Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Disappearing Local Business

18 November 2009 by Steph Barnard One Comment

Lincoln Heights
We all have our neighborhoods. College Hill is mine. I relocated to this zip code after a year in an Apartment Complex That Shall Not Be Named because I loved the big, old houses, the tree-lined streets, the walkability. Being close to my favorite coffee shop, Caffe Posto, and the rest of the businesses at Douglas and Oliver was an added bonus.
As we know, Posto bid adieu last week. Before that, we knew Barrier’s was closing. Then down went Myoptix. The corner had already lost Frank and Margaret earlier in the year. Down the street, Clifton Square is losing Garden Reflections.
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Apparently Watermark Books isn’t going anywhere, but that’s about the only good business news I’ve heard regarding the area lately. Pink Saloon has replaced F&M, of course, but can an upscale clothing store survive in a down economy? Can anything?
I know it’s not the end of the world; I’m told the economy will get better, business will pick back up, new stores will move in. But it won’t be the same. And it doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen anytime soon.
However, the holiday season is fast approaching, which means shoppers have a chance to make retailers’ lives a little happier. By choosing a local store over a mega-retailer or website, you keep those dollars flowing within Wichita and maybe, just maybe, help save another shop from going under. For more information on this concept, check out The 3/50 Project.
This isn’t to say you should support a local business you don’t like just because it’s local, or that you can never go to Kohl’s or Barnes and Noble. But if everyone put just a little more effort into patronizing the mom-and-pops, our community would be better off for it. And the drive down East Douglas would be a little less depressing these days.
I know I’ll be buying books for my family at Watermark, bracelets for my sisters at Pink Saloon, and, hey, maybe some liquidation-sale jewelry at Barrier’s (better late than never, I guess). Won’t you join me?
Image by Eric Wittman
I hope the decline in local stores is temporary and a result of the recession, and not a sign of larger social and economic trends. The big box stores have supplanted a great number of small businesses since the '50s and '60s.

We must remember that quality and personal service are frequently worth the extra pennies we pay and that it won't be too long before the cost of driving to a big box is prohibitively greater than walking to a small local store.

It's too bad business and government continue to be focused on the short term with a narrow view.
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