Update: Save Retailers from Extinction
Program promotes frequenting independent retailers.
The Town House and The Beede Swim and Fitness Center were among the many offices in town that were closed because of the blizzard. Snow and fierce winds also kept many of us off the roads yesterday. Many of our independent merchants were forced to close or to delay their openings. Their businesses took a hit. Let’s try to make it up to them. If you are able, stop by one of our small independent retailers and purchase an item you normally would have purchased at a local chain. I am going to do the same thing. I will report back here Friday and let you know what I bought and where. Can’t wait to hear about everyone’s purchases! Better yet, send photos! We'd all love to see what everyone bought!
Three of my four sisters-in-law are native to the Midwest, and before they met my brothers, Concord and Massachusetts were just meaningless footnotes from their school days.
A few summers ago, one brother and his family came to visit us. My sister-in-law and I piled the kids into the car to venture off some place - I forget where. I do remember though going through the rotary at Monument Square towards downtown, when my sister-in-law began having what I thought was a heart attack or a stroke in the seat beside me. She could barely speak. She was looking out the window with her hand over her heart. Her breathing became labored.
I had my hands on the wheel, four kids in the back and nearly panicking. What could possibly be the matter? She told me to look and pointed out the window. Was there a person lying dead in the street? A fire? What was going on? What!? Should I bolt to Emerson Hospital. Tell me!!
She was encouraging her children to drink in whatever she was pointing at from the windows. I was so confused. So I pulled over. My sister-in-law seemed at ease now and was able to speak again. Our downtown, she said, was so beautiful, so old fashioned, so unique. She was in a Dickens’ novel. She was enamored.
Her reaction made me realize how much I took our downtown and our independent retailers for granted. I passed this way sometimes 10 times a day, annoyed with pedestrians who ignored crosswalks, and blind to the merchants who maintained the historical integrity of our commercial districts. I no longer look at things this way.
Our small merchants, coupled with our historic sites, are what make Concord Concord. The fact that we can drive from one end of our town to the other and not pass a single big-box store is a gift many people in this country cannot fathom. Yes, I know we have some chains and franchises - Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mobil. Yet our bylaws on signage and zoning, which are composed primarily by volunteers, prevent Goliath from dominating Concord.
This Great Recession, however, is posing a great challenge to our independent merchants. Few of us are spending like we used to, and even fewer are spending in town. The Harness Shop is among the casualties. Whereas these shops are small, you will not read about their business margins on Yahoo Finance. You just have to believe they need your help to sustain their businesses and much of Concord’s charming character.
In November, the Concord Independent Business Alliance sponsored “Shop Concord Indies First!” This move was part of a national campaign of the American Independent Business Alliance to lure shoppers away from the chain stores. Reports suggest that for every $100 spent locally, nearly $70 circulates back into the community. What an investment for Concord!
After my Saturday cup of coffee at Main Street Market and Cafe, I saw a little sign on a wall promoting 3/50 or the350project.net. The flyer encourages us to choose three favorite independent stores in Concord and imagine if they were to disappear. My mind flashed back to Coggins Bakery on Thoreau Street, which closed as Dunkin’ Donuts opened. Another aspect of 3/50 is to spend at least $50 collectively at independent stores. If the above-mentioned report is correct, one of us could circulate $35 back to Concord by making local purchases. It adds up and it makes a difference.
Main Street, my favorite social spot, is just one Concord Indie seeking our business. Concord Hand Designs, Concord Flower Shop, Debra’s Natural Gourmet and The Dotted i are others. Your favorite indie need not promote 3/50 for you to continue shopping there. It is my hope, though, that more of us are aware of the impact small businesses have in our community. So I urge you to help support our independent retailers, who do so much for us.
Do you have something you would like to share? Contact me at email@example.com and I will make sure everyone knows.