Support Small Business Saturday!

November 24th, 2012

One of the pleasures of walking down Main Streets all over America is the ability to enjoy the charming unique items offered at small stores and boutiques. Sadly, the Mom & Pop storefront so uniquely American is quickly giving way to big box retailers offering Americans a cookie cutter shopping experience.  Today is Small Business Saturday.  As we kickoff the Christmas shopping experience this year, there is no better way to send a positive message about supporting small business than to spend a portion of our holiday budget at one of these small stores.

When I was growing up, my Mom and Dad ran a pizaa place in a little town in Indiana.  They worked day and night.  For a pizza place, they had a great business, but they never made any money to speak of because of the heavy tax and regulation burden they were forced to operate under.  Sadly, that story has only gotten worse over the years  for America’s small businessperson.

Government interference isn’t the only problem.  Competitors like Walmart are spreading like cancer all over the country forcing small businesses out, particularly in small town America. The result is the changing face of rural America.  Now the charming town square in many small towns across the country is nothing but boarded up businesses and For Rent signs while along the local freeway there is a new Walmart under construction.

I’m sure there are many readers out there who are Walmart fans.  Not me.  I’ll never set foot in a Walmart store because of what I believe they’ve done to small town America.  As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing there but cheap Chinese made stuff and a bad store experience.  Sadly, more and more retailers in America are becoming like Walmart.  They offer the same store experience with the same merchandise from coast to coast.  What is uniquely American is quickly becoming something akin to the whole big government mindset taking over the country.  I guess there is some belief that it’s only “fair” for Americans in every city in the country to be able to purchase the exact same thing.  If this keeps up it won’t be long before visiting unique places like San Francisco and New Orleans won’t seem much different but for the landscape.  At least as far as the shopping goes, everything will look like one giant Walmart.

I think Walmart may be just a symptom of a larger problem.  As we all become more uniform and equal, it may not be too long before there is nothing uniquely American about us.  Instead, we’ll all be buying our Chinese produced merchandise at Walmart, getting our standard sized cars from Government Motors, living in our government approved house, and raising our permitted number of children according to some government handbook.

If we allow what is truly Amerian to die, that’s where I”m afraid we’re headed.

Supporting a small local store may seem like a small way to avert this trend, but it’s not.  It’s the beginning of keeping America from becoming a place we don’t even recognize.



2 Comments

  1. Michael Guy
    Posted Nov 24 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I remember back in College when I managed a Pizza Place. It was actually a lot of fun and I learned more than you ever want to know about staffing, dealing with worker’s issues, suppliers and how to spin the dough perfectly in the air. I know that they have to be terrific memories and I can understand how you can resent the companies that are pressuring those types of business out.
    If I may however, I would like to try to add a different perspective.
    What many of my friends from the political world do not know is that I have been an avid woodworker for quite a few years. I like to joke that I make a lot of sawdust and every once in a while, something nice comes from it. Being in those circles, I have the opportunity to talk with and get to know true masters of this craft. As good as anything that I think I have ever created, their work reminds me of what a beginner I still am. Now you are probably saying to yourself.”Nice story..what does this have to do with the topic?” Well…the reason I bring it up is because I have been around when some of these artist have been commissioned to build something. I have seen them build cabinets, pie safes, guitars, pianos…and any type of furniture that you can imagine. As nice as the craft is, I can assure you that price tag is equally impressive. What is so amazing however is that these craftsmen are quick to state that they could never do this full time. This has to be a side job. Usually it is only to kill time during retirement or to make a few extra dollars to feed the habit of new tools and supplies for the hobby. It is not for lack of passion that they could not do this. They love what they are doing. It is the money. As nice as the check is, when you break it down to cover supplies and actual hours that went into the commission, it was really not much. What needs to be understood at this point is that these craftsmen are building these items, using many of the same tools, techniques and materials of the craftsmen that have gone before them. Society has progressed. And manufacturing methods have been forced to progress right along with them. Your average person today could not dream of having the ability to afford even furnishing their home with only the product that was used 100 years ago. And honestly, they did not have the ability 100 years ago either. At least not the size homes of today and how they are furnished. This is something that we are all experiencing, but because it has happened so gradually, we do not notice. It is the improved quality of life from back then. And the craftsmen would never be able to support their families today in a manner they would approve of. I suppose we could blame this on Wal-Mart..but honestly, they just stepped in to fill a need that had arisen. They did not cause this. And I dare say, in many ways, they have made this last recession far less destructive than any in American history.
    I have a brother. He took a vastly different path than I did in life. At the moment, he gets by day to day. To hear him tell it, he would have a much harder time surviving if it were not for Wal-Mart.
    I get that many small business could not compete and had to go out of business. And I do not want to come across as being insensitive. I have great reverence for the history of this country and the way that things used to be. I recognize however that as grand as those times were, things must change or we become stagnant.
    Let me put it another way. At the same time when these small business were booming, so were local, family farms. Today most farms are run by corporations. These corporations are the Wal-Marts in their demographic and have pushed out the small business farms. And because of the increased productivity, cost have been reduced to the point that the idea of somebody actually starving to death in America is somewhat unheard of. In fact, the poorest are usually the most obese among us. Of course I am not advocating obesity, but it would be foolish to not realize the incredible achievement that this is. Should we have boycotted the corporation farms in favor of the small family ones? There are many countries around the world who still have the old structure. And unfortunately, they also have the old problems that goes with it.
    I remember something I once heard in IT. Do you want to create the 5cent CD or the $100 program that goes on it? Or future is not in building the trinkets of the world today. Our future is in creating the cutting edge technology, building the better mousetrap in the machines of tomorrow. We will be the ones developing and improving the service arenas. When it comes to manufacture, we will excel when it comes to building more advanced equipment, not the cheap stuff. We have an entire planet that can be our customer. This was not the case 100 years ago. Shipping would have prohibited it. Today, we can carve our niche in building the most advanced and latest. That is where we need to be.
    When you look around, it not the companies that make the cheapest product that are usually the most successful.
    Having said everything that I just said, I think that there is still a real need for local pizzerias, florist, iron smiths, furniture builders, etc. I think it would be folly to think that these businesses can be the mainstream of the future American life however. And it would be sad if some American success stories caught the blame for this misplaced anger.

  2. Posted Nov 26 2012 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    While the prevailing set away is remarkable – a shelf associated with items from Apple past is actually interesting. I waiting to take a good closer consider some of the memorabilia!