Misty Haning-Kalousek likes drinking white coffee.

Unlike regular coffee, the beverage made from the mild beans doesn’t upset her stomach, and it gives her even more of an energy boost than the black variety. But until Haning-Kalousek started the Facebook page “Shop Local in the Lewis Clark Valley,” she didn’t realize Schurmans True Value Hardware in Clarkston carries the beans, which she had been buying on the internet.

Residents of Asotin and Nez Perce counties have made dozens of discoveries like that since she and Jane Harrington, both of Lewiston, founded the group in the second week of January, Haning-Kalousek said.

The Facebook group, which already has 5,771 members, is the two women’s response to the recent demise of multiple Lewiston-Clarkston Valley retailers. It was started just after Macy’s announced it was closing its Lewiston store, capping a year during which Kmart and Shopko also left, Haning-Kalousek said.

Their hope is that consumers will shop at local stores for goods and services they had purchased at the places that closed, instead of going online.

“For me, I still like to physically go into a store and try things on,” Harrington said. “I don’t want to order something online and hope it fits.”

Haning-Kalousek, 46, a full-time caregiver and part-time office manager for a property management firm, wonders how many people have lost their homes or can’t afford groceries because their positions were cut.

“We’ve got to have businesses to have jobs,” she said.

They set up the group in a way they believe will improve the climate for businesses and make local shopping more user-friendly for consumers. Businesses can post about what they sell and provide information about sales, and restaurants can let people know about meal specials. Consumers can write about the experiences they had at ventures, as long as they’re not airing complaints.

“People should speak to the manager or owner personally (if they have concerns),” Harrington said.

Establishing those guidelines came relatively easily for the women, who knew each other in passing through social media before they started the Facebook page.

Haning-Kalousek, who moved to the valley from Boise in 2005, has ties to the area that run deep. Her dad was born on the elevator at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. She was scrolling through Facebook while waiting in a Spokane hospital for a relative to undergo tests when the news about Macy’s broke. She got the idea for the Facebook page when she ran across some posts Harrington made about local businesses and decided to see if she wanted to help. Harrington, a full-time stay-at-home mom, agreed.

They each spend about one hour a day monitoring the site. They get alerts for certain words that might indicate people aren’t abiding by the group’s rules.

Generally the groups’ members have followed the women’s philosophy and stick with posts that enlighten members about the depth and variety of merchandise and services available without leaving the region. One of Haning-Kalousek’s relatives, for example, was getting cloth diapers online, not realizing Hells Canyon Pharmacy in Lewiston carries them.

Harrington was a fan of Demi Cookie Company, a Clarkston business that sells decorated sugar cookies for special events and didn’t know the owner was the mom of her youngest daughter’s classmate. The woman, Chelan Rivero, takes orders online and through her Facebook page, partly so her children don’t interrupt her when she’s on the telephone. She does the baking at night, when her children are asleep.

The Shop Local Facebook page has directed a high volume of traffic Rivero’s way, which is particularly helpful since she doesn’t have a storefront to help customers keep her in mind.

“It’s been really great about getting the word out for people who work in their home,” she said.

That kind of feedback pleases Haning-Kalousek.

“I’m really, really surprised this kind of blew into a big thing,” she said. “This is amazing. ... I would love to see it grow more and help the community out.”

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

Recommended for you