So, Asher, a third generation Renoite with 25 years of retail experience, decided to reinvent himself in a way that could help local proprietors emerge from the recession healthy, strong and better than ever.
In March he launched LiveLocal RenoSparks, a nonprofit replete with a website, and in the process brought a national initiative home to the Truckee Meadows.
Asher’s strategy is simple: encourage area consumers to spend their money with local businesses and provide local businesses a resource to connect with area consumers.
“Think local first” is his motto.
But Asher isn’t the only one grasping the reins of the “buy local” movement.
Lynette Castillo has taken a scrapped government campaign to support local businesses and turned it into a private, nonprofit model.
Made in Nevada, Inc. began its life about 20 years ago as a program supported by the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. Budget cuts, however, forced it out a few years ago.
But Castillo, a Carson City resident who worked for the public program, believed in its value and couldn’t stand to see it die.
“So I decided to bring it home,” she said.
Since 2009, Made in Nevada has been operating with a bare bones budget, supported primarily by $50 monthly membership dues. For more than 150 businesses across the state, however, it is an indispensable lifeline as they try to stay afloat until the economic recovery emerges in full.
Marty Smith, owner of The Flag Store, Sign and Banner in Sparks, believes it is important to connect with local business owners dealing with similar struggles.
“These are people in the same boat, rowing the same motors as me,” he said.
As a member of Made in Nevada, Smith’s business gets exposure in the nonprofit’s catalog, on its website and through special marketplace events, such as the one held at his store earlier this month.
The event brought together some 20 vendors and businesses associated with Made in Nevada to sell products and engage patrons under one roof. Live music, poetry readings, wine tastings and food samples made for more than just shopping.
“This year was absolutely incredible,” Smith said of the marketplace.
Castillo hopes to expand upon this success and increase the number of marketplace events in 2011.
“It’s really important to see these businesses grow,” she said. “It makes our communities proud.”
Smith has turned the Made in Nevada theme into an integral part of his business in the last year. To survive the recession, he said, it became necessary to diversify his inventory. Moving beyond selling flags and making signs became absolutely critical.
So Smith took a chance and decided to invest in gift baskets, apparel, wine, food products and other merchandise produced in Nevada.
“It looks like it has paid off,” he said.
Getting creative, thinking outside the box and assuming risks have become part of the cost of doing business for many in recent years.
But success, in large measure, still depends on the consumer side of the equation.
That’s why Asher does what he does.
“My niche is providing a free online directory for local businesses,” he said, but only inasmuch as it gives consumers a central search point to discover local alternatives to chain retail and restaurant outlets.
Asher is set to launch a “10 percent shift” campaign in the new year, wherein area consumers are encouraged to adjust their spending habits to the local market.
Asher said that if Reno-Sparks residents shift just 10 percent of spending from chain stores or out-of-state markets to local businesses, the area can retain upwards of $350 million. That money, he said, circulates through the economy and supports schools, infrastructure projects, police departments and parks, among other things, all without any tax increases.
If successful, Asher believes his campaign can help lead the way to better economic days for Nevada.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.