By OBX and Buy OBX

 In Holiday, Shopping

Why to Shop Local

Our landscape has long brought innovative thinkers and artistic individuals in search of inspiration for invention, crafting, painting, and building. Recent times have seen a growing population of artisans and entrepreneurs on our shores sharing original creations. Along with this growing handmade movement comes greater awareness for the need to support our fellow locals by buying products and services directly from those in our community.

According to the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), “multiple studies show locally-owned independent restaurants return twice as much per dollar of revenue to our local economy than chain restaurants. And independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales than chain competitors.” Keeping those numbers in mind, we encourage you to keep your holiday gift buying local this season. Here are a few ideas to get you started:



Sweater Box Confections

Growing up, Chris Carroll and her family looked forward to her grandmother’s baked holiday goodies which were packed up tightly in a cardboard sweater box. Those same sweater boxes inspired Carroll who grew up baking and even trained with a chocolatier. Begun as a hobby about eight years ago, she successfully started selling cookies and biscotti from her kitchen and decided “let’s see if we can make a living at this.” Thus, Sweater Box Confections was born. “This environment [the Outer Banks] brings a lot of crafts people.


You have to be creative to make a living here,” says Carroll, who concocts cookies, macaroons, and, just for the holiday season, chocolates. Carroll sees the support of local businesses everywhere in our community. We have great local business people here who want to support a local economy where we all live. [Also], here, because we are an economy where there’s not a lot of distance between owners and employees [who work side-by-side], our population has a higher sense of supporting local businesses.”

Sweater Box Confections
$12 – $76
Chris Carroll



Carolina Coto

Costa Rican native, Carolina Coto, finds that the community of artists here on the Outer Banks resembles a close-knit family, with its members looking out for one another. “I wasn’t expecting that the people that I would meet when I go to the local craft shows would be so welcoming. It makes me happy when I see them,” says Coto. “The artist community here is quite strong. I grew up [in San Jose, Costa Rica], a city of two million people, and you’re anonymous there, but everywhere you go here, you know everybody.” She is adamant that she wouldn’t be an artist here on the Outer Banks without the support of her husband, a long-time local.


“I couldn’t do what I’m doing without him.” Coto finds inspiration for her painting and print designs from the nature around her, “I grew up in the city, but how can you not be inspired by the beach and the beauty? Unlike the city, there is a lot of space, a lot of nature here.” Although still getting her business established, Coto tries to donate her work whenever possible to fundraisers for such charities as the Children at Play Museum and the Beach Food Pantry. And as for buying local? “I like to buy from local artists. If I have a birthday, I try to buy locally. I go to the farmer’s market. The bigger my business gets, the easier it is for me to support local artists.” 

Carolina Coto
$9.50 and up



Evrday Carts

Evrday Carts is the brainchild of Lee Sawtell and his family. They wanted an easy way to transport their ‘stuff’ to the beach via bike, and then easily across sand. With careful planning and testing, Evrday was born. “It is important for us to manufacture our product on the Outer Banks due to our continued testing and ongoing research and development efforts.


The Outer Banks is the best testing ground for us as far as our soft sand, harsh ‘salt water’ environment, and tall dunes with ‘walkways’ to the beach,” says Sawtell, who has designed a line of beach, bike, and car carts suited to every outdoor adventure need. “We feel if our product can work well here, it can work well in 99% of the beaches and other locations around the world.” Not only does Evrday manufacture their products locally, they give back by sponsoring a beach cleanup day every July 5th. “We also want to give back to the community we live in by employing local people and to be able to represent our company by volunteering in our local community.”

Evrday Carts
$349-$1249 (allow 2-3 weeks)
Lee Sawtell



Cactus Design & Art

Although still a practicing graphic designer, Susan Estrella made a leap to jewelry-maker a few short years ago after taking a class in Nags Head. The skills she learned prompted a desire in Estrella “to focus on my craft; I love using my hands,” and she now produces kumihimo bracelets and necklaces. The intricate Japanese braiding technique gives her distinctive pieces a sparkling showcase for the many semi-precious gemstones and unusual beads she enjoys working with. “There are so many artists living here and there’s so much inspiration,” says Estrella of the sights and features of the Outer Banks, “the many beautiful colors and textures…and the vibe is so relaxing and peaceful [that] I try to convey it in the work I do; I keep it very organic.”

Estrella and her company, Cactus Design, Inc., donate funds and her skills as a graphic designer to a multitude of charitable organizations on the Outer Banks; now, she’s able to donate her jewelry to help raise money at charity events. Her personal favorite? The Dare Literacy Council. “There’s a huge sense of community here, of giving back,” says Estrella when talking about the magnanimous attitude of her fellow locals towards one another, “and that’s what I love about it.” Estrella is thrilled that she is able to do what she loves and give back at the same time.

Cactus Design and Art
$15 and up
Susan Estrella



In the Lens Photography

Seven years ago, amateur photographer Bill Birkemeier, encouraged by his wife, turned twelve photos of the area into a calendar for his family. A raging success, he began producing them for sale the following year through his company, In the Lens. Birkemeier explains what inspires him, “We live in a stunningly beautiful place surrounded by nature; however, it’s easy to take for granted as work and life can get in the way.  So photography gives me a reason to be out looking for those special moments: that not to be missed sunrise over the ocean, or sunset over the sound, the Milky Way over Bodie Island Light, that rare sighting of a snowy owl on the beach at Ocracoke. 


We’re out among the surfers, fisherman, beachcombers, painters, poets, and others – all enjoying just being here.” With an expanding line of prints and note card sets for sale, Birkemeier still remembers to give back to the community that has brought his success. 10% of the proceeds from the sale of each calendar go to The Northeast NC Coastal Research and Environmental Education Fund to support coastal education and science.

In the Lens Photography
Note Cards – 8.95 and up
2015 Calendar – $12.95
Bill Birkemeier



She Sells Sea Soaps

“When people take a whiff of my soaps and that sense of ‘being there’ immediately floods them…that is my inspiration…to help people remember happy times in this amazing part of the world in which we live!” says Nell Long of her line of soaps, body butters, and linen sprays. In each soap and with each body scrub that she creates, Long includes a small piece of local nature: a Corolla seashell. “Tourists like to have a piece of the beach to take home as a souvenir, and the locals like to decorate with them!”


Long sells her handmade spa products online and at various shows throughout the year where you can find great gifts from local craftspeople. “The smells of the beach and everything associated with it – the salt air, the suntan lotions, the ocean – are so dominant that the memory of them usually brings to mind the pleasant or exhilarating times experienced there,” adds Long. When describing what it’s like to make a go of a business on the Outer Banks, Long says, “There are some incredibly talented people here… I probably don’t bring home as much income from the markets as I should because there are too many goodies from my fellow vendors that catch my eye!” Why buy from local artisans such as She Sells Sea Soaps? Long answers, “Locally-made crafts and art are much more thoughtful gifts than the standard box store offerings, in my opinion!”

She Sells Sea Soaps
Nell Long



Whether you purchase these entrepreneurs’ products from a local shop or directly from their website, the money stays here. In contrast, according to the AMIBA website, “purchases from large online retailers create almost no local benefit – just a few minutes’ work for a delivery person. That adds up to a huge difference in creating local jobs and local wealth.”

Keeping the holidays special can take a small effort on our part if we simply support our neighbors by buying from local sources. Doing so ensures that your dollars stay in the community in the form of tax money for teachers’ salaries and road projects, employee income, and direct spending by businesses in the form of rent and utilities. As Outer Banks residents and homeowners, we can all identify with the unique and special place we live. During the holiday season and always, buy local Outer Banks! ■

Author, Meaghan Beasley is a strong believer in buying local and never, ever buys from Amazon.


Author: CoastalLife

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