Chatting in Chattanooga

  • JD Harper

Why Buy Local: Because It Makes Good Cents!

"Locally made" vendor event: Chattanooga, TN

Having once owned a small cottage business, Freeky Friendz – the Perfectly Imperfect Toy, where we hand crafted “freaky” looking stuffed toys, I know how a small independently owned business struggles to stay afloat in a retail world where people are more apt to make their purchases at the end of their fingertips with a click and ship flourish. This insider’s knowledge is what propels my desire to be a conscientious consumer and diligent in seeking out local businesses from which I can purchase locally hand-made products.

Preparing Freeky Friendz for shipping.

Freeky Friendz opened operations in 2008 after my son couldn’t find a gift at our local toy store that he liked or wasn’t made in China, so he asked me if he could make his own gift for his good friend’s birthday. His “freaky” looking stuffed toy creation was a hit with his friend as well as with several other partygoers who asked Dan if he would make one for them, and so Freeky Friendz the Perfectly Imperfect toy was born. We closed operations in 2014 after a successful run as a small cottage business that produced an “antiquated” toy of sorts right as the technology toys were hitting the market. We had a dream to encourage kids to buy hand made unique toys that you knew where they had been manufactured and with material made in America. Our hope was that our product was intriguing enough that it would cause the consumer to stop and think about how, when and where a product was made thereby encouraging conscientious consumerism. Now ten plus years later, I am encouraged that society appears to be trending back to buying locally produced products.

Recently while on one of my treks to find locally made products, I had the great fortune to meet Tori Hunt, owner of Two Ridges Pottery. I discovered Two Ridges Pottery among the vendors at the grand opening of the Passageways 2.0 Public Art installation in downtown Chattanooga. Tori’s pottery is beautiful, functional and unique. I purchased a stemless wine glass and a small batter/egg bowl. Both were given as gifts for Christmas and were instant favorites!

Passageways 2.0 Chattanooga, TN

Tori is manager at Ember, a co-operative of 50 artists located on Main Street, and she was gracious enough to spend some time with me to share her thoughts on the importance of buying locally produced wares.

Q: What lead you to start a small business?

“Actually it was when I started working here (Ember). I had learned pottery in high school and liked it but never did any pottery work while in college but picked it back up since working here, and it (the business) has been doing really well.”

Tori Hunt, potter and manager at Ember Studios

Q: What are your thoughts on the Chattanooga Community supporting the “buying local” movement?

“Chattanooga is doing a pretty good job supporting businesses that produce locally made products. The brewery industry and farmer’s markets in and around town are great examples of how the community is supporting small businesses that produce their product(s) locally. Chattanooga is also great at local businesses supporting local businesses. Again it’s the brewery industry here in town that is leading that charge. They are choosing to spend more money for quality mugs produced by businesses in town instead of buying them at a fraction of the cost through big manufacturing companies that produce their products overseas-often in China.”

Q: What do you see as advantages to the consumer to purchase locally produced products?

“As an artisan, when I shop stores that carry locally made products, I envision the person who made the item and not a machine. I am willing to pay more for a hand made product because of the “artsy kind of feel” it will have. I look at it like paying for entertainment. When you buy a locally made product you get to hear the story behind the product either by a display of the artist’s bio or first hand if the artisan happens to be in the shop the day you stop by. Also, when you buy locally produced products you are financially supporting a person who is growing a business and the more successful the business the greater the odds it can offer job opportunities for fellow citizens. Also, buying locally made products made great conversation starters: people want to know where you bought the unique, one-of-a kind item.” (I can attest to this with her products. Each of the two people that received my gifts made by Tori asked me immediately, “Where did you find this?”)

Q: What is your greatest reward as a small business owner who produces her products locally?

“From the producer side, I like that I am making a product that I know where all of the materials came from, are safe and free of chemicals often found in big manufacturing plants. I feel a connectedness with the community when they purchase my product - what a better feeling than seeing someone buy and use something that I have created.

Benefits of buying local:

  • Know where the product comes from

  • Support “real” people, not huge corporations

  • Infuse money into the local economy

  • Helps small businesses grow thereby supporting employment opportunities for the community (17.3 million small business jobs created in 2016)

  • Encourages innovation

  • Empowers people to believe in themselves and the products they sell

So the next time you are itching to spend some money on "retail therapy", make sure to check out the shops in your area that carry locally produced items. And make sure to share your favorite shop with me!

Tori Hunt

A native of Asheville, NC, Tori attended Covenant College where she played soccer. She soon fell in love with the Scenic City and decided to stay after her graduation in May 2018. Tori, her husband and her Golden Doodle, Mable, are newly minted Chattanoogans. Check out her website (link below), follow her on Instagram (link below) or stop in to see her and Mabel at Ember Gallery located at 36 East Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408. 

Two Ridges Pottery

#buylocal #supportlocalbusiness #smallbusiness #artisans #pottery #chattanoogabloggers #bloggersofchattanooga #ember #tworidgespottery

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