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Old idea means 'Plenty' currency in Pittsboro

In these hard times, about a dozen businesses in Pittsboro are using a new currency in an effort to help save customers a little money.

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PITTSBORO, N.C. — Chatham Marketplace is all about fresh food and supporting local farmers and businesses. But you might raise an eyebrow to find out the cooperative market also supports printing its own currency.

"We are printing a currency of exchange, right, but as long as there's an agreed-upon value, it's legal," said Mary DeMare. "It's like bartering."

It's called the Plenty (Piedmont Local Economy Tender), and it's used just like money at more than a dozen businesses in Pittsboro. Chatham Marketplace also uses the Plenty to pay employees bonuses.

The idea is to stimulate the local economy. The Plenty is legal and it is taxed.

Capital Bank's Pittsboro branch is on board with the idea. It will exchange 90 cents for one Plenty.

"The Plenties don't leave town," Lyle Estill said. "They keep circulating around here, because you can't spend your Plenties in China."

Estill, president of Piedmont Biofuels, wrote the book on the Plenty. In "Small is Possible," he talks about how small towns like Pittsboro and their struggling businesses can support each other in a struggling economy.

The idea isn't new. When banks closed during the depression era, some communities printed scrip. The Berkshire area of Massachusetts has BerkShares and Detroit businesses accept Cheers.

Shopper Janine Jordan said she has never heard of the Plenty, but she likes the idea behind them.

"Well, you live here and very often the vendors are your neighbors," Jordan said. "If any of us survive, we help the others to survive, too."


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