In the past 6-8 months, we have had to say goodbye to many, many local yarn stores in our area. Some were only around for a few years, some were present in our lives for decades and make us mourn the end of an era when their closure is announced. It has me thinking a lot about the role of local businesses and worried that many don’t understand.
And I have a confession to make. I used to not get it. I used to have an severe Amazon addiction problem, and it probably accounted for about 90% of my spending. As I grew to know the lys that I eventually bought, I started to understand. I couldn’t walk into Amazon, feel welcome and liked, and have a rant about my day like I could my lys. I could get stuff cheap. And almost anything, to be fair. I can’t even begin to tell you the piles of junk I got….so very cheap and, well, didn’t need. But the thing that I couldn’t get and did need? A neighborhood. An investment in my life, home, and community. In fact, now, I feel like every dollar I ever spent online decreased multiple times over the amount of neighborhood connection that I could have gotten by paying a bit more, for better stuff, and the relationships that come with it. And though I’ve long worried about the deterioration of neighborhoods (being a mother will do that to you) I hadn’t quite understood the role of local businesses until I got to know my lys, and eventually became a lys owner.
There are studies in the world that tell you that local businesses put exponentially more of their money back into the community than their big box/internet counterparts and I believe that to be true. But it isn’t what I am talking about. I’m talking about being human. About the interaction that inevitably happens when you are helping someone learn to fix a dropped stitch and you learn about their child with autism or their spouse with cancer. I’m talking about the moment when people are allowed to learn, create, inspire and be inspired and be who they are, if they are in a bad place or a good place and to have somewhere that can happen with real live 3D people (no glasses required). Local businesses are invested. Not in stocks. Not in funds. But in the community and its well being…in you. Which is more valuable (and since becoming ever-more rare…increasingly more valuable) than anything you could think of.
And when I hear about a competitor closing, it gets tricky. I know my response on a business level is supposed to be “Yay! Less competition!” But as a person, and as a mother, I mourn for the loss of another place that was invested in the community and where people could connect. And the net result is sadness no matter what the business side of me is trying to convince me of. And I just hope that it reinvigorates people’s commitment, to their local stores…yarn stores, books stores, restaurants, gift shops, etc…the places that yell “Norm!” (or yuh know…what your name is) when you walk through the door.
Because at the end of the day, it is a business. And some part of my (and all local business owner’s) eye ball has to be on the (ehhem) business end because this is how I support myself and my daughter. And as local icons close their doors, I just hope that some tide will turn, and everyone will start to understand the value of local businesses and care about us as much as we care about you. Because really, in the end, we are you.