Weather Forecast


Paynesville business owners participating in movement to support local businesses: Committing to 3/50

Mother and daughter team Mickey, left, and April Zimmer reorganize items in their quilting store Sweetwater Cotton Shoppe in Paynesville. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

PAYNESVILLE -- The women at the Sweetwater Cotton Shoppe in Paynesville and thousands of other entrepreneurs around the country are hoping The 3/50 Project will help customers remember to support their local businesses.

Co-owners Mickey and April Zimmer, a mother-daughter team, have done well in their 6-year-old quilting and sewing business, but they've seen other businesses come and go.

So has Karlene Gray, owner of Bloom, a flower and coffee shop in Paynesville. Gray is also a supporter of The 3/50 Project, which encourages people to choose three locally owned brick-and-mortar businesses and do $50 of their monthly spending at those local businesses.

Gray was taken with the idea when she first heard about it, and she has sent some other businesses information about it.

"Small towns are suffering," she said in a telephone interview. "We've had lots of businesses close."

April Zimmer, 28, heard about the project and talked to her mother about it. "And I thought it was a good idea," Mickey, 51, said. "Small business is the heart of America."

The shop has many loyal local customers, as well as people who come from a distance to see Mickey's latest quilt designs and to buy fabric for projects.

The two share the labor in their business. Mickey pieces the quilts, and April does the free-style machine quilting. Mickey designs the quilts, and April writes the patterns. They also sell vintage cottage furniture and some gift items.

Cinda Baxter of Minneapolis came up with the idea for The 3/50 Project in the first week of March last year, after watching Oprah Winfrey do a show on Monday about coping with the recession, according to the information on her Web site: www.the3/

Winfrey recommended that people immediately stop all unnecessary spending. The next day, Baxter heard a news report that the economy would have trouble recovering if consumer spending stopped.

Later in the week, she saw two appearances by Erin Burnett of CNBC in which the news anchor talked about the economy and the national media's reaction to the recession.

By March 11, 2009, Baxter wrote a blog post responding to Oprah's comments, and it quickly grew into The 3/50 Project. People noticed her post and a later one-page Web site explaining her idea. The current Web site was launched on March 30.

On her Web site, Baxter describes herself as a retail consultant and professional speaker who was a successful retail store owner for 14 years.

Gray said she has sente-mails to a number of Paynesville businesses but doesn't think enough people are aware of it yet. "I haven't told enough people in town," she said, but when she returns from a short trip, she will be doing that.

"It's a way to get in front of people's eyes that they have some capability to help small businesses," she said.

According to The 3/50 Project site, people who want to participate should begin by choosing three locally owned businesses that have a bricks-and-mortar presence in their communities.

In the next month, they should take $50 of their normal spending and spend it at those three businesses. The next month, they can choose the same businesses or spread the $50 to three others.

For more information about The 3/50 Project or to sign on as a supporter, go to

To read April Zimmer's blog about the Sweetwater Cotton Shoppe, go to

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340