I'm biased. I'm biased in favor of small, independent, homegrown business, as opposed to spending my money at some cookie-cutter outlet of GreatBigGlobalChainStore, Incorporated.
Not that I adamantly refuse to step into any chain, but -- let's admit it, these places are sterile, uniform, boring, soulless, and... well, corporate. They have no pulse. If I've got a choice, I go for the color, flavor, zest and attitude of the hometown businesses that shout uniqueness, giving us a sense of place and human spirit. There are plenty of examples in my own town of Austin, Texas:
Why stay at the anywhere-and-nowhere Holiday Inn when we've got the funkily refurbished Austin Motel right downtown, boasting this reassuring slogan on its marquee: "No additives, No preservatives, Corporate-free since 1938."
Why turn your cash over to Starbucks number 2,417 -- when there's better coffee and a spiritual uplift at our own Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, complete with a cheeky neon sign saying: "Caffeine Dealer."
Why go to the Home Depot, when the independent Harrell's hardware has the gizmo you need, knows how it operates, will lend you a tool to install it and offers hands-on help with this comforting slogan: "Together, we can do it yourself"?
Food, books, beer, clothing, records -- you name it, there are an abundance of local choices wherever you live that'll take you beyond crass corporate consumerism and help define your city as its own special place, rather than just another Anyplace, USA. Plus, the money you spend locally stays local, instead of being hauled off in a Brinks truck to corporate central.
I'm not talking about supporting local businesses as some sort of do-good charitable act to help them, but about helping ourselves by voting with our consumer dollars to make our towns the one-of-a-kind, vibrant places we want them to be.
It's a question of "whose town is it?" Ours... or GreatBigGlobalChainStore, Incorporated? It's up to us.
Publication date: 02/12/04