In today’s email, I received an appeal to customers from a local restaurant owner. His remarks could apply to any local business anywhere, and that’s why I’m reproducing it for you below.
His letter isn’t just specific to him. and he makes some good points about supporting local merchants.
When I was a kid living in Brooklyn, I used to love going to Upstate New York with my dad, to the Catskills and Adirondacks. My favorite part was the small towns. The soda shops and small restaurants were fun. The shops were small, friendly and folksy.
I came to love those visits to small towns.
That affection for small-town America has stayed with me all these many decades since, but it’s turned more to grieving.
Today, I live in Texas, and through the years have driven through many small towns in the South and Southwest.
The Main Streets are mostly empty. The storefront windows usually have large “For Rent” signs in them, with the residue of some closed business left abandoned on the floor, inside. Sometimes, even the “For Rent” signs have aged to the point where they look forlorn and hopeless.
Buildings and business spaces in these towns now fall almost universally into one of four categories: Government offices, law and real estate offices, antique shops, and small local eateries.
Welcome to the ‘Walmart-ization’ of what some politicians have called “The Real America”. America’s small towns have become the destinations for a whole class of shoppers emulating “American Pickers“. “The Real America” has become little more than “Garage Sale America”.
Andy Namdarian, in his letter below, admits to shopping at big chains, but his appeal is reasonable: Remember to shop at your local business owner, too.
Local businesses have neighborhood loyalty, where chains have none. Local businesses care about the survival of neighborhoods. Local businesses are literally invested in your community. Chains merely follow the migration as neighborhoods are born and die. Chains, like most businesses, aren’t immoral. They’re just amoral. If your town or neighborhood dies, they’ll move to another, whether it’s in northwest Houston or downtown Beijing. There are no tears or grieving, or heart-wrenching locking of the door for the last time.
As was famously remarked in “The Godfather”: “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
‘Walmart-ization’ isn’t just for small-town America anymore. It’s come (or coming) to a neighborhood near you.
Big chains with lots of capital and other resources have their place in our economy and our country, but so does your neighborhood merchant.
Don’t forget them.
Fred’s Italian Corner Newsletter
An Open Letter to All Our Guest and Friends
I have nothing against national chain. My family and I shop at chain retailers and I understand their allure, the comfort of knowing what you will get, whether in Houston, Dallas, or Florida.
I’m asking that when you make your shopping decisions, please remember the locally owned retailers and restaurants. Since the economy bottomed out, our business has dropped off just like every retail sector in our economy. It’s hit our industry especially hard, however, particularly during the first quarter of the year.
People are still shopping and eating out. I make it a regular habit to drive around to see how other places are doing on a given day. It’s been very frustrating when I drive by a dozen or so local shops and the parking lots are empty or have closed their door for business, but when I go by the chains, their parking lots are full and the chain restaurant have people waiting in line to get in. I’ve lived in a lot of cities and have been in Houston since 1981, and I’ve never seen a city so taken by chain. If you look at the various “Best of” surveys that come out in local publications, a chain business are always on the list.
This is not saying that the national retailers have no place in our local economy. There are advantages, however, to shop local that’s what I would like you to think about. The money you spend at local retail stays in Houston. We buy our products from local distributors, and other local suppliers. Our profits are not being sent back to some national headquarters. We also employ local staff. Many chains bring in staff and management from other locations.
As the economic times have gotten to all of us, it’s even more important to support local retail stores and restaurants. The large chains have the capital from stock holders to withstand the ups and downs of the market. Local owners do not. All of my friends in the retail industry are suffering. For us, a 10 to 20 percent loss of sales is a crushing blow. Many have experienced worse. The big guys are going to survive. Are we?
I’m asking you to go a mile or two out of your way and support your local retail business like your neighborhood gas stations, florist, sports bars, bakeries, cleaners and restaurants. Our prices are competitive, our service is outstanding and many of us provide extra value to help ease your pocketbook during this recession. We each have our vision of what we want to provide our community. Without your help, our vision, and the local traditions, may soon disappear.
Andy Namdarian owner