The Cornerstone of Community: Small Businesses

You can find a deal anywhere these days – walk into any of those ‘big box’ stores in most every town, or, hit the internet to find a myriad of online retailers accessible through a few keystrokes and touches on your smart device. Seems easy, right? You barely need to leave your sofa these days in order to find exactly what you’re looking for at a fraction of the cost. The present day motto – quick, easy, stress-free. Right?

Let’s dig deeper, shall we? Upon further inspection, you might not necessarily realize a gigantic gap in your thought process right now. I know what you’re thinking, because I thought the same thing. “Where could there be a gap? Everything we need we find at Target or Walmart, and if I can’t find it there, I’ll just get on to Amazon and boom! It’s all covered. Anything and everything I need at the best prices in the marketplace.”

Valid statement – no argument to this. If you need something, usually you can find it at one of these retailers or Amazon is happy to send the world to your doorstep via UPS or FedEx in two days. A far cry from the proverbial “old days” of the Eighties and Nineties where ‘five to seven business days’ seemed like expedited shipping. Now then, while I stipulate this to be fact, time for you answer the following questions – and let’s be honest with ourselves.

  • Where do you get your hair cut?
  • Where do you buy and pick up your prescription medicine?
  • Where do you take your dry cleaning?
  • Ever needed your tires changed or maintenance work completed on your vehicle?
  • Where do you go out to eat for a special night out?
  • Ever needed your clothes tailored because they didn’t fit quite right?
  • Do you hire someone to mow your lawn, handle pest extermination, or help you with your home landscaping?
  • Ever needed a plumber, an electrician, or an air conditioning professional?

Now I have you thinking. Perhaps there are things I cannot order online or purchase at one of those big name retailers. Interesting, isn’t it? Start thinking about how many things you depend on local, small business provide to you. Think about how often we take for granted that what we need, whether it be speciality product or specific service, will be available to us in our hometown. Think about how these small and medium-sized businesses stay in families from generation to generation, the bedrock of our local communities so much so these business celebrate fifty, one-hundred, even one-hundred and fifty years of successful business. It’s almost hard to imagine ini today’s economy an organization lasting more than ten to fifteen years – let alone fifty.

Additionally, before you begin thinking the Target’s, Walmart’s, and Amazon’s of the world could never, ever fail and will be around forever, allow me to put forth a few names that may make you, yet again, think twice…

Sears, Toys ‘R Us, JCPenny, Montgomery Ward, Blockbuster, Compaq, Kodak, Radio Shack, Woolworth’s, Standard Oil… and the list goes on.

Businesses, like the economy, is cyclical. Banking used to be an enormous amount of local banks, now gobbled up by large banks, but further troubled by difficult economic cycles so much so that we are seeing a number of smaller, local banks beginning to pop up again. The retail space used to be dominated by major anchor stores – Sears, Macy’s, JCPenny, Montgomery Ward, Woolworth’s – now disbanded as online retailers are able to deliver products through online shopping and relatively inexpensive shipping, without the cost of expensive brick and mortar stores.

However, as you think through these cycles, consider your local businesses. Yes, some come and go. Some are bought and sold. Some are more successful than others. The foundation, though, of our local economy, our neighborhoods and communities, are built on local small and medium sized businesses. Consider this for a moment – how do large retailers determine where to build their next stores? They look at the stability of the surrounding community and whether the economy is strong enough to support their business.

So, before the next time you step in to your nearby Target or Walmart, remember to think about your local business and what they’ve done to make these retailers land here. If it’s not for their hard work and perseverance, some of the luxuries you have may have bypassed you and headed for the next town several miles away…

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