February 9, 2010

Boulder (Un?)chained: Keeping it Real by Keeping it Local!

“Too big to fail” really means “too big to exist in the first place.” Want to make a difference?  Keep it weird. Keep it local!

Boulder, Colorado: One of the slogans we hear all of the time (locally) is “Keep Boulder Weird,” a great reminder as to how unique the city of Boulder is (What? No Wal-Mart?! Weird!), and quite frankly, it’s that uniqueness, that weirdness, that pride in keeping it real by keeping it local that is part of what makes Boulder what it is. I mean, come on, who needs Wally World when you’ve got McGuckin?

It was with not some small amount of annoyance that I came across this article in Boulder’s nationally owned Daily Camera about yet another national chain setting up shop in Boulder.

[Board game store It’s Your Move]‘s closure comes after a “great” holiday season when sales were up 10 percent, Murray said. Plans also were in place to run some family game night incentives and events, he said.

However, the retailer was on a month-to-month lease and the property’s owner, Dennis Cahalan, recently reached an agreement with Penzeys Spices, a Wisconsin-based company with more than 40 locations nationwide, including two in Denver...click over to the Camera for the rest.

Competition isn’t the issue; I’m all in favor of competition, as long as it’s fair—but the majority of national chains are anything but, tending to be rather predatory in nature, buying huge amounts of products made in China and selling low, focused on closing out small, local business rather than working with them in the spirit of friendly competition.

Why does it matter, one might ask?  Simple. With all of the Wall Street vs. Main Street talk going on, many people seem to forget that small business is what truly drives our economy, not the Wal-Marts, Targets, Starbucks and even the Ben & Jerry’s of the world.  The big businesses get the tax breaks in the name of building the (artificial?) cache of a town, while local businesses often go neglected and taken for granted, in spite of the fact that local businesses keep the local economy stronger by keeping the money local rather than sending it off to some national headquarters out of state.

Got a problem, concern, or compliment about your experience in the store?  Take it to the manager.  If it’s a local biz, you’re likely talking with the owner or someone that’s just one or two steps away from the owner, and so what you have to say will have a greater impact than the manager of the national who is so far removed from the owner(s) (i.e. stockholders) that s/he exists simply as a number on a payroll.

Price an issue?  Remember that those “lower prices” offered by national chains are an illusion offset by the higher taxes you pay as a result of local subsidizing.  At least local stores’ prices are more honest, and more of it stays right where it belongs: at home.

As we’ve seen with the recent collapses in our national system, “too big to fail” really means “too big to exist in the first place.” This goes whether you live in Boulder or Boston; in  La Junta or Los Angeles.

Want to make a difference? Keep it weird. Keep it local!

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Todd Mayville  |  Contribution: 25,920