A Competitive Advantage: Buy Local mixer shows why you should put your money where your house is

Wisconsin Cheese Masters owner Jim Pionkoski looks on as Janice Thomas of the Savory Spoon Cooking School, Ellison Bay, checks out a cheese selection during the May 1 Buy Local mixer held at Wisconsin Cheese Masters and Harbor Ridge Winery in Egg Harbor.

Visitors to the Sturgeon Bay branch of the Door County Library may have noticed a new poster urging them to Buy Local. It’s a small start to involving the community in a business-to-business initiative that has been going on since the fall of 2010.

“One of these days we’re going to try to grow our program to the consumer market. Right now we’re focused on the business market and we have a lot of dedicated business owners,” said Door County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Bill Chaudoir before the start of the monthly B2B Buy Local mixer on May 1, held at Wisconsin Cheese Masters and Harbor Ridge Winery in Egg Harbor.

Buy Local is especially important in such a small and close-knit community, Chaudoir said.

“Being a small community, you take it personally when you see a business close. You get bummed out. That’s what this is all about, to try to avoid that,” he said.

The University of Wisconsin Extension office released a study that determined that a 1 percent spending increase locally instead of spending it outside of the county results in 56 jobs.

“It’s very cumulative,” Chaudoir said. “We’re not asking people for charity here. We’re asking them to do Door County Buy Local for business reasons. It’s good for business to do business with other Door County businesses.”

A number of speakers shared thoughts on the competitive advantage of buying local, including Jim Pionkoski of Wisconsin Cheese Masters, which just celebrated its second anniversary this spring.

“This business started as a buy local event for our family. We discovered the Montfort Bleu Cheese, a world champion, when we were on a family drive,” Pionkoski said. “Everything we buy is made in Wisconsin. All of the condiments we sell are made in Door County.”

He also made a point to let everyone know that Door County residents receive a 10 percent discount on his products all the time.

Pam Flasch, manager of Harbor Ridge Winery, explained that they are a sister winery to Von Stiehl in Algoma and Captain’s Walk in Green Bay. The wines are made at Von Stiehl, and aged on site.

“We are growing, growing, growing,” Flasch said. “We have a total of nine proprietary wines and we’re adding another in June called Cherryosity, a sparkling cherry wine blended with muscat.”

Carol Skare of The Cookery in Fish Creek said the whole idea of her business was to highlight Door County, an idea reflected in The Cookery’s motto: Celebrating the Great Tastes of Door County since 1977.

She said The Cookery works with 25 local suppliers “and are always open to work with more.”

“We get a lot of it [local business] through networking,” she said.

Sturgeon Bay photographer Kelly Avenson detailed how her photography business grew to include the Greco Gallery, a Third Avenue artists’ cooperative that celebrates the work of 15 local artists.

“It makes it affordable for all of us,” she said.

Joe and Sue Jarosh of Jacksonport Craft Cottage Gifts, a consignment shop in the oldest home in Jacksonport that opened its doors for the 29th year this month, also told of celebrating Door County artists at their shop.

“People want to bring their Door County memories home,” Joe said.

Victoria Cerinich of Wyatt’s Gallery introduced the aforementioned Buy Local poster that went up at the library and said another poster featuring other Door County businesses will go up in November.

As a member of the Buy Local Committee, Cerinich said the idea behind the initiative is really very simple: “We’d like to enhance our own economic development,” she said. “We all live here. It stays with us.”

The next Buy Local mixer will be Wed., June 5, at Nautical Inn, Sturgeon Bay. A social starts at 5:30 pm, followed by a 6 pm program. The June topic is The Importance of Curb Appeal to Your Business. The Buy Local mixer then goes into hibernation during the busy season and resumes in November.

For more information on the Buy Local initiative, visit

Positive Impacts of Buying Local

Green Friendly:  Shopping locally reduces gas consumption and pollution. Local stores help to sustain vibrant, walkable communities, reducing sprawl and the need for cars.

Keeping Local Dollars in the Economy:  A one percent increase in spending in Door County would induce a total of $3.9 million in industry sales, 56 jobs and $2.3 million in new personal income.

Local Character and Prosperity:  In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an advantage in offering quality of life and unique experiences.

Friends and Neighbors Provide Better Service:  Local residents – your friends and neighbors – staff local businesses. You get better service from people you know and who know you.

Convenience Equals Savings:  Shopping locally saves you time and money. A shopping trip outside of your county costs you for every mile you drive, each way, and valuable time.

Source: Rob Burke, Door County UW-Extension