Fighting the good fight. For community. For the future.

Fighting the good fight. For community. For the future.

As I sit here eating my late lunch/early dinner of Rock Hill bread dipped in some olive oil, garlic and balsamic – publicly after noting on Facebook how tasty it is – I’m reflecting on why I do this; constant shout-outs to my favorite places and my serious interest in advancing downtown Glens Falls, to the point of creating a Facebook page for it just out of my own feeling that one needed to exist. Is it because I think they’re cool and want to be cool by proxy? Is it because I want them to be Advokate customers or give me perks when I go there? What’s my deal?

I’m reminded of my relationship with SensibiliTeas. It started that I was just a customer. And since it was a place I thought was awesome, I started promoting the heck out of it. Any online review that shop owner Donnalynn Milford was going after, I’d hop on it. When people come to my house, they’re offered tea. I tell them what kind it is and where I got it. Any time the topic of coffee comes up, I snobbishly chime in that I don’t drink it any more, only tea, because SensibiliTeas is so great.

I’m like that with a lot of local businesses here in Glens Falls, come to think of it. If I like what you’re doing, I bet you it’s going to help your business. I talk to people about things I like. And I talk a lot.

Why? What do I get out of it?

Downtown Glens Falls

Downtown Glens Falls

Well, I’ll tell you. In the story of Kate, I went through an emergence in around 2004. I came to Glens Falls. I quit smoking. I quit eating meat. I quit my depression medication. I started showing my artwork through Third Thursday. My life philosophies started to solidify as I turned them into actions. Coming from a sales background at Aerus (formerly Electrolux) I had a good idea about the psychology of sales and marketing.

Once I started recognizing those mind games, I realized they were all around us. I became really angry at big companies and the hold they have on us. What action is there to take? How can we the people regain a hold of our own lives and be sure we are in charge of our choices instead of being swept away by psychology used to talk people out of their money? I read some books. I met Matt Funiciello (owner of Rock Hill). I started to get to know some business owners in town. I went to Democracy For America meetings. I organized an event called Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights and helped put together an event for Martin Luther King Day. I became active in the community. Rock Hill Bakehouse Cafe’s Thursday open mic nights and the open mic after-party at Wallabee’s Jazz Bar are where I met most of my friends and where I’ve had the most art shows. I picked up a couple shifts tending bar at Wallabee’s when my hours were cut at the last job I had. Matt Funiciello was one of Advokate’s very first customers. I don’t believe you can find that same sense of community at a Starbucks or T.G.I. Fridays.

So I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. I don’t fast food or go out to eat at chain restaurants. I try to buy my clothing used instead of new (at Finders Keepers, another amazing small business who cut me a few hours of work when I needed it). I try to shop and eat in Glens Falls as much as I can (and when I can’t afford to shop or eat out, I talk it up instead!). I bought a house in Glens Falls instead of Queensbury because I wanted my tax dollars to go toward a great library and downtown with small businesses rather than to a city ripe with ugly fast food franchises, big box stores, gas stations and chain restaurants.

It’s deep in my own personal philosophy that I want the little guy to succeed, and that every purchase I make or community organization or business I plug is a VOTE for PEOPLE versus a big box store or chain. It’s a vote for community, and a vote for what I think is right in the world. It can be tough, and I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, but I feel like my efforts really do matter in the grand scheme of things. Recently I received a check in the mail from the Chronicle for an article I wrote. I put the money right back in the mail to them for an ad they ran for me. The other day GG Mama‘s paid an Advokate bill for Facebook and I needed breakfast that morning so the money went right back to GG Mama’s. Keep it flowing. A circular system. That’s sustainable. That’s what’s right with our country.


A scene from Wall-E

A scene from Wall-E

I don’t want my grandchildren’s world to be only McDonald’s and Wal-Mart like in the movies Idiocracy or Wall-E. I want them to have great places like the Shirt Factory and all the awesome variety of small businesses it houses. I want them to be able to walk downtown and know the business owners, to pay for a product or service and see the money come right back. I want a diverse world for the future, not a homogenized one where every shop is exactly the same and nobody cares about people and their best interest, where mind games wrench people away from their hard-earned money. I want regular people to succeed. I want what’s real instead of what’s fed to us. I want entrepreneurship and I want community.

I vote for that with my dollars and with my voice and influence.

And now I vote with my company Advokate. It’s for the little guy. For the artist and for the small small business. Because I care very deeply about the success of small business. I want these businesses I love so much to stick around for the long haul.

It’s my own little way to fight the good fight.

So now you know.

Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, the Jackson Heights Elementary School PTA, Lower Adirondack Pride, and is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.