Changing face of Main Street

Serendipity

We just passed Small Business Saturday. It’s a movement I especially appreciate in these times of big box stores, mega-malls, and online shopping. It’s just good to know that there are local, independent stores still out there that need our support to survive in these times. Small Business Saturday is a chance for us to celebrate enterprise and entrepreneurship while giving our main streets a boost. Besides, I always think it’s just rather fun to get away from the crowds and the mass produced goods to see something that’s unique. It may even include a little visit with the shop owner.

When I think about it, every Saturday used to be a Small Business Saturday, especially in our little towns around the county. That was when every small town had the services that the population needed–a grocery store or two and a hardware store, doctor and dentist office perhaps, a pharmacy and a clothing store. Lumberyards were common, as were meat lockers. And of course there was a need for a café downtown so the locals could meet for pie and coffee or a plate lunch at noontime. I expect that part of the draw for those businesses was that the customers had an opportunity to socialize with friends and neighbors, for even a brief break in the workday.

It seems to me that Main Street in my town reached its peak before I was old enough to really appreciate it. I do remember, though, how fun it was to go to the local gift shop to pick out a present. Often Hazel (the owner) had a list going of local women who had been invited to a wedding shower for some hometown girl. Those women were going in together to buy a gift for the new bride from Hazel, who would then select a gift from her inventory and wrap it, put all the names on a card, and take it to the church in time for the shower. I believe the same service was available at the hardware store next door if you had in mind a small appliance.

Of course, in this 21st century we can select gifts and order them without ever leaving home. And not just gifts; just about anything can be found online to come right to our doorsteps. We can even order something from our homes to be sent to a friend or relative who lives in another part of the country.

Speed and convenience has changed the face of our small town main streets, and there’s no turning back. Yet I’m glad to see unique shops and businesses springing up on our main streets recently.

I don’t think main street commerce will ever be the same as it was years back, but the future for small businesses looks promising.

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