Trent has an excellent post on “the local store premium,” the amount over the “box-store-minimum” that it costs to support local businesses.
His post really spoke to me, as I’ve seen the town I grew up in (Arlington, VA) go through an absolutely incredible (note: read “incredible” as “hard to believe,” not “good”) shift away from local, indie shops to homogenized chains. Within walking distance from my parents’ house were several really cool thrift stores, an indie coffee house (The Sugar Shack), a really cool indie CD store (GO!), some bookstores, and other great, local places. The only national chain I can remember was a Sears. I’m sure there were a few others, but, really, national chains were not the norm. Today, though, within walking distance are two different Starbucks, a Barnes & Noble, a Crate & Barrel, a Cheesecake Factory, a Whole Foods, an Apple store, a Ben & Jerry’s, and a variety of other national chains. There are still some local stores, and even some new ones popping up. But the feel of the neighborhood has changed. It no longer feels like “Clarendon” … it just feels like “Suburban Planned ‘Community’ #58174.” I still love it, but the characteristics that make it special are slowly chipping away.
I know nostalgia’s cheap entertainment, and it’s easy to paint the past with a rose-colored wash. But it’s also important to recognize, like one of the commenter’s at Trent’s article noted: “you get to decide what kind of a neighbourhood you want.” You can read Trent’s piece here: The “Local Store Premium” – How Much Is It Worth to You?.