Some places come and go, while some places become icons. Mandatory Milwaukee is all about the latter. Join us as we revisit beloved and well-worn local staples with fresh eyes, and explore how they might figure in the city’s future.
Buy local. It’s something we’ve said before and, if you really get down to it, that message of supporting hometown businesses is one of the major touchstones of this website. Since launching in early 2014, Milwaukee Record has championed area retailers, sponsored the annual Hover Craft makers market every year of our existence, consistently covered metro Milwaukee restaurants and bars, written about local breweries and distilleries, frequented hometown venues in our music and comedy coverage, given attention to hundreds of the city’s talented musicians and artists, promoted independent movie theaters and museums, and even booked dozens upon dozens of events to help bring people out to regional haunts.
We’ve done these things since day one because we truly believe in Milwaukee and the countless folks whose work and skill makes this a truly special place to live. And now, we’re reminding you of it because they really, really need help. Even in “normal times,” most small businesses operate with very small profit margins. Obviously, the ongoing (and still worsening) COVID-19 crisis has made things drastically more difficult for the vast majority of local businesses. While some have received a little bit of assistance from the government, most have not. With ever-changing policies and no real tangible help on the way from state or national “leaders,” business owners are left to fend for themselves, all during an economic collapse that’s also taking place during a full-blown pandemic and long-overdue human rights movement.
With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season in general on the horizon, there’s no better time to ask you—no, to beg you—to shop local. That’s always been the message, but it’s especially the case during this especially arduous year. Sure, your support might only be a drop in the bucket…but enough drops will eventually fill a bucket enough to help a business sustain itself in the short-term. In almost all cases, your purchase won’t bring a business anywhere even near where they’d be in pre-pandemic times, but it might help them stick it out another month or two, or justify keeping an employee on staff they’d otherwise need to let go, or at least help to slow the bleeding as the world awaits any positive change in the largely uncertain future. It’s something.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some suggestions. Mask up and hit up a local shop to cross some names off your holiday shopping list (or order online, if it’s offered). Instead of getting books on Amazon, order from Boswell or another Milwaukee area retailer. Buy that show-goer—or treat your future self—to a gift card to an area venue. Get that beer enthusiast or amateur mixologist in your life some Milwaukee-made beer or spirits to enjoy this winter.
Represent your city while also supporting people in it with some apparel that shows love for your favorite neighborhood, bar, venue, or scrappy entertainment publication. Stock up on music or other merch from local musicians, much of which you can buy on Bandcamp (the next Bandcamp Friday is December 4) or at local record stores. In addition to getting carryout from area restaurants whenever possible, consider buying a gift card either for a present or to hold onto until brighter days come and you can dine-in safely.
Get someone locally-made art, which will not only support Milwaukee artists and galleries, but will also serve as rare and unique gift they can’t get anywhere else. Get someone a membership to Milwaukee Film or Milwaukee Art Museum or buy a subscription to Lion’s Tooth or a Patreon page of a local creator. Get coffee, tea, spices, and other specialty goods from local manufacturers. And for the person who had it all, consider making a donation in their name to any number of deserving Milwaukee organizations.
We’re sure we’re leaving out a bunch of other ideas, but you get the idea. We know firsthand that money is tight all around right now, but if you have the means to do anything at all, please PLEASE consider doing something this year (and whenever possible, both before and after the holiday season). Not only will you get a unique, quality, and personal present for someone, you’ll also keep money in the community, and help some of the places that make Milwaukee special remain in operation during these dark and difficult times. Buy local.