When a friend invited me to a ‘Members Only’ event on Facebook the other week, I made a point of checking with the host before you know, just showing up. I spoke with Dig Local Co-founder Ted Pate Friday morning. I called and explained that I am new in town; I make interesting media stories for local businesses; and I’d like to come to his ‘Members Only’ Holiday Party.

Ryan Naylor Account Representative for Dig Local Asheville at Company Holiday Party
Ryan Naylor Account Representative for Dig Local Asheville at Company Holiday Party.

He paused 2 seconds to process my out-of-the-blue introduction/request and said, “Sure, no problem. Welcome to town!” This response became the latest in a series of Asheville experiences that points to what seems like a near universal Generosity of Spirit in the hills of Western North Carolina. Multiple incidents of spontaneous openheartedness, so unusual in much of our tortured society, have been causing me minor culture shocks since my arrival in October.

As a strong proponent of local business crushing it at all times, I look forward to my acclimation to this local modus operandi for at least two reasons:

1. Generosity makes life better.
2. Generosity makes local business work better.

(If you agree, you are invited to add your own reasons in the Facebook Comments section below.)

I am under no illusion all of life’s Petty People Problems evaporate into the misty horizon, but at this point it seems safe to say there are a large number of people in the WNC area who are conspiring to conjure up the better side of humanity. After the Atlanta metro, it’s a refreshing change of pace, and an effective setting for local business prosperity.

A Brief History of the De-Localized Economics of The United States
Note: The following historical observations are based on the aggregate of our limited knowledge on this subject and are not intended to be authoritative. If you have additions or corrections, we haven’t gotten to the point Comments need to be disabled, so have at it. TL;DR Warning: We are going a little deep for a minute.

The de-localization of commerce that comes with the success of interstate trade isn’t some kind of unintended accident. Our country was conceived and executed to facilitate the growth of strong corporations. As US corporations have grown and assumed more power, corporate strength has become associated with national strength, particularly since our victory in World War II.

While many question how the cultural experiment of the United States is turning out, there is no debate the modern economic experiment to create the world’s largest companies has been successful. Today the United States charters (meaning ‘is legally home to‘) 25 corporations with revenues that exceed the Gross Domestic Product of 25 nations, including Bangladesh, New Zealand and Norway according to this Business Insider clickbait slideshow.

While international trade existed for centuries before the modern era, trade and commerce was almost exclusively a local phenomenon. Merchants and consumers were mostly known to each other personally. Since the Industrial Revolution, the role of the global market in day to day commerce has grown exponentially, separating us from the sources of our goods and services.

Our organic past was not so long ago, but in terms of food quality and economic locality, it’s hard to imagine how much further we can go from a fairly recent past. In the context of world history, a US citizen in 2016 is a time traveler 100+ years deep into a completely new economy that has only gotten bigger, more specialized, and more complex.

As long as the global supply chain is moving merch with cheap energy, no one will beat Walmart on price. In 2017, localizing wealth means fighting against the current. Organizations like Dig Local are showing the community the added value that goes with buying local. Dig Local is making it easier to shop with tools like their popular Dig Local App for iPhone and Android, which is getting an impressive 50-100 downloads per day in a small metro market.

Going against the current of the dominant economic market isn’t the easiest task, but Flori and Ted Pate, the husband and wife team are well aware of the global market and choose the path less traveled, the local way, because it is the path they believe in. Ted says, “After working with big name brands such as CamelBak, Michelin Tires, Gold’s Gym, Leatherman Tools, Discovery Communications, Costa Del Mar and Pabst Blue Ribbon, it’s very refreshing to share that knowledge and experience with local independent business owners and focus the attention on their businesses.”

Organizations like Dig Local are literally trailblazing a path out of the Big Box, towards an economic model that must be re-invented for our times.

So yes, I did actually make it to the Dig Local “Members Only” Holiday Party. On my left is a brewmaster based in Hendersonville, next to him is a painter from Asheville’s River Arts District. Across from me is a woman who works for a rafting company in tiny little Marshall, NC. Later I meet the totally friendly guy who says he may have reason to regret naming his West Asheville business, “The Guitar Trader,” because he gets way too many trade in offers that aren’t, shall we say, equitable.

Steven of Guitar Trader and Katie, a pastry chef at Warren Wilson College.
Steven of Guitar Trader and Katie, a pastry chef at Warren Wilson College.

My brief visit to the Jackson Building offices and my correspondence with Account Manager Ryan Naylor and Ted Pate since that day tells me Dig Local is a unique local resource that is a kind of antidote to our somewhat unconscious faith in the global economy. Dig Local features over 230 locally-owned businesses in a single resource that organizes information in several cross-referenced ways, including grids of daily specials according to product or service category. As a new arrival to the area, Dig Local has been a top ranked Google hit for restaurants and bars every time I have looked online for nightly specials or deeper information on the food and entertainment scene.


Winter evening at Dig Local, 2016. At least 50 people attended the Holiday Party.
The Dig Local website even defines its criteria for local business ownership, so I know when I am buying at businesses represented by Dig Local, I am contributing to a truly local economy, something many savvy consumers place a high value on.

As a marketplace for consumers and businesses, Dig Local is clearly working. They offer a ‘Daily Scoop’ on both their website and smartphone apps. The Daily Scoop features goods and service specials offered by member businesses. Today, Monday, December 26, 2016, I count 49 specials on the Daily Scoop in a metropolitan market of just over 400,000. This strikes me as impressively comprehensive coverage. According to Flori Pate, Co-founder of Dig Local, the Dig Local App is getting exposure in media all over town, including a recharge station at the Asheville Airport and 8 area billboards you’ve probably noticed. Apparently it’s working based on the high rate of daily downloads.

Asheville is clearly blazing trails into the next incarnation of the American Dream. The experience and intelligence behind the design and execution of DigLocal.com and the Dig Local App is setting the stage for major leaps forward in the future of local economics. One more reason it’s good to live here.

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The elusive Tommy Lee, artist of Bern the Trump painting, made an appearance at the Dig Local Holiday party 2016.
The elusive Tommy Lee, artist of Bern the Trump painting, made an appearance at the Dig Local Holiday party 2016.


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