Saturday November 24th is “Small Business Saturday.”  I encourage every American to spend some time, and some “money,” at your local “neighborhood” retailer.  But, the more we look at what the large retailers, the “big box” stores, have done to our local enterprises, and our local economies, the more we should understand why small business Saturday, should be “Small Business Everyday.”

You can probably see by my whiskers that I’m a child of a slightly different era.  It was a time when a bell rang when you pulled into the corner gas station and an attendant came out to pump your gas.  You actually had to ask to pump your own.  I remember them asking if I wanted them to check under the hood.  They noticed if your tires were a little low.  They cleaned your windshield for you, without you asking.  The big store in our neighborhood was the A&P.  It was located in a little “strip mall” not a mile away.  Walking distance, even with an arm full of groceries.  Along the way their were several markets, dry cleaners, and several other small businesses.  In that particular strip mall was, along with the supermarket was a 5 & 10 cent store (S. S. Kresge’s), Mrs Silverstein‘s clothing store, and Cunningham’s Drugs store.  There were others, sorry, but memory fails me.

Along that route were two stores that stand out in my memory.  There was the “Mapleview Market” and “Gus’.”  The street corners they sat on would only be important to those who lived near them at that time, but most of us, from that time, will have memories just like them.

What’s important to remember is that these stores shared a space in time.  Yes, they competed, but they shared a common resource.  The neighborhood.  At different times growing up I must have worked at each of them.  In fact I remember working at the Mapleview Market when the butcher ran out of bologna and he had me run up the Gus’ market and get a roll.  You remember those large, log looking rolls, wrapped in red.  I never knew what that red cover was, and I didn’t want to, so I never asked.

The thing is, there was a social thing going on.  Not socialism. that feared word.  But social in the sense of a shared circumstance, and ultimately a shared outcome.  In many instances the store owner or manager lived right there in the neighborhood.  We knew each other and we benefited from that knowledge.

Another benefit was that the “money” resource stayed right there in the neighborhood.  It would be impossible to calculate just how many times a dollar bill circulated within the area.  I know I saw the same dollar, with the same writing on it, many times.  The same quarter, with the dye on it from the laundromat or a vending machine.

But, times changed.  Cunningham’s was bought out,  Kresge’s became K-mart, A&P’s became Farmer Jack and then disappeared, at least from the old neighborhood.

Now some will say that, well, that’s just progress.  And to the extent that change can be called evolution, and evolution can be called progress, maybe that’s so.  We grow and we change.  But what have we  become?

Much has already been written about the impact of “Big Box” stores, and large chains on neighborhoods and even small towns and cities..

The large chains come into areas and began to buy out many of the existing businesses.  Right away the impact was felt as the resources no longer circulated as much through the neighborhoods.  As businesses are consolidated, or absorbed, jobs were lost and the social structure begin to crumble.  The small businesses that remain, unable to compete with the per unit cost for products, of the larger stores, are forced to close.

As the social structure changes so do relationships and attitudes.  The connectivity begins to erode.  Where people were in touch with each other, passing each other, smiling, greeting, shaking hands, we are now in our cars (those that have them), off to where the stores are, taking our resources with us.

These are my personal thoughts and memories.  I’m providing some links to several sites that offer further comments on this subject.

You can find more by searching:  “effect of big box stores on neighborhood businesses”

I also found an excellent tool for evaluating the possible of effect of the encroachment of large chains and big box stores to different size and demographic locations that, if you are considering one for your area, or if one is pending, you might want to use.

(If you are unable to click on these URL’s, copy and paste them to your search box)

It’s hard not to notice what is happening at the Wal-Mart stores.  I’m posting this because I know things don’t have to be this way.  All through the election season, all over the news, there was talk about “small business.”  Small businesses are the job creators.  They are the saviors of the “middle class.”  It’s time to pay more than lip service to their survival.  Small businesses, for the most part, buy their products from other small businesses.  Their growth supports the growth of neighborhoods and cities.

They and we are the “middle class.”  Our survival’s are inextricably connected.

So let’s strive to make “”Small Business Saturday,” Small Business Everyday!”

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