The first question Gaia DiLoreto asks when someone applies to sell product in her store, or when she reaches out to makers herself, is: “Was this made in Brooklyn?” By Brooklyn is the only store — in the city, in the state, in the country, in the world — where everything is made in the borough of Brooklyn.
Gaia DiLoreto defines local as community, first and foremost. “It’s the person in my shop selling the product, and it’s the person coming in to buy the product; it’s all of those players, all supported and supporting in some way.” To Gaia, “local” is a way to capture that sense of community.
Why make such a strong commitment to sourcing local products? Gaia provides three ideas:
1 Sourcing local products provides a permanent platform for makers, supporting their stability and a healthy local economy. Gaia’s intent from the very start was to provide a place for locally made products to be sold. She notes, “To provide another platform for people to have a permanent location (in addition to the many seasonal markets) at which their product can be found, I think, is really integral to the sustainability and growth of a business.”
2 It’s good business. Gaia made a decision to stay local because, in her words, “It’s a great concept and a brand; it’s steadfast. I didn’t even realize at the time what that concept would mean for me financially — that it would save me money on shipping, that I could be nimble in meeting customers’ demands. I know who’s making the product, and have conversations about how a product came about and where it’s from, so that when someone comes into the store asking how it came to be on the shelf, I can tell them the story. People care about the story.”
3 It’s environmentally friendly. “By nature of making locally, your footprint is smaller,” says Gaia. Many companies seek to grow, which may mean moving beyond the local community. Still, there’s something different about starting local. She explains, “Of course, if you diversify where you’re manufacturing, what’s local also changes. There are growing pains as you adjust to what your environmental impact is as your business grows, and how you prioritize, but there’s an awareness that comes with starting local.”
As wonderful as sourcing locally is, it is hard. Not everyone can do as Gaia does, but she asks: “How can you support your local community? How can you move your money close to home?”