Turning the global economy into connected communities

Connecting people and businesses will make for a more resilient economy and a happier population, Balle founder Michelle Long tells Oliver Balch

Oliver Balch, Monday 7 April 2014

Michelle Long, founder and chief executive of Balle: ‘We no longer know where our food comes from’. Photograph: BALLE
The family-run Colophon Café is your archetypal local eatery. Staff members know their customers by name, most suppliers live nearby and a proportion of profits finds its way to charities based in the area.

Nor is it alone in boasting such neighbourly credentials. The Bellingham-based cafe is one of over 600 local businesses across Whatcom County in Washington State committed to pursuing a “localist” agenda.

The regional network forms part of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (Balle) to redress the “disconnections” inherent to contemporary global capitalism.

“We no longer know where our food comes from when it ends up on our plate or where the waste goes when we finish a meal,” observes Michelle Long, founder and chief executive of Balle, as well as a long-term Bellingham resident.

It’s not just the impact of globalism on our food chain that concerns Long and her fellow localists. Our whole system has come unmoored, she argues. Savers have no real idea how their money is used. Shoppers know next to nothing about the environmental impacts of the products they buy. Chief executives live in worlds far removed from those who work for them or from the communities they purportedly “serve”.

For Long, repairing what she sees as the broken relationships wrought by the combination of economic globalization and corporate giantism is essential. And not only for our economy, which she argues will become more resilient and more productive as it becomes more local (ie boasting shorter supply chains, greater local ownership, closer proximity to the environment, higher socially inclusivity and so forth). But the more connected as individuals we are, she maintains, the happier and more fulfilled we’ll be as human beings.

“To connect deeply within, to connect deeply with one another, to connect in reverence to the natural world: these are local behaviors. That is real prosperity … it’s not a distant act, it’s a local act by its very nature,” she states.

She likes to cite writer and conservationist Wendell Berry, the so-called “prophet of rural America”, who talks of the need to move from our current “one-night stand economy” to a relationship-based economy. But how to get there?

The answer, perhaps predictably, centers on making connections. First, with one another. The primary function of Balle is to work with “connectors”: individuals who bring together local farmers, retailers, investors, manufacturers and the like from across a community. The infrastructure of today’s economy – be it physical, financial or regulatory – all encourage a business ecosystem that is large and loose. Turning that on its head will only happen when local change-agents bandy together.

Balle runs a fellowship program for these kinds of connectors. The two-year course involves multiple-day immersions, visits to one another’s communities, structured network opportunities and “deep leadership work” designed to connect connectors with themselves.

“At Balle, we find pioneers, we connect them, we nourish them and then we tell their stories so others could imagine what’s possible for their communities”, says Long.

It’s a hands-on affair. Long is deeply suspicious about technocrats sitting round big tables laying out plans to solve other people’s problems, elsewhere. To help Balle’s wider network of “dreamers-and-doers”, the organization offers a host of webinars, case studies, conferences and workshops to “spread the things that are working”.

Connecting locally-minded business owners with investors marks a particular imperative. Balle recently ran a series of webinars on Community Capital, for example, which set out to how to identify and approach local investment clubs, community foundations and the host of other non-Wall Street funders now cropping up. Balle also lobbied hard for a recent change in federal legislation that makes it easier for small businesses to raise capital through crowd funding and mini-public offerings.

Long points to the Boston Impact Initiative as an exemplar of how the world of finance is localising. Offering a combination of debt, equity and grantmaking, this private investment fund adopts Balle’s localist principles as its investment criteria. Its portfolio of investments, all of which focus on the Boston area, includes a recycling cooperative, a non-profit lender to small businesses, a microfinance agency and a neighbourhood deli.

“It’s really radical to start investing this way, rather than ‘How do I make the most money?’ or ‘How do I screen out a couple of things that are bad?’” notes Long. “Most of the socially responsible investing has not really questioned the premise that the same people will end up with the money. That has to be fundamentally called into question if we are going to change our economic system.”

Back in Bellingham, Long’s localist vision is coming face-to-face with today’s globalised realities. Planners have earmarked the town as the possible site for a new mega-export facility designed to ship “tons and tons” of coal to Asia. Long is adamantly opposed: “It’s not what the community wants.” Those enjoying a quiet, leisurely bite in Colophon Café almost certainly agree.

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Valentine’s Day! Don’t get big-boxed in, #GoLOCAL

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Holiday Shoppers Heed the Call to Buy Local

Published on American Booksellers Association (

Holiday Shoppers Heed the Call to Buy Local [1]

Originally Posted on Thursday, Jan 02, 2014

Independent booksellers rang in 2014 with high spirits and stories of success, as special holiday sales and buy local efforts brought customers out to support local bookstores in communities nationwide.

Booksellers who spoke to Bookselling This Week reported a strong holiday selling season, with some notable sales increases over last year. Many also noted that the buy local message really resonated with customers this year, and that local authors were among the popular picks.

“Christmas sales were good,” said Janis Irvin, owner of The Book Bin [2] in Northbrook, Illinois. With Hanukkah coming early this year, “we had a strong November so we were worried sales might drop off, but they just kept going into December.” While the store’s bestsellers are typically fiction, this year’s biggest titles were nonfiction, including Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit (Simon & Schuster), The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (Viking), and Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927 (Doubleday). Other standout titles at the Book Bin includedTransatlantic by Colum McCann (Random House), The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon and Schuster), and The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Sourcebooks Landmark).

The Book Bin’s sales were up over last year, and, like many other booksellers, Irvin noticed a change in consumer attitude. “I’ve had this store for 42 years,” she said. “I really feel that customers were more attuned to an independent bookstore. People were walking in saying ‘now this is a real bookstore.’ It was a very positive sales season for us.”

At Reading Rock Books [3] in Dickson, Tennessee, December sales increased by more than 24 percent over last year. Laura Hill, who co-owns the store with her sister Amy Jernigan, said that the most popular items were from local authors.

A pictorial history of the county rang up huge sales throughout the end of the year, and another very popular title detailing the history of the area — available only through the bookstore and the local museum — helped Reading Rock attract brand-new customers.

“What really helped was that there were people who had never been in our store who came in to buy that book,” said Hill. “They were astonished to find a bookstore here. It brought so many new people through our doors.” Additional standout titles included Santa Is Coming to Tennessee by Steve Smallman (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) and The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life by the editors of Garden & Gun (HarperWave).

The buy local message also proved to be helpful leading up to the holidays, said Hill. Dickson’s local Chamber of Commerce produced “buy local” T-shirts for local business employees to wear on Fridays during the summer, and the whole town participated in Christmas in Downtown Dixon in December, a festive open-house event involving many community businesses.

“Last year was the best year we’d ever had, and we’re seven percent ahead of last year,” said Hill. “I’m over the moon about that.”

At Northshire Bookstore [4] in Manchester Center, Vermont, “holiday sales were good,” said store owner Chris Morrow. “We added a new store this year [in Saratoga Springs, New York], which had good sales as well.” This year’s holiday sales at the Vermont store matched last year’s, with one of the most popular titles being Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York (St. Martin’s Press).

Montrose, California’s Once Upon A Time Bookstore [5] kicked off the holiday season by participating in Indies First and welcoming 13 authors and plenty of customers to the store on Small Business Saturday, said owner Maureen Palacios. Sales remained strong through the months of November and December, and numbers increased over last year’s holiday selling season.

“We feel very confident going into the new year that things will continue to look up for us,” said Palacios, whose store is entering its 48th year in business with continued, strong support from the community.

Once Upon a Time offered significant post-Christmas sales and hosted a festive all-day New Year’s Eve sale before it closed down for inventory. Customers enjoyed snacks and drinks and large discounts on both holiday merchandise and books.

Several standout titles that flew off the store’s shelves included A Very Fuddles Christmas by Frans Vischer (Aladdin), who visited the store for an event, as well asI Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (Hachette), Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle (Running Press), and Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle (Chronicle).

Gulliver’s Books [6] in Fairbanks, Alaska, had strong sales throughout the holiday season and saw a slight increase in online sales. Owner Christy Wiskeman found that the store did very well with local authors throughout November and December. “We had several local authors come out with books right at the beginning of the month that were very popular,” she explained.

Gulliver’s hosted two successful sales during the holiday season: a used book sale leading up to Thanksgiving and the other on Small Business Saturday weekend. Both were well received by customers, said Wiskeman.

At Readers’ Books [7], in Sonoma, California, sales were up over last year, said store co-owner Andy Weinberger, but more noticeably, there seemed to be a shift in consumer behavior. “I think there is an increased understanding of the need to shop local,” said Weinberger. “People seem to be getting the message.” Yesterday, Readers’ held its annual New Year’s Day party, which offers customers a 50 percent discount on calendars and free refreshments.“It’s basically an excuse for people who don’t like football to come by,” said Weinberger.

In Durango, Colorado, “it was like Christmas caught everyone by surprise this year,” said Andrea Avantaggio, co-owner of Maria’s Bookshop [8], which saw an increase in sales during the two weeks before Christmas.

“We all noticed lots of appreciation” among customers who were happy to have a local bookstore to shop in, said Avantaggio. They included many out-of-town customers who waited to do their book shopping while visiting Durango. “I heard lots of concern about the loss of their own local bookstores and the health of ours,” she said. “It was really very touching and made all of us feel valued in a very special way.”

Big sellers at Maria’s this season –– in addition to the Local First Durango “Buy Local” coupon book –– were Santa Is Coming to Durango by Steve Smallman (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky); I Could Pee on This: and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano (Chronicle Books); Dead Run: The Murder of a Lawman and the Greatest Manhunt of the Modern American West by Dan Schultz (St. Martin’s Press); The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon by Kevin Fedarko (Scribner); and Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan (W.W. Norton & Company). “Lots of local interest on that list,” said Avantaggio.

At Hockessin Book Shelf [9] in Hockessin, Delaware, sales were up over last year’s fourth quarter, said owner Rebecca Dowling. A surprising standout title throughout the holidays was The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter (Little, Brown).

On New Year’s Eve, Hockessin hosted “Books and Baubles,” a two-hour shopping event in partnership with a local jeweler that offered jewelry and new books at a 30 percent discount. Though the store was closed on New Year’s Day, the event on the eve was a way for Hockessin to get a head-start on one of its New Year’s resolutions, said Dowling, which is to partner with more businesses in the area.

At Acorn Books [10] in Dover, Delaware, which opened in the fourth quarter of 2012, “it was encouraging to see consistent sales,” said co-owner Ginny Jewell. “Customers were encouraging one another to shop local this year and telling us about it,” she said. “It seemed that Small Business Saturday was just the start of the local shopping season this year as opposed to last year when it was the one day they did it.”

In keeping with that trend, local books did well this year, said Jewell, adding that anything with “Delaware” in the title sold well, as well as books published by Arcadia, which represents local authors and subjects. Additionally, Acorn sold 65 copies of The Beach: Wildlife, Nature, and the Beauty of Coastal Delaware (Portfolio Books), a large, high-ticket art book by local photographer Kevin Fleming. “This shows just how much local authors and subjects are on the rise this season.”

Looking ahead, Jewell plans to increase Acorn’s inventory, strengthen its web presence, and tighten the store’s mission statement to make sure the community knows what Acorn Books stands for. The bookstore has plans in the works to partner with local poets and authors. ”It’s an exciting time for us,” said Jewell.Sydney Jarrard and Elizabeth Knapp [11]


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Gannon Pest Control Earns Esteemed 2013 Angie’s List Super Service Award

CONGRATULATIONS to SyracuseFirst Family member Gannon Pest Control!!

Gannon Pest Control Earns Esteemed2013 Angie’s List Super Service Award
Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service

For the Third consecutive year, Gannon Pest Control has earned the service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of service provided to members of the consumer review service in 2013.

About the award, Gannon Pest Control Vice President, Jennifer Savastino, said “We are honored to receive this award for the third year in a row. As a locally owned and operated company, we are dedicated to giving our community the most effective customer service we can.”

“Only about 5 percent of the companies Gannon Pest Control competes with in Central New York region are able to earn our Super Service Award,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “It’s a mark of consistently great customer service.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2013 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, have a fully complete profile, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List. Companies are graded on an A through F scale in areas ranging from price to professionalism to punctuality. Members can find the 2013 Super Service Award logo next to company names in search results on


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Learn How to Fix Your Bike @ Mello Velo Bike Shop

2014 PARK TOOL SCHOOL Schedule! @Mello Velo

Back again by popular demand! The Park Tool School, a bicycle repair and maintenance course designed specifically for the home mechanic, taught by your very own professional mechanics and Mello Velo! The method of instruction is a mixture of lecture, demonstration, and hands-on labs — plus we keep you caffeinated and/or well fed!

We have restructured our a classes a bit and are proud to offer a few new courses and additional session times! So if you’ve always wanted to learn how to fix your own bike — or know someone who does — now’s your chance to learn (or give the perfect gift for the holidays)!

Below are descriptions of our classes and tentative dates, but if there are specific requests, we can tailor a class to your skill level and interests. Just stop by, shoot us an email, or call.

Courses offered:

FLAT FIX CLINIC (one 1.5-hour session): $19.99 — Includes 1 cafe drink of your choice + 25% off tools. Make it aDeluxe package for $59.99 and you’ll get a Serfas Seatbag CK-4 Repair Kit (a $50 value) in addition.

Do you want to learn how to fix a flat tire? What causes flats and how to prevent them? Learn the basics of bicycle maintenance as we go over tire and tube service on different types of bikes.

INTRO TO BIKE MAINTENANCE (one 6-hour session -OR- three 2-hour sessions): $95.99 — Includes Park Tool’sBig Book of Bicycle Repair (a $24.99 value) + 25% off tools and either: 1 cafe lunch of your choice + coffee (6-hr session) -OR- 3 cafe drinks of your choice (2-hr sessions). Make it a Deluxe package for $349.99 and you’ll get aPark Tool Shop Apron and the Park Tool AK-37 Tool Kit (a $375 value) in addition.

Get your hands dirty learning critical maintenance tips and more. This class builds upon the basics like bike “anatomy”, tire and tube service, and when and where to lubricate your bike. See demonstrations, discuss and perform brake service, and simple gear adjustments. Areas of the bike that will be discussed:

  • Tire and Tube Service
  • Bike Cleaning and Washing
  • Lubrication
  • Cable Tension: Derailleur Systems and Rim Caliper Brake Systems Overview
  • Hub, Rear Sprockets & Headsets Overview
  • Chains, Cranks & Bottom Brackets Overview
  • Safety Check
  • On-Ride Repairs and Bike Wash

INTERMEDIATE BIKE MAINTENANCE (two 5-hour sessions): $124.99 — Includes Park Tool’s Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair (a $24.99 value) + 25% off tools, and 2 cafe lunches of your choice. Make it a Deluxe package for$374.99 and you’ll get a Park Tool Shop Apron and the Park Tool AK-37 Tool Kit (a $375 value) in addition.

This class will cover content similar to the basic shop tune-up. This class is a great option for someone who has tried basic repairs. Students should have some familiarity with the topics presented, but not necessarily have experience. Areas of the bike that will be discussed:

  • Basic Bicycle Maintenance
  • Tires & Tubes
  • Hub, Rear Sprockets & Headsets
  • Wheel Truing & Pedals
  • Chains, Cranks & Bottom Brackets
  • Derailleur Systems
  • Rim Caliper Brake Systems
  • Caliper Disc Brake Systems
  • Frame & Fork, Suspension
  • On-Ride Repairs and Bike Wash

BASIC WHEEL TRUING (one 1-2-hour session): $19.99 — Includes 1 cafe drink of your choice + 25% off tools. Take both Basic Wheel Truing and Wheel Building classes for the combo price of $60.

Rims, Hubs, Spokes, Nipples — oh my! Learn the basics of wheel truing and spoke replacement, plus on-the-go tips and tricks.


WHEEL BUILDING (one 2-3-hour session): $49.99 — Includes 1 cafe drink of your choice + 25% off tools. Take bothWheel Building and Basic Wheel Truing classes for the combo price of $60.

This class has been often requested. Dreaming of building your own wheelset? Starting from component selection and calculation, to lacing, tensioning, truing, and dishing — build a wheel hands-on. Students are required to take the Basic Wheel Truing Class, or should otherwise be able to demonstrate proficiency. Wheel deals for those who want to build a pair of wheels to take home.

2014 Course Schedule:
Group Size is limited to 5 per session, REGISTER NOW (email or call 315-307-3104) to reserve your spot!

Clinics offered MONDAYS 5:30-7pm, on the following dates:

  • January: 6, 27
  • February: 3, 24
  • March: 3, 17

One 6-hour Session: Sunday, January 19, 10am-4pm (or)
Three 2-hour Sessions: TUESDAYS 5:30-7:30pm, on the following dates:

  • [Group Session One] January: 7, 14, 21
  • [Group Session Two] February: 4, 11, 18

Two 5-hour Sessions on SUNDAYS, 10am-3pm, on the following dates:

  • [Group Session One] February: 2, 9
  • [Group Session Two] March: 2, 9

THURSDAY, February 6, 5:30-7:30pm

THURSDAY, February 13, 5:30-8:30pm




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Syracuse Guru Holiday Gift Guide: Over 70 Top Picks

Hi everyone, it’s the Syracuse Guru. Many of you have probably seen my website but if not, we’re an independent media site serving the Syracuse and CNY region. In helping SyracuseFirst celebrate the many local independent businesses and giving you some real ways to make the 10% Shift; here are 5 top picks from my comprehensive holiday gift guide. All of these items are from local companies. Without further adieu, here they are!

1. Café Kubal Coffee Items: Stop in any of Café Kubal’s locations and pick up everything you need to give the gift of perfect pour-over coffee at home. You’ll need a Bee House dripper and a stainless steel pour-over kettle. Check out the Orange Gingersnap syrup as well. Get it at any Kubal location (Directions).

2. Beak and Skiff’s 1911 Spirits: The ultimate gift for the local liquor aficionado, 1911 Spirits has several kinds of ciders but the gin is by far the best of the bunch. It’s a pure tasting, sharp bite of juniper with enough kick for even the most seasoned booze fan. It’s above 80 proof and tastes delicious on its own, in a martini, or in a gin and tonic with local flare. Get it at Beak and Skiff (Directions) or most liquor stores.

3. Everyday Bow Ties: The finest locally made bow ties. Everyday Bow Ties specialized in beautifully crafted bow ties for everyday life. I own one and I can tell you that the craftsmanship is fantastic. Get it here.

4. City Dining Cards: 50 cards in a deck and each one takes $10 off food bills of $30 or more. It’s a simple but brilliant concept that makes coupons cool again. The Syracuse 2013-2014 deck came out recently. When you order them use the GURU coupon code and get FREE shipping. Get it here.

5. Sweet Praxis: Sweet Praxis makes a wide assortment of baked goods but the real highlight is the traditional French macaron. Get a gift certificate, edible macaron ornaments, or a box of seasonal macarons. See their Facebook page for more info. Email to order!

Read the rest of my guide featuring over 70 items at!


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Per-person income in Syracuse area rises faster than national average in 2012

original post on

Glenn Coin | By Glenn Coin |
November 29, 2013

Syracuse, N.Y. — The per-person income in the Syracuse area rose by 3.7 percent last year, better than the 3.3 average nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The average income per person in 2012 in the Syracuse area was $41,774. That’s up from the $40,273 per-person average the year before, according to the latest numbers released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Syracuse ranked No. 117 out of the nation’s 318 metropolitan areas.

The average incomes are computed by taking the entire amount of personal income earned in the Syracuse area and dividing it by the total population. The Syracuse area consists of Onondaga, Madison and Oswego counties.

Other Upstate metropolitan areas that beat the national average were Glens Falls, Rochester and Ithaca.

Oil and gas drilling boosted revenues in parts of Texas and North Dakota. The fastest growing region for personal income was Midland, Texas, with 12.1 percent growth.

In New York, Manhattan had the highest per-capita income, with $119,347. The lowest among the state’s 62 counties was Allegany County, with $30,368. Here’s how Central New York counties rank:

17. Onondaga County, $44,700
41. Cayuga County, $37,228
45. Madison County, $36,298
52. Cortland County, $34,639
55: Oswego County, $33,803

Contact Glenn Coin at or 315-470-3251. Follow him on Twitter @glenncoin

© 2013 All rights reserved.

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by Margaret McCormick - Wednesday, November 27th, 2013
Gifts for your favorite foodie

When you make your list, check it twice and shop for gifts this holiday season, think local. Celebrate the great foods and food-related things that are made, produced, grown and available in Central New York.

We’ve done some browsing and pre-shopping for you. For the food lovers and cooks on your list, local options abound:

Stocking Stuffers

Primo and Mary’s Salsa. Primo and Mary’s, based in Cazenovia, is a maker of premium corn and black bean salsa, available in medium and mild. The salsa recipes were developed by Cazenovia resident Tina Conte McPherson, who inherited her love for food and cooking from her family and named her company and salsa line for her great-grandfather (Primo) and her great-aunt (Mary), pictured on the label. Enjoy the salsa with tortilla chips or in recipes like low-fat turkey chili. Bring a jar to a holiday party and watch it disappear. The price is about $5 a jar. Available at Natur-Tyme and other stores in Central New York.

Primo and Mary's Salsa

Turkey Joints. They’re a holiday tradition in the Utica-Rome area. For those who have never had them, they’re a conversation piece, as well as a tasty treat. Original Turkey Joints are a crunchy, handmade hard candy with a silvery sheen and “marrow,” or filling, made with chocolate and Brazil nuts. Turkey Joints cost about $20 a jar and are available at some Wegmans and Price Chopper stores. You can also pick them up at 321 N. Doxtator St., Rome, or purchase them online HERE

Turkey Joints

Fruition Seeds. Know your farmer, know your food. That’s your mantra when you go to the farmers market. Share the gift of seeds with friends and family members who garden and eat local. Fruition Seeds, based in Naples (Ontario County), offers organic, regionally adapted seeds from farms and farmers in the Northeast. Each seed pack ($4 plus shipping) notes the farm where the seeds originated and includes instructions for saving seeds. Offerings include a wide selection of vegetables, herbs and flowers. For information, call (585) 300-0699.

Fruition Seeds

Mad Fellows Laboratory Bitters. Bartenders and cocktail connoisseurs are adding a dash of local, artisanal bitters to their creations thanks to Mad Fellows Laboratory Bitters. The bitters cost $12 to $15 for a 4-ounce bottle and are available in flavors such as cherry, ginger, sarsaparilla, lemon, grapefruit and others. They’re the creation of Jeremy Hammill, bar manager at the Scotch ’N Sirloin, and Scott Murray, whiskey expert at Pascale’s Liquor Square. Find the bitters at the bar at the Scotch ‘N Sirloin, at Al’s Wine and Whiskey Lounge, bc and Small Plates in Armory Square and online.
For more information, email:

Mad Fellows

Hercules Candy Canes. Think a candy cane is just a candy cane? Think again. Old-fashioned, handmade candy canes (89 cents each) are the specialty of the house at Hercules Candy Co., 209 W. Heman St., East Syracuse. Shop early for peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen flavors or surprise your kids or Kris Kringle with root beer and fruit-flavored candy canes. The Andrianos family also makes old-fashioned ribbon candy, peanut brittle and a wide variety of chocolate and filled chocolate candies. Watch candy canes being made by hand at the annual Candy Cane Open House at Hercules, Saturday, Nov. 30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 463-4339.

Hercules Candy

Gifts in Good Taste (less than $50)

Holiday cheer. A host or hostess gift of wine is always appreciated. Make it uber-local at DeWitt’s first winery (Greenwood), Cazenovia’s and Madison County’s first winery (Owera) or Skaneateles Lake’s lone winery (Anyela’s), or all three. Or surprise someone with a bottle of surprisingly dry (and refreshing) hard cider from Harvest Moon Cidery (Critz Farms, Cazenovia) or Beak & Skiff (1911 Spirits, LaFayette).

Beak & Skiff

Buy direct at the winery/ciderys; all are a short drive from Syracuse.
Greenwood Winery, 6475 Collamer Road (Route 298), East Syracuse; 399-0835.
Owera Vineyards, 5276 East Lake Road, Cazenovia; 815-4311.
Anyela’s Vineyards, 2433 West Lake Road, Skaneateles; 685-3797.
Harvest Moon Cidery (at Critz Farms), 3232 Rippleton Road (Route 13), Cazenovia; 662-3355.
1911 Spirits and Tasting Room (at Beak and Skiff, Apple Hill Campus), 2708 Lords Hill Road (Route 80), LaFayette; 677-5105.

Olive on Brooklea olive oils and vinegars. Stop into this Fayetteville tasting boutique on 205 Brooklea Drive to select a gift of premium olive oil and vinegars, and chances are good you will leave with a bottle (or two) for yourself. Owner Michelle Watts features an array of interesting and surprising flavors, such as Persian lime and cilantro and roasted onion infused olive oils and infused dark balsamic vinegars such as cinnamon pear, fig and maple. Both the oils and vinegars have many uses beyond dressings and marinades; try them drizzled over ice cream, for example. Allow yourself an hour at Olive to sample, ask questions and come up with interesting pairings. Prices range $10 and up. Call 637-2070.


King George Christmas pudding. Michele Chandler, of Skaneateles and Toronto, and her partner, Sue Buchanan, are making and packaging traditional English-style Christmas pudding that will be sold in the Skaneateles area this holiday season, and during the annual Dickens Skaneateles Festival. The pudding is dense, moist and brimming with fresh fruit and dried fruit, but don’t compare it to American fruitcake. It has heritage, texture, flavor and character all its own. The pudding (about $20) comes with instructions for reheating, plus recipes for sauces to serve with it. Available at Mid-Lakes Navigation, Mirbeau Inn and Spa, Vermont Green Mountain Specialty Co. and other Skaneateles-area locations.

Bread Pudding

Edible Finger Lakes. This lovely, quarterly magazine delivers “the inside scoop’’ on Finger Lakes food, wine, farmers and producers. A subscription (four seasonal issues) costs $20 and is totally transporting, even if you’re a frequent Finger Lakes day-tripper. In addition to interesting articles, the magazine features seasonal, local recipes that you will want to add to your repertoire (think Grape Pie and Beef Stout Pie. Mmmmm). Print subscribers get free access to digital and archived issues.

Edible Finger Lakes

BeerFolds. A beer wallet for the beer lover on your list? With some beer money tucked inside? Why not? Matt Ellison, of Cazenovia, has turned his love for craft beers, microbrews, IPAs, stouts and more into a cottage industry, by turning cardboard container six-packs into wallets that he sells online at ($16 plus shipping). Have a favorite local brewery (Saranac, Middle Ages, Ommegang, Ithaca Brewery, etc.)? Custom orders are accepted but require extra time, so don’t be a last-minute shopper.

Beer Folds

Witty Wicks. Soy candles that smell good enough to eat, are made with natural ingredients and come in a glass jar that you can recycle or use again? Sweet. Aubry Panek, of Warners, makes candles with foodie scents such as sugar cookie, candy cane, cake, gingerbread, chocolate fudge, Milly Vanilly, pumpkin spice, sage and many more. Candles range in price from $3.50 to $20.50. Find Witty Wicks on Saturdays at the Central New York Regional Market (Shed E) or shop online.

Witty Wicks

Sampling Syracuse Food Tours. Give the gift of a local food tour to a food lover, local history lover or both. Owner and guide Kate Gillen offers walking tours to whet your appetite each Saturday (and some Fridays) in downtown Syracuse. Tours start and end in Armory Square and include stops at Kitty Hoynes, Pastabilities, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Freedom of Espresso, Gannon’s Isle and others. A 2½-hour tour covers two miles, costs about $36 and includes enough food that most participants consider it lunch. Tours resume in spring 2014. Gift certificates are available.

Food tours

Gifts in Good Taste (more than $100)

Borough Furnace Cast-Iron Pans. Serious cooks love serious cookware. Cast iron gets the job done; it’s the “original non-stick.” Seasoned and treated well, it will last a lifetime (and give enjoyment to your heirs). In Syracuse, cousins John Truex and Jason Connelly make cast-iron pans by hand at Borough Furnace, a micro-foundry at the Gear Factory, 200 S. Geddes St., on the Near West Side. Skillets made the previous week (about $280) are posted in the “shop” section of the website most Tuesdays at noon. Stock is limited and sells out fast. Borough also offers iron bottle openers ($30) and Zamak bottle openers ($18). Email:


CSA subscription. Give yourself and your family the gift of seasonal, local, accessible produce. If you live in Syracuse, it doesn’t get much more local than a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription to Cobblestone Creek Farm, East Syracuse. Farmers Steve and Diane Eggert grow everything from beets to zucchini and this year partnered with a local grower to include an optional fresh fruit add-on. Their weekly box share program typically runs mid-June to about Thanksgiving and includes enough to feed a family of four. A full share costs about $600. It’s a real commitment to eating seasonal and local–and an investment in local farmers. Information/email:; Facebook, (updates, recipes, etc.).


Margaret McCormick is a freelance writer and editor in Syracuse. She blogs about food at Follow her on Twitter at @mmccormickcny.


What: Plaid Friday: Dress in plaid and shift your shopping and spending to locally owned businesses.
When: Friday, Nov. 29.
In a nutshell: Forget the Black Friday madness and mayhem. Get out there and support independent retailers, restaurants, food producers, etc. Use the hashtag #PlaidFriday on Twitter and Facebook posts.
Information: To learn more about shifting your spending to local, visit the SyracuseFirst website,

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Its Time for PLAID FRIDAY! #PlaidFriday

For many Americans, Black Friday has come to epitomize all that’s gone wrong with this season of gift-giving and the long hours we’ll spend in the coming weeks negotiating traffic jams, crowds, and the endless aisles of big-box stores. That’s why we propose that Central New Yorkers take a new approach to holiday shopping this year. Let’s use this special time to slow down and really savor the places where we live: our public squares and historic buildings, our sense of community, and the rich variety of locally owned stores and restaurants that contribute so much to the flavor and spirit of our region.

There’s no better place to begin than by reclaiming the day after Thanksgiving. A few years ago, a group in Oakland, California, came up with a great idea: “Plaid Friday.” It’s a simple concept. On Friday, shift away from the malls and “go local” instead. Stroll your neighborhood or downtown, stop by a few independent businesses, meet friends at a local coffee shop — in short, simply enjoy your community. And, while you’re at it, wear something plaid. This mainstay of Upstate NY wardrobes is the perfect alternative to Black Friday. With its endless variety of colors and combinations, plaid is a fitting symbol of the diversity of Upstate cities and towns and the local entrepreneurs who give them life.

In case you are worried that Plaid Friday won’t be as good for our economy and promising job market as Black Friday, never fear. Even if you spend less this season, by shifting more of your shopping to locally owned businesses, you’ll actually create more jobs here in Central New York than if you shop only at chains and online retailers. Here’s why: Unlike national retailers, locally owned businesses rely on other local businesses for many goods and services, like accounting, printing, and so on. As a result, when you shop at a local business, a much larger share of what you spend is re-spent elsewhere in the community, supporting a variety of local jobs. Several studies have quantified this, finding that spending a dollar at a locally owned business creates about three times as much economic activity and more jobs in the region than spending that same dollar at a chain store. Given that each Central New Yorker will spend more than an estimated $700 on holiday gifts this year, the potential economic benefits of shifting more of our purchases to locally owned businesses are sizeable.

So, even as the media spends the next few weeks anxiously monitoring cash registers at national retailers, it’s worth remembering that a more significant indicator of Central New York’s economic well-being and capacity to create jobs will hinge on how well our hometown businesses are faring.

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Redefining the Dream: Creating REAL Prosperity for All


FALSE Prosperity

  • Consolidated, distant ownership
  • Dependent, volatile
  • Impersonal, hidden, complex
  • Short-term return and risk
  • Dollars leave the local economy, benefit only few
  • Homogenized, loss of heritage
  • Destructive, stressful, fearful

REAL Prosperity

  • Diverse, local ownership
  • Self-sufficient, resilient
  • Personal, transparent, direct
  • Long-term growth and success
  • Dollars stay in the local economy, improve quality of life for all
  • Unique culture, pride of place
  • Sustainable, healthy, joyful


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