Amid an increasingly corporate landscape, local grocer longevity really matters.

Our local markets are ablaze with candles, and yet none of them look a day over 29. It is with great cheer that we wish a very happy 50th birthday to Andy’s Produce Market in Sebastopol. Congratulations also to G&G Grocery Store on your 50th anniversary. And there are many extra huzzahs to offer to these long-standing grocers: Pacific Market (66 years), Molsberry’s Market (55 years), Community Market (40 years), Oliver’s Market (32 years), Fircrest Market (30 years), Petaluma Market (27 years), Big John’s Market (20 years), and Shelton’s Natural Foods Market (six years).

Congratulations are in order for many reasons, but mainly because having staying power as a grocery store has become a considerably more difficult task during each of these grocer’s tenures.

In 2011, the economic analysis and strategic planning consultancy Civics Economics measured the health and relative strength of locally owned independent retail establishments in comparison to national and global chains across metro areas in the U.S., Sonoma County among them.

Turns out, Sonoma County is ranked No. 1 among those of similar size for strength of local retailers and indie market share.

This means many Sonoma County residents prefer locally-owned businesses and support them by shopping with them regularly. In return, we reap the benefits that come from stable local ownership—like better jobs, more property taxes for better schools and roads, local wealth assets for future investing, and higher donations for nonprofits. We also get area stores that understand our preferences for particular products and can provide them.

Our area grocers have demonstrated their staying power against fierce competition from outside owners of big chain stores. As of 2013, Walmart alone had captured 26 percent of every grocery dollar spent in the U.S.

Every time you shop with a local grocer, you vote with your food dollar. You vote to keep our food system under local control and to ensure we have a food infrastructure to serve us for generations. You vote to see another 66, 55, 40, and more years of locally owned markets serving you and your family the good food you rely on them for. And they still won’t look a day over 29.

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