Brittany Kress keeps up on the latest in local retail so you don't have to.

Brittany Kress keeps up on the latest in local retail so you don't have to. For the latest shopping news and product giveaways, click to the Window Shopping blog.

Simple savings

Shopping locally can give you a friendly feeling inside. But now it can be financially rewarding, too.

A new Community Card offered by the Columbus-grown Small Business Beanstalk can save you money at the places you shop (and eat) every day.

Anyone can sign up at thesbb.com to get the keychain-sized card, which comes in the mail with a list of current deals from neighborhood shops, restaurants and even service providers like pet groomers.

The focus is in the Short North and Clintonville to start, but deals in Dublin, Gahanna, Worthington and Grandview are in the pipeline, Small Business Beanstalk founder Timothy Wolf Starr said. An iPhone app is also in the works, he added.

The Community Card program launched in early October.

"It's a time when the businesses need it, especially the small businesses," Starr said. "And it's a time where everyone wants to save money, and this is a nice, easy, fun way to be able to save money and help your neighborhood stores."

Community Card participants display a sticker on their door with the leaf logo that's depicted on the cards.

On the up and up

The retail scene in Columbus and surrounding cities is expected to improve in the next decade, announced Bill LaFayette, vice president of the Columbus Chamber, during the 11th-annual Blue Chip Economic Forecast presentation.

In a related study released this month, LaFayette argued that an unsustainable retail boom in the early 2000s led to a sharp drop in the last few years, especially in Franklin County. More recently, business has been booming in Delaware County.

The economic forecast predicts 1.5 percent of local retail jobs will be lost this coming year, but "the 2010 losses will position this sector well for growth in 2011," LaFayette said.

The Blue Chip Economic Forecast is based on the average predictions from four local economists, including LaFayette.

Kicking it up a notch

The Blue Turtle Tea & Spice Co., which opened in October, has added prepared foods to the mix in its retail space.

The Uptown Westerville shop, designed to spice things up in shoppers' pantries, added a lineup of as-organic-as-possible soups, salads and sandwiches to complement its selection of take-home ingredients.

Spices, salts and loose-leaf tea are staples at Blue Turtle, with an emphasis on organic, free-trade and kosher options. The pantry-style shop rounds things out with healthy snacks and kitchen gadgets, like teacups and pots.

Blue Turtle is located at 2 S. State St. and online at blueturtleteaandspice.com.