A Locally Owned, Organic Boutique Moves to the City, Finding its Grassroots in a Concrete Jungle.

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Redefining the demographic of the Green Movement, retail store, Olive, Fine Organic Living, finds its most captive audience is, in fact, metropolitan. Denser populations and limited access to natural resources promote environmental conservation in urban communities and demand activism.

Redefining the demographic of the Green Movement, retail store, Olive, Fine Organic Living, finds its most captive audience is, in fact, metropolitan. Denser populations and limited access to natural resources promote environmental conservation in urban communities and demand activism.

Of course, a retail location surrounded by more people means more foot-traffic and in turn, more opportunities to sell products. Still, when promoting a concept and encouraging a lifestyle change, proactive customers become much more vital than the sheer volume of patrons alone. Subsequently, although Olive's target demographic is suburban mothers between the ages of 30 to 55, they are moving their store from the most affluent suburb of Milwaukee to the heart of the city’s historic East Side. Defying market research and conventional wisdom, Olive points to specific reasons supporting their claim that the necessary call-to-action required for their “green” initiatives thrives in the city, where clients are self-motivated to make a difference in the world.

For example, as local neighborhoods and businesses band together, in their close proximity, a synergy is created that moves consumers to support the local merchants and their respective causes. It's exactly this type of grassroots mentality that's at the core of what Olive and other local businesses are trying to do, these days. Encouraging consumers to act and vote with their dollars, while recognizing the long-term effects of this spending, is a way for consumers to feel they are making a positive change in the world, one purchase at a time. The city shoppers are buying it, because they’re getting the message, loud and clear.

“As we enter a new decade, it’s a great time to think about how small actions can positively affect our world,” says Michael Katarincic, owner of Olive Fine Organic Living. “The smallest things can reap the biggest rewards and people are starting to see that. When we decide to support local businesses, not only are we taking a stand against wasteful freight and shipping processes but 90% of every dollar spent goes back into that community. Urban communities are really starting to embrace this new paradigm and take pride in their local businesses, as well as their environment. In our case, they go hand in hand.”

This progressive, innovative mentality recognizes that this is not simply a trend, but rather an important lifestyle change, based on comprehensive research and education. Metropolitan consumers aren’t ignoring the warning signs any longer. They recognize three of the major benefits associated with shopping locally, organically, and sustainably:

1. Physical Health – Beyond dieting and exercise, it’s also important to limit exposure to toxins and pollutants in the environment and in the home. Studies have found that daily contact with household chemicals can significantly increase chances of developing long-term illnesses, allergies and diseases such as cancer. However, resources are now readily available to help consumers identify these toxic products and avoid them. For example, websites such as Cosmeticsdatabase.com (Skin Deep Cosmetics Database) have taken the guesswork out of deciding which cosmetics and personal care items are safe for people to use. Plus, numerous organic cotton alternatives to traditional cotton linens and clothing make it easy to keep harmful pesticides out of the environment and off of our skin. Becoming informed has never been easier and the intelligent consumer is proactively utilizing these resources to seek these important answers.

2. Fiscal Responsibility – Buying fair trade, sustainable products from local merchants is the most efficient way to boost the local economy and conserve resources. In addition, buying fair trade products, in general, whether domestically or overseas, maintains ethical labor standards and preserves a level of quality control. Spending money wisely will increase the demand for quality, eco-friendly and ethically manufactured products that will stand up over time. With increased demand, more competitive pricing will be passed along to the consumer and everybody will win, including the environment, as the carbon footprint of this process will be significantly less than it is today.

Just look at the farmer’s markets that are popping up in every city and drawing huge crowds, because people realize that local produce, grown organically, is the best food around. Plus, they support local farmers, the local economy, and they don't pay for food to be shipped from distant places, in turn conserving resources and the environment. Likewise, urban farming and aquaponic fish and vegetable growing is also on the rise, as city dwellers are demanding the fresh, organic food that their health relies on.

Furthermore, these intelligent consumers are actually asking the important questions – What is the environmental impact of production? Are workers being exploited? Can the items be recycled or re-used? What is the ultimate lifecycle of a product? Proactively, these consumers are deciding to spend money with companies who ethically align with their own morals and beliefs. Voting with their dollars has begun to resonate with urban shoppers.

3. Altruistic and Social Responsibility – City dwellers, by in large, are people of action and they take pride in making a difference. For them, it feels good to make small sacrifices to save the planet and its resources. It’s more than sorting and recycling. It's taking it to another level to ensure the resources we have will be around for generations to come. Usually, it's not even about spending more money, but just taking the time to get educated and make the proper choices.

“These things don’t take a lot of time or cost more money,” explains Katarincic. “Stores like Olive and other resources are around to provide people with alternatives to traditional choices. We've done the homework and handpicked the best, safest products. There are so many ways for people to make positive changes, they just have to start somewhere."

Olive opens its new store in March 2011 on Milwaukee's Eastside and they look forward to being embraced by the close-knit community, which is equally as excited to welcome them. Together, the local merchant and educated consumer are poised to initiate this grassroots movement that will gain momentum, eventually resulting in substantial change.

About Olive: Olive is the Midwest's first all-organic/sustainable boutique, specializing in apparel for women, men and children, as well as home goods and personal care products. From the merchandise to the store design to all business practices, Olive's eco-friendly approach drives each and every decision throughout its retail process. Committed to proving that you don't need to sacrifice quality, style or taste to make a difference in the world, the boutique provides its customers with the market's most luxurious eco-brands, once again maintaining that Olive truly is a finer shade of green.

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David Neubert
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