I bought some groceries at Fernandas International Food Market in Fort Lauderdale. Fernandas didnt have the natural soda I usually buy at Whole Foods but it did have some unusual Italian lemon soda that did the trick. At $4.99, the multigrain bread was $2 more than what I buy at Publix, but much better.
Staff in the store were pleasant while I shopped but I had a bizarre experience when I called later. The person answering the phone hung up on me when I asked to speak to an owner or manager. When I called back and identified myself as a Miami Herald reporter and explained why I wanted to speak to an owner or manager he yelled at me and said that its "aggravating" to get calls at 3 p.m. I assumed it would be easier to talk to an owneror manager of an independent shop than a chain, but I guess that isnt the case and rude staff can exist at any size shop.
Aroma Kosher Market had a nice selection of produce and the avocados were only 10 cents more than what I paid at Publix the next week. And the salmon was $1 less per pound than Publix. But a surly guy at Aroma serving the prepared foods squashed my hope that Id always get better service at an independent. When I asked if the cashew chicken dish had high-fructose corn syrup he said he had no idea.
We bought two baby outfits at Bubbles and Bubbles for $47. Yes, we could have bought two outfits for probably half the price at Babies "R" Us, but were still mad at the store and these were unique.
I was stumped. Ive never driven by a gas station in Fort Lauderdale that doesnt have the name of a major corporation. Gas station experts told me that most stations are independently owned but get their oil from the corporations.
"Chances are the one you sit nearest to right now is not owned by a major oil company, " said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.
He was right. Next door to my office is a Shell station. The owner of the business said he owns three gas stations in Broward.
My week of no-chain shopping has not led to a permanent ban on big box stores. Its too hard in Broward to buy groceries and some basic household necessities without shopping at Publix and other chains.
But the unique items I found and the friendly service I received at some of the independent businesses has inspired me to keep my eyes out for more locally owned shops.
If I don't want independent businesses to completely disappear, it's my responsibility as a consumer to spend some of my money at their shops.
Miami Herald reporter Amy Sherman visited these stores in an attempt to purge big-name retailers from her shopping diet:
1. Fernandas International Food Market 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale
2. Storks bakery 2505 NE 15 Ave., Wilton Manors
3. Shucks on the Water 2528 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale
4. Sunrise Shell 1420 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
5. Bubbles and Bubbles 1914 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
6. Las Olas Chemist 1201 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
7. MoonDoggies Seaside Coffee Shack 1913 Cordova Rd., Fort Lauderdale
8. Aroma Kosher Market 8819 Stirling Rd., Cooper City