Editors Note: A version of this story originally appeared in the July 19 edition of the Alligator.
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 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.
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.
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 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.”