Joni Mitchell’s familiar refrain, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” warns against taking the things you love for granted. And while at the time Joni was referring to paradise, trees, pure food and her boyfriend, her message resonates now for one of the key threads in the fabric of small towns, namely, local businesses.
We do indeed live in paradise! Surrounded by an incomparable coastline and rolling hills we have wonderful neighbors and lifestyles. But a critical component of our lives and towns are the storefronts we drive past every day and the shopkeeper and employees inside that work very hard to make their dream a reality by offering you something they believe in so much that they have devoted their very lives to showing it to you. But recently the emergence of point and click shopping obscures the reality that operating a successful small business, while never an easy road, is more challenging than ever.
But you won’t see the chairman of Amazon in the stands at the local homecoming game, cheering on kids at a local surf contest or helping the local family that lost their home in a fire.
That level of community involvement only happens when the business owner lives in your neighborhood, works down the block, plays hoops at the local park or paddles out at your local break. And the truth is, the vast majority of proprietors in our towns do just that. They’re sponsoring little league teams, giving discounts to the kids when they get a good report card or just waving to you when you meet on the sidewalk. They’ve been there for years so you might even take them for granted, but trust me they never take your patronage for granted. Not for a minute.
And if they ever leave, our towns will lose a part of what makes them so special, thread-by-thread, storefront-by-storefront. It would be more than a shame… It would be tragic and we would all lose.
So please consider doing your part to help maintain the souls of our towns. Turn off the computer, get out of your car and walk our sidewalks to rediscover the incredibly unique shops just down the street. It’s easy, it’s fun and you’ll discover some cool goods and services that you can’t find online while meeting some pretty nice folks in the process.
Thankfully, most of the people I talk to “get it” and understand that the quality of their lives depends in part on the holistic integrity of the community that surrounds them. The health of our town is akin to the health of our bodies and online shopping is like drive through fast food. It’s something to eat, but it sure as heck ain’t home cookin’.
Mark Christy, Laguna Beach