about motivation.

  5. I agree with Tabitha and GeekCh1ck – I think there have been some changes to the act. Now it is looking like lawmakers are hearing what we have to say!

    Rachel´s last blog post…Menu Plan Monday 2/2/09

  6. I try to buy gifts at local businesses because they are so much more unique than something from Target/ Wal-Mart. I also try to eat out solely at local restaurants because I know that can be a hard business to get into. Now I’m looking into Etsy for some home decor options, they make it really easy for those of us in small towns to support mom-and-pops when Target is the only “local” option.

  7. One of my major goals this year is to eat at only local restaurants. Why should I give the big chains my business when there is so much delicious local food I haven’t tried!

    As for local shops, I’m trying my hardest to by small things at local stores. But buying groceries at some of these places can be expensive!

  8. Not only is there a fear for small businesses which create products specifically for children under 12, but also for other businesses indirectly. The law, at least at one point, stated that anything that could be put in the mouth of a child under 12 must meet certain criteria. Well, anyone that has had a baby knows that ANYTHING will go in the mouth of a child under 12, even things not designed for children. People are very concerned about this, and the last I understood this issue had not been resolved under the regulations. Of course, lots of the regulations have changed based on public outcry, so maybe if it has not already been addressed it will be soon.

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post…Feb 10, Foster A Positive Learning Environment In Your Home

  9. I am often guilty of making the cheaper–not better–choice. CPSIA has given me a glimpse of what a world without handmade & recycled would look like.

    And it’s not pretty.

    This year I’m making more thoughtful purchases. We’ve already signed up for a neighborhood produce CSA.

    I don’t have the budget to stockpile Waldorf toys now, but we’ll probably be making what I can’t find real people selling at their own yard sales.

    Viva la black market economy!

    Meredith from Merchant Ships´s last blog post…Handlettered business cards

  10. Not to sound to cliche here, but small shop owners and independent crafters are the fabric of this country (and many others, for that matter). It is so much more satisfying to purchase an item that you know was made by hand, not some mass-producing machine. You’re directly rewarding someone’s talent and resourcefulness by purchasing handmade goods. If the CPSIA is passed, what’s next? Will all handmade goods be required to undergo stringent testing? There’s a possibility that I could cut my finger if I accidentally broke an artisan-made glass vase. Shouldn’t it have been tested, or come with a written warning?

    PS- I understand the original intent with this safety act, but it needs to be revised to exclude the innocent bystanders.

    Cara´s last blog post…Weekly Spotlight & GIVEAWAY (!)

  11. I read recently that in this economic downturn when people are spending less, it is more improtant than ever to spend your limited dollars in the local economy. Mom and Pops will not survive without support. Mom and Pop brings to mind hardware stores and small grocers but it is also the small children’s bookstore and the gift shop that supports local artists.

    I use Etsy and a local bookstore for most of my gift purchases. That said, I’m mostly spending on the essentials.

    nina´s last blog post…Thoughts on stuff

  12. How important is it to you to buy and support small, local, and/or family-run businesses?

    I live in a small city and we always try to buy local first, even if it means spending a little bit more. We save in the long run by supporting our community, saving on gas and helping to keep the small business alive.

    Amy´s last blog post…And The Certificate Goes To…

  13. We go to the most wonderful story/music time at a small local toy store every Tuesday. It is such an important part of our life. We know and love the store owner and she opens her doors for any kids to come and play and have a great time.
    I can’t agree more with making an effort to support small, local businesses when possible, I think it is so important. What would our country be like if these places disappeared? How boring. I also think they serve another purpose: we as a society have too many choices! If you shop locally there tends to be less choices and I really do think it leads to more happiness overall to have less choices. Oops, better step of that soapbox!

  14. ahh… thanks for the follow up – I wasn’t sure if I had read it wrong that it wouldn’t be in effect right away. Good to know!

    Tabitha @ From Single to Married´s last blog post…Pregnancy – My Mother’s Story

  15. I am so glad that this is getting so much attention. I love mom and pop shops so much! I agree that the target/wal-mart/fred meyer mindset is VERY hard to break, it is such habit to go to a place where you can get “everything” right? My husband and I live in a small town where there is a locally owned Thriftway. We try to get our groceries there and when it was open (in the summer) get our produce from a small, locally owned stand. I also got Christmas present for our god-daughter at a little locally owned toy shop here in town as well. It really does feel better to support people that you live in community with.

    mrswade´s last blog post…Very Old Muffins

  16. Simple Mom – great post. It’s like my mind goes back and forth – good buy, support the local – good buy, support the local. Since I’m all about food and entertaining – it gets expensive! But we do have a local orchard down the street and I’m a regular at their produce stand. It makes me sick to see all of the orchards being torn out in our valley.

    So, in a nutshell we do try to support the local. But when you’re looking for a deal, maybe on a larger priced-item, sometimes I can’t help but walk in to Wal Mart! I feel torn! Does anyone else feel this way?

    sandy´s last blog post…Just Like Meredith!

  17. I am extremely upset about this act. It is one more way for government to take away free market. I have friends who make children’s toys and bracelets who will need to close their shops. I use cloth diapers, and the some of the best ones out there are made by stay at home moms. I love creativity, quality and supporting the hardworking American. I refuse to be reduced to shopping at WalMart. It makes me sick that this law is in effect. I feel so bad for those who need to close their shops, it is truly a waste of talent and creativity.

    Amanda Bytheway´s last blog post…Digital Filing Cabinet!

    • Amen! Tsh, Thank you, thank you, thank you, for addressing this. I was furious when I heard about this, for that exact reason. It’s one more step in destroying the free market, small businesses, and further hurting the economy. It’s a nice thought, but I’m so sick of losing my freedom all in the name of the government “protecting” and “providing for” the children. Let me protect and provide for my own children, which would be so much easier to do if the government would just stay out!

  18. This has been on my mind for months. I did hear recently that certain aspects of the bill have been put on hold for one year, especially those most affecting small businesses and crafters.

    Especially in this economy, I try to shop local and independent retailers. We just learned last weekend that a friend who has been in business for 20 years is having to close his doors this month; another beloved local business is already gone; and still another friend who owns a shop is struggling to keep his doors open day by day. Yes, my family is tightening our own budget, but it is important to us to support our local economy in the purchases that we make. The most common way I do this is to shop at our local toy store. The quality of toys is so much better than at the chain toy store or the big box store toy departments. The toys are imaginative and promote open-ended play, they are not an advertisement for the latest TV show. They are more expensive, it’s true, but I’d prefer to buy a smaller, well-chosen toy than a big, cheaply-made toy anyway. And the benefit of small retailers is that they usually provide excellent service. At both the toy stores I frequent – both independent – they will gift-wrap for free (and beautifully, I might add); the staff (usually the owner is there) know about the toys, the manufacturers, the authors, the development appropriateness of each item, etc.; they have play and reading areas set up for the kids; and at one store, they even serve free lattes to the parents! (Big plus in Seattle!)

    My manifesto right now is to spend as little as possible, but when I do spend, spend locally.

    Holly´s last blog post…Charitable Knitting

  19. If you are interested use the website OpenCongress to keep an eye on S.374 which was introduced just last week to amend the CPSIA to provide regulatory relief to small and family-owned businesses.

    The delay bought a little time….hopefully we can get this figured out in the next year. It does seem our Senators and Reps are busy with other issues at the moment, but if we don’t keep writing and calling we’ll be going through this all over again in one years time.

  20. Following you on Twitter. But you are not (gasp!) not following me!

    Would LOVE to be interviewed. Such a story to tell.

  21. I agree with Amanda, I won’t be reduced to Walmart either. Our cottage industry is so important and we rely on select natural handmade products in our home.
    It seems that the regulations are going to affect the ones who already care about this issue, whereas it should be directed at the big outsourced plastic manufacturers. The Smart Mama wrote a guest post for me on this (she’s a great researcher) and I got the impression that the laws have some pretty silly aspects to it that just don’t make any sense.

  22. Ah…why do we have to choose between two good things? It seems to be a common quandry.

    I love to buy made in America! But one thing I’m doing this month is:
    My hubby wants a particular Briefcase/man bag for his birthday. It’s made in europe, but sold by retailers all over the country. The price is fixed, so no matter where I shop it is the same price. So I’m choosing to buy it from a local store to support my neighbor (aren’t we all neighbors in a community?) in their business.

    Sara´s last blog post…TV & Books

  23. Hi, I’m a fairly new Simple Mom reader and let me just say that I love this blog! I’m also a huge fan of handmade things. This year I’ve started buying many gifts on Etsy and hopefully I will be able to do this more in the coming year. However, I feel I must point out that buying handmade doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’m probably stepping out on a limb here, but Wal-mart and Target have their place and they make the lives of millions of people that much more comfortable. I live in an urban area and I see people in my neighborhood being able to afford to clothe themselves and furnish their homes from relatively great items from Target and Wal-mart that they would otherwise not be able to afford if they had to purchase only handmade. I think it’s a great thing for people to recognize the value of handmade items and to support this growing industry whenever possible. But I think it’s unfair and possibly somewhat elitist to demonize “big box” stores when they are actually meeting a need in our marketplace as well.

  24. I think it’s such a struggle. It’s just so *easy* to stop into Wal-Mart or some other big-box store and pick up what you “need” for cheap. The mall is filled with stores, making it an easy one-stop with kids. It feels like the choice to shop mom-and-pop shops is something that you have to make a priority.
    We’ve been trying to live more frugally in the sense that we buy less but are willing to spend more to buy a better quality product (case in point, my wal-mart cutting board = junk; the crate and barrel one that cost 50% more lasted 3 times longer and looks delightful in my kitchen). Cheap = not spending. Frugal = spending wisely, and I think that you’re more likely to get that sort of quality at a family-owned shop.
    We buy a lot of our kids’ clothing from Stacy at our local consignment shop, bank with a local institution (Wells Fargo didn’t even ask why when I went in to close our account!), and buy books at the Tattered Cover, our local favorite bookseller. Independent toy shops are one of my favorite places to find a deal. The toys that the carry are not necessarily more expensive, but have such great play value relative to the ones we’ve acquired from Toys R Us, Besides that, we have the privilege of asking the shopkeeper what she/he recommends and supporting someone who puts effort into his/her business (which is ultimately so satisfying!)

    Fun question, thanks for the opportunity to hear myself talk 🙂

    Amanda @ http://www.kiddio.org´s last blog post…Bring Snowy Fun Indoors with a Wintery Icicle Garland

  25. I love mom and pop shops. I am still trying to discover the good ones in my current city. Thrift stores are my favorite type of discount store, but if I want something unique and special I try to find a mom and pop place. Personally, I think shopping locally for food as important as shopping at local family run business, but that is an entirely different post :).
    Enjoyed hearing you speak at Blissdom, but didn’t have an opportunity to meet you. Maybe next year.

    The Happy Housewife´s last blog post…Grow Your Blog

  26. My husband and I are all about patroning local restraunts and shops. You may pay a little more (sometimes) but the service and quality can’t be beat. I’d rather pay a couple more dollars and have the owner of a shop chat with me about my likes and dislikes than save a buck and have some teenager working behind the counter be too busy texting to acknowledge my presence.

    With restaraunts there is no debate; local is better. We are lucky to live in a place that has tons of awesome local eateries. In these days and times small businesses need your support way more than the corportate chains do!

  27. This is so important!

    I wish I could have realized the importance of mom and pops even earlier than I did, but I have in recent years changed my purchasing habits and I buy from them whenever I can.

    Even things you think of only being able to get from stores like Target you can often find through smaller vendors. For example, my sweet as pie fiance just bought me a small recorder so I can get my ideas out of my head, and it has a USB port so I can put the recordings straight onto my computer (and back up files, and put songs on it, and everything!). And he got it from a mom and pop! (I’ll be back later with the link, it’s the cutest little shop).

  28. it’s actually been hard for us to find a “mom and pop” shop, as in a retail store, in this area – so many local businesses are going out of business. we like to frequent local restaurants as opposed to national chain places. there is really something to a place where the owner recognizes you or your child when you are repeat customers, and it saddens me that more and more of these stores are going under.

    Krista´s last blog post…Some Inaugural Sweetness

  29. It upsets me to pretty much be told that I am going to have to make my children play and were assembly line items. I have discovered in the last few years the wonderful world of handmade clothes and toys and since then I have actually seen my children PLAYING with thier toys. It saddens me that this may no longer be an option for us because the beautiful people who create thier things with love and care can’t afford the testing that big bussiness can.

  30. I first heard about this issue from my parents who are small business owners and manufacture wooden (some painted) educational toys. They took their first hit when so many toys from China were being recalled – – this issue could be the last straw for their business. They are a very small operation and will not have the resources to test their products. It seems absolutely ludicrous to me and it is unbelievable that an entire career spent producing the highest quality product (safe, sturdy, and beautiful!) will fall victim to someone else’s carelessness. Oops, sorry. I got on my soapbox and forgot to answer the question. I obviously think Mom and Pop shops are quite important.

  31. To me it is VERY important to support other mompreneurs and small business owners, because:
    A) Part of what makes our country (currently) great is that anyone who wishes to (and has the funds) can start their own business
    B) Their customer service often far exceeds that of larger businesses
    C) I am a small business owner, and I want my own business to do well

    Some ways I try to support this are:
    A) Buy products from local, small businesses or from small online retailers
    B) Tell others about great small business products on my blog
    C) Give items bought at such stores as gifts and include a business card

    Minnesotamom´s last blog post…Where the Heck is Arkansas, anyway?

  32. In getting ready for our first born, our motto has been, “Buy less, buy better.” And for the most part, “buying better” means buying in a locally owned shop, thrift or new. Amanda from Kiddio is right when she says that it’s easy to buy cheap stuff. But since we don’t really need most stuff, it’s best to just save up for truly great items that benefit both your family and the community.

  33. I love this blog. It’s very helpful for everyday life even though I’m not a mom yet. I’ve nominated you for the Lemonade award. Come by and claim your award!

    Cathy´s last blog post…My first award!

  34. I bought almost all my Christmas presents for my kids and the women on my list from Etsy this year. It wasn’t always local but the quality of the homemade”ness” was amazing!

    Melodie´s last blog post…Lactose Lobotamy? – Naomi Watts on Letterman

  35. There is a wonderful little shop a few blocks from our apartment that sells soap, perfume, lotion and gifts that are natural and safe, many of which are locally made or at least not made in China. They have a sign on their counter which says that on average, every dollar you spend in a locally owned business will be spent six more times in the local economy before it moves out into the larger economy. A bigger store based further away will usually only spend each dollar once locally. That to me was empowering. I can’t afford all my things local or handmade but I can choose to spend some locally- and make a big impact immediately! Not everyone can buy everything like this all the time, but being aware and making that choice when you can is the key. I work at a small business (well, locally owned anyway, but pretty big) and I know what it means to have customer support on this basis.

Add Your Thoughts