To open a refill store during an age of hyper-convenience is the most rock & roll thing you can do. When we want to dip out of the mainstream and find our eco-renegades, we go to the place where sustainability icons are real & where people are doing the actual work educating their communities: the local refill store. One conversation with any refill store owner and you will know why we choose to sell Dip there, and never force them to compete with Amazon.
Like many other millennials, I grew up in that homogenized 90s culture that still tugs on our heartstrings today. The result? I was practically raised by mall culture. The blaring store music, colorful clothing racks, and MSG-laden fried foods were practically burned into my unsuspecting young brain.
Never had I ever experienced product-lust like when I saw Cher's closet from Clueless. You know that sent me (& every single girl I knew) right into the doors of Contempo Casuals faster than Alicia Silverstone could say "As if".
Only in my young adult life did I discover those small, eccentric hole-in-the-wall shops that had a whole different energy altogether: record stores. They sold CDs by the time I got to them, but they retained their evergreen "record store" legacy name.
Record stores, on paper, were just another shop trying to stay afloat.
In person, however, they were cultivation grounds for something entirely different and beautiful. They were a place to slow down, to reminisce with music you already loved, or discover new artists that sometimes pulled you in a whole new direction in life. And, of course, they were always staffed by people who loved the art (not just the job).
These stores are still around today, but they don’t dominate the culture like they used to.
However, we’ve seen another contender emerge in recent years: the refill store.
Replacing your day-to-day products with sustainable alternatives comes with one downside: buying more product usually means getting more packaging as well. How do you get more product without buying a whole new packet, vial, or bottle every time?
That’s where refill stores come in.
These stores are curators of what's cool in the sustainability scene. They receive big batches of products from the original supplier & then, instead of you purchasing a brand new product each time (and thus getting the same packaging over and over that just gets thrown away), you can save the original container from your first purchase and refill it time and time again. (Similar to how you can buy nuts and nut-butters from the grocery store in the natural section.)
This lets you minimize the amounts of materials you consume in using your favorite sustainable product every month—guilt-free!
Understandably, these stores are great hubs for sustainability brands to reach consumers who are trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle.
But much like the record store, these refills stores are not just the sum of the product on their shelves: they’re something so much more.
Here are just a few ways that refill stores are filling those record-store shoes today.
No one wants a neighborhood full of just Costcos, Targets and Walmarts.
(And even if you love Costco, trust me: you need more than these big-box stores, much like you need more than Snickers in your diet.)
For one, refill stores are inherently intertwined with small business. Many of these refill stores are women-owned or family-owned.
A refill store is not an adorable hobby. It is a business run by passionate individuals tasked to educate how to shop in a way that helps protect our future. They have to work on a small scale to really make the most impact and laser focus on their eco-friendly values (especially since larger-scale businesses tend to get a little greenwashy and muddle the message).
And you know what you cut out when you avoid those big-box retailers?
That’s right—those plastic-wrapped palletized goods. Many big-box retailers require pallets to be wrapped several times in single-use plastic, which means even those eco-friendly goods in the bigger stores can sneak in those pesky plastics.
Shopping from small businesses cuts out that hidden plastic altogether, all while adding to the character (and culture) of the community.
It’s the difference between nestling in the chair of a trained colorist vs asking a mass-retail employee if the boxed color is "close enough" to yours while holding your strands across the color swatch to show them since there is no dang mirror: the experience is just better. (Fellow occasional box-dyers, I'm counting on you to understand this!)
If music wasn’t your thing, maybe your “record store” back in the day was something else: a comic shop, your local bookstore, or even a surf shop near the beach.
No matter what it was, these hubs give us something the bigger stores can never provide: something intimate, connected, and focused.
If you’ve never heard a group of surfers talk about the ocean, I highly recommend it.
Not only is their energy invigorating and intoxicating, but there’s a romance involved that you only see when people are totally in love with what they do. If you are lucky enough to sit with a well seasoned surfer and let them tell you about the ocean's magic and total disregard for conformity--you'll feel the energy of a renegade's heart.
There’s a lot of love in the air when you step into a refill store.
These are people who believe in what sustainable brands are trying to do (and let’s be honest: trying to go plastic-free or no-waste in today’s climate is hard).
Much like those rock-and-roll heads flocked to record stores to talk about their favorite underrated bands, the people who frequent refill stores are eco-friendly enthusiasts who don’t mind going against the grain a bit. They share that same fringe, countercultural attitude, and that’s enough to make somebody swoon.
When you find your niche, you’re more likely to find like-minded people who are just as excited as you are. That’s when you can really start to dive deep into what you love.
If you’re a surfer, you need to find other surfers to talk about the ocean. If you’re a Grateful Dead fan, then you need other Deadheads to talk shop with. And if you’re an eco-nerd like me, then you need other sustainability geeks in your life that get what you are trying to do.
Why do you need to find your people?
People who get excited also get creative. You’ll never know what connections or opportunities you miss if you try to follow your passion alone.
If you’re passionate about real sustainability—the gritty, invigorating, boots-on-the-ground type of sustainability—then you have a whole community waiting for you within the walls of a refill store. Stop by, browse the wide spectrum of products, and you may discover something (or someone) life-changing.
IS IT TIME TO REDISCOVER YOUR HANGOUT?
If you need a place to relax, socialize, and discover new eco-friendly products, then it’s official: the refill store is the new record store in sustainability circles. Check out your local refill shop and see what (or who) you can find!
You can find us in small refill stores, surf shops, curated boutiques, and eco-minded salons all over the United States. Thank you for supporting our mission, we are so grateful to our customers and the small stores who add Dip to their curated collections of products.
Refills are the New Record Store and right now we are like that band you found first...
If you liked this blog you might also love our "Small Thinking" page.
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