By the age of 10, Whitney Mutch and her younger sister made a pact to always keep their own last name, even through marriage. Twenty-two years later, that pact is still intact and her passion for independence has now formed a community.
Mutch, a Gainesville native, created the blog Indie Gainesville last August as a way to organize a collective voice for the independent local businesses in Gainesville. As the wife of a local business owner, Mutch saw the issues that many local businesses were facing such as parking in the downtown area and felt they needed to be faced together.
Indie Gainesville now has nearly 60 local businesses as members, more than 2,300 friends on Facebook and according to Mutch, who handles everything online herself, averages 6,000 to 7,000 blog views per day.
While its original purpose was simply to bring together local businesses and promote awareness, its function has evolved further to include informing the community about local art and music events and acting as a liaison between local government and its local business owners.
Mutch said one of its most successful endeavors to date was the Think Local Civic Forum in January, which they co-sponsored, and where all but one of the candidates for city commission was in attendance. More recently, Indie Gainesville and its members were invited to an informational meeting at the Depot Building where local businesses, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs were given an opportunity to see the space before it is formally offered to the public for tenancy.
The Facebook page has also become a space for residents and businesses to ask questions about where to find certain products, share events and offer support.
Chad Paris, co-owner of Parisleaf Printing and Design, a company that strives to help businesses become carbon neutral by planting more trees than they consume, is a member of Indie Gainesville. For Paris, the most important and helpful function of Indie Gainesville is its online presence.
“Indie Gainesville is extremely proactive online and has helped to increase our online visibility to like-minded individuals,” Paris said. Parisleaf was named the 2011 business of the year for its commitment to the environment by the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce.
Mutch said right now she is working on a back-to-school guide to Gainesville for newcomers and incoming freshmen that will be posted on the blog and possibly printed for distribution. It will include a guide to parking downtown as well as plenty of information about living and eating local.
“I used to go to the farmers market all the time anyway but now I have to in order to see who is new.” Mutch said.
During her childhood, Mutch remembers her parents always promoted buying local but according to her, “They’re not hippies.”
“I guess that’s one of the barriers I’m trying to break down,” Mutch said, “the idea that buying local is only a hippie thing to do. You’re investing in your community, and you get back what you put in.”