Sunday, May 02, 2010

No Vacancy

Look for the sign
Williamsburg, KY, January 2009

This burg hard alongside Interstate 75 in the mountains of Kentucky has been good to us. Thanks to various factors - namely our van's rather phenomenal fuel economy on long trips, our children's ability to emulate the camel and our willingness to bypass the big towns in favor of the small, sometimes-forgotten ones - we've stopped here a number of times on our way to/from Florida*.

This motel has always made me ponder. In a country where chains of everything from convenience stores to gas stations to restaurants are wiping family-owned businesses off the map, places like this that wear their family-owned history with pride tend to stand out a bit. There's a certain defiance associated with bucking the trend toward anonymous towns that look like all other anonymous towns, and I find myself smiling as I zoom across space and capture this newly renovated sign that hovers over its newly renovated building. Maybe there's hope, yet.

Your turn: What do we lose when unique businesses give way to chain-owned ones?

* See here, here and here for more photos from this place.


Mark said...

You hit a nerve here for me. When I'm on business trips, I have to stay in the hotels dictated by my company, but I can eat anywhere I want. I always ask the customers for local restaurant tips, because I want to experience at least something unique in each place I visit.

Pamela said...

well... we lose local money working for local people
we lose civic pride

just off the tip of my head. I'm sure I could come up with more.

momemts in time said...

Hi Carmi.

Even the French and Swiss who were once so fiercely independent in their purchasing are succumbing to the big chains... but Macdonalds had to change as their standards and menu fell well short of French expectations. It is what is interesting about some of the old villages but in many the butcher, baker and candlestick maker have long since left and even the post office is closing.

What do we loose ... uniquness as every high street has the same shops, with the same items for sale.

Some of our towns in England have printed local currency (legal) which is usable in local shops and has a 1:1 exchange rate.

Unknown said...

What do we lose when unique businesses give way to chain-owned ones?
In many cases we lose higher prices on goods, but it's up to us to decide where to draw that line.
I too constantly search for, and want to experience a "Norman Rockwell" USA, but that doesn't mean my sneakers have to cost me double the price!
Personally, I think that we are Blessed to live in these times where relative "affordability" permits us to move around the place better than we ever have in the past.
If I can use southwest Florida as an example, unspoiled gems from yesteryear are ALL AROUND just have to know where they are!
(They're not listed on Tom Tom or Garmin GPS!)

Mojo said...

The thing I notice most about small independent businesses -- of any kind really -- is the sense of ownership, of pride. When I visit Tate Street Coffee House in Greensboro, I can see the "ownership", even in the people who don't actually own the place. You don't get that from a Starbucks franchise employee as a matter of course.

Ben has a point when he says we take a price hit, though. We do. Because the buying power of a monolithic corporation dwarfs that of a small indie shop. And the additional cost is necessarily passed on to the consumer. The same thing has happened across pretty much every sector of the economy from farming to general mercantile to coffee to soup to nuts.

Arts and hospitality, though, are two areas where the independent operator can still hold onto a claim. Especially in the small towns you mention. But I fear that we're going to get nothing but more homogenized in other business sectors as time marches on.

Cynthia J. Coleman said...

That's a bit north of me. I live near Chattanooga. I think it depends on the company, but it seems like smaller businesses are willing to go the extra mile for their customers.