Imagine if you will, a sterile “twilight-zone” landscape devoid of any evidence of having had a rich history, a heritage, a nostalgic past. Everything is either new or a decrepit remnant of a past. Cities and towns once full of commerce, culture, and vibrancy are no longer economically viable and slowly degenerate into further decay. Vistas are ripe with asphalt roadways and distribution centers, fast food restaurants, service stations, and large now listless vacant shopping meccas.
The internet and satellite communications gave us new realms in which to dwell, full of endless opportunities for shopping, gaming, communicating, entertainment and learning. Over time every venture, enterprise and human endeavor became subservient to the online lifestyle. Not quite the apocalyptic world of a Mad Max movie, but quite sterile and barren nevertheless. Everything was deemed disposable and easily replaced for the newest and shiniest with little regard for any residual or enduring value, with minimal regards for future environmental or social impact.
The only thing constant in life is change. Not all change is good, nor is it bad. Yet all change has consequences. Our society is forever being crafted and reshaped based upon the economics, interests and utilitarian needs of the day. Likewise, our social norms, values, and ideals are continuously being redefined and tend to evolve as a result. Communities originally coalesced to efficiently serve the needs of their inhabitants for food, commerce, and economic and cultural livelihood.
Since WWII, the United States has become unique in the degree that it has allowed itself to decentralize. The migration and suburbanization over our society has lead to the decline of many urban and village centers. Downtown businesses began to falter with the popularity and convenience of strip malls. These were eventually challenged by large malls, which are now struggling with the advent of “lifestyle” centers and the ever increasing volume of online shopping.
Fortunately, there is now a new appreciation for our towns and city centers as vibrant and lively areas whose ideal desirability is measured by walkability scores. Green space, cleanliness, heritage, entertainment, varied culinary opportunites and social opportunity….all readily available and achievable in a close proximity. Every community benefits from a shared identity and a sense of space. This cannot be easily replicated along commuting corridors no matter how much glitz and concrete is erected, but it can still be found in our older areas. Nurturing and appreciation is required, however, to keep our treasures economically viable and sustainable.
Small Business Saturday should not only be a day to support and celebrate your local businesses, but also a day of awareness as to their social and community value, their challenges and opportunities. Small businesses don’t survive because of a single day of sales, they require sales year round. We too know the value of online shopping and fully understand the limitations in competing with online merchants. Our success depends upon offering not only a unique product, but an experience, a rewarding personable connection, exceptional service, a contribution to our shared sense of community and identity.
The success of a small business is what justifies the expenditures in your community and keeps it vibrant and vital for generations to come. It is the dollars that revitalize and maintain the existing building stock with inherent history and heritage. It is the tax dollars that contribute to the infrastructure, local municipality, and schools. It is your friends and neighbors creating a livelihood for themselves and keeping the local economy alive. Supporting your local business is an investment in your own well-being and community.