The American dream… open a shop, sell things to locals, make a living interacting with the community, have a big chain store move in nearby, lose all your business, be creative to re-attract business, fail and close shop.
Yesterday I pulled up to the drive-thru window of a local coffee shop. I really like the ability to zip on through and pick up my espresso while out doing chores, especially since I had my new little kitties in the car after a visit to the vet. They were stressed out enough without me leaving them in the car to pick up coffee.
I sat looking at the menu, waiting for the window to open and that cheery girl to ask me how my day was going. I noticed that the plants out front looked a bit dry (dead actually) and then noticed the sign on the window.
“…. friends and family have encouraged me to give up and follow a new path on my life’s journey….. final day will be Thursday, August 15th….”
Wha? Damnit, another one bites the dust.
This independent coffee shop was a place for local music. They hosted all kinds of evening performances. They weren’t far from the local college. How could this happen? Sigh…
Since I still had the droopy eyelids and kitties in the car, I decided I would lower my coffee snob standards and go to the drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts instead. Their coffee really isn’t the best, and costs more, but it should be quick.
As I pull around the corner, I see a line of cars 6 deep, waiting to order. Phht… forget that!! First, it wouldn’t be quick, and second, read the above paragraph.
Why in the world would people line up at a place that was equally embedded in a strip mall setting, had inferior coffee, cost more, has never had good customer service the 3 times I’ve been there (I had gift cards) above a chic, friendly, local coffee shop?! People confuse me. (and before anyone says it, I realize it’s mostly to do with big advertising budgets and marketing and branding.. still.. blech)
Since I’ve moved up here, I’ve had a local nursery with a small petting zoo attached close, a bakery close, 3 locally owned restaurants close, and now the coffee shop. It’s distressing. I came here partly because the area still felt real, and not someone’s homogenized version of reality. The real people, owning their shops, growing the food and working businesses is what appeals to me. I’ll go to a Mom and Pop shop quicker than any other.
Having crossed the country in a motor home twice during my youth, I got to see the country before big box stores were common, and I liked it. I felt that should be how things were done. I guess that stuck with me. I can’t deny that I will sometimes go to Wal-Mart or Target, but honestly, that whole experience is just so sterile. If I can find the same thing being sold in a shop on Main Street, I’m going to buy it on Main Street instead.
It is my sincere desire that this area remains peppered by Moms and Pops who have the goal of a sucessfull businesses. Mind-numbing experiences of large shops filled with goods from China tended by people who are only there for a paycheck just aren’t my thing.
And to put my money where my mouth is, here are some local places I love:
http://www.birdiescoffee.com/ Great place to sit and chat over good brew. No drive thru, but a great garden to rest in.
http://www.myjcafe.com/ Awesome cupcakes. Just ask my friends! Fav is the sweet potato or carrot cake!
http://www.starrynightbakery.com/ Another place with awesome cupcakes, but these are more dark. Fav is the Mahoo Wahoo – espresso and chocolate
http://www.cuttinggarden.net/ Friendly people, great customer service, fantastic pricing and locally grown fresh flowers. The best florist I’ve found around town!
These are just a few of the places I’ve been to recently, but I’ve bought meat from the farmers who raised the cows, I belong to a CSA that keeps me in veggies all spring through fall, I found a local honey farm and I get my eggs just after they’ve been collected. I also found a local place for t-shirt graphics and a shop with a very nice woman named Carol, who sells pellet and wood stoves, so it’s not like I’m just eating sweets and sipping coffee while surrounded by lovely flowers all the time.
Do you have a favorite local shop? Tell me about it! I’d love to know that Mom and Pop shops are still going strong.