Plaid Friday // Interview with the Founder

I was listening to the Marketplace on NPR last night and host Ky Ryssdal was talking about some guy in some state who is already camped out in front of Best Buy in a 10 person tent equipped with a generator, microwave, heater and gaming console in anticipation for Black Friday.  And then this morning I saw LL Cool J rapping about how Best Buy is actually now just going to open up on Thanksgiving evening.  I'm gonna hashtag that #heyloverI'mworkingthanksgivingday or maybe #mamasaidknockbestbuyout.

It's this sort of rampant consumerism {as cleverly depicted in this Saturday Night Live clip, seriously watch it} that has some people boycotting the whole day, but a few years ago my dear friend Kerri Johnson came up with a better idea.  She decided to spend the day embracing everything that is going right--namely by supporting vibrant local independent small businesses.  Kerri thought it would we super fun to give people an organized alternative to the mall and box stores, and so Plaid Friday was born!  

This year Oakland is going all out, over 45 local retailers are participating in just downtown/uptown areas, the East Bay Express has published this bodacious map of our city, and Mayor Jean Quan has made it free to park on Plaid Friday and every Saturday in December, #hellafreeparking!  And of course at Crown Nine we'll be serving up a sparkly sample sale with Sarah Swell from 11-8.

I sat down with my neighbor Kerri, owner of Marion and Rose's Workshop, to have her give me the scoop on the event that started right here in Oakland and has spread across the country.

1// Why did you create Plaid Friday?  Why is it a good fit for Oakland?

I created Plaid Friday in 2009 as a response to a movement that was spreading to boycott all shopping on Black Friday.   At the time I owned a small artist run space called Blankspace with my husband and we were turning our gallery into a popup shop for the holidays with local artisan products. Since many of our friends were just hanging out on that day I thought, let's turn this day into a positive experience and give them a relaxing and enjoyable alternative to shopping at the big box stores, while at the same time learning more about their neighborhood small businesses.

The name Plaid Friday was conceived from the idea of weaving the individual threads of small businesses together to create a strong fabric that celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses.  To me this idea embodies Oakland, strong, diverse and independent.

2// How many other cities participate?

I am so excited to say that cities from all over the country now participate including Portland, Boston, Boulder, Somerville, Nashua, and even the city of City of Pembroke in Canada is participating this year! The campaign as received support from many small business advocate sites like AMIBA and BALLE who help spread the word to small businesses all over the country. I am proud of the fact that this is a grassroots effort that has grown purely from word of mouth and the support of small businesses.  It's all about creating community and strengthening small business.

3// What is Marion and Rose's Workshop all about?

The shop features a well-edited collection of uncommon American made fine goods for the home, person and pet.  We stock high quality, well crafted items by a select group of innovative American designers, artisans and craftspeople.  We seek out the perfect heirloom quality goods, from artisans and companies who have small scale, sustainable, and ethical manufacturing processes.

4// What is your personal shopping philosophy?

I love to shop at locally owned businesses and support my community. We have so many great small businesses in the Bay Area, it's really fun to explore.

5// What products are you most nuts about this season?

I am in love with the wool blankets of Faribault Mills who also make super warm wool scarves.  I am also crushing hard on a company called Cuppow, who make these silly lids that turn mason jars into drinking cups and bento boxes.  The simplicity of the idea is wonderful, and the company founders are amazing people who care about every aspect of the product from the minimal packaging to making sure they are using PBA free plastics.  All of their products are made in the USA and often when you purchase one of their products a portion of the profits goes to a worthy cause.

6// What is your holiday tradition?

One of my holiday traditions is making hot chocolate with marshmallows and curling up with my dogs and hubby to watch some of the movies I've been enjoying for years, like Bad Santa, Christmas Vacation and of course A Christmas Story!

L O V E + M E T A L