Becoming chained to chain stores

Carrie Click

Driving to work this morning, I passed by the gigantic gray-brick block going up in record speed alongside Interstate 70. By this fall, this humongous box will morph into another Wal-Mart Supercenter.When I got to Glenwood, I waited at the Sixth Street stoplight next to the Glenwood Amoco and the Village Inn and noticed that a new Subway sandwich shop is going into the building on the corner that used to be occupied by Smokin’ Willies, a former local barbecue joint. And as I drove down Grand Avenue, I saw that the Santa Fe Furniture store – you know, the place on the corner by City Market with the enormous giraffe sculptures – was gone after their recent clearance sale. Hanging over the front windows of the building was a banner with the words, “The UPS Store” written across it. I know I’ve written about the erosion of American downtown cores and the emergence of franchises, big box retailers and chain stores before, but I have to go off on this again. First, let’s take Wally World. Last week, I went on assignment to a Rifle Chamber meeting about Rifle’s Wal-Mart Supercenter. I had my objective journalist’s hat on so I went to the meeting to observe, and not create, news, and listened as two representatives from Wal-Mart gave what seemed to be somewhat canned information about the “Wal-Mart way.” There wasn’t one anti-Wal-Mart protester in sight and the whole thing was pretty innocuous. The morning my article came out, I got a call from a reader who thought my story was incredibly one-sided. “Your article sounds like it could have been written by Wal-Mart’s public relations department,” the caller complained. He continued, saying that I should be more balanced in my reporting. My unhappy reader is not a fan of Wal-Mart, but unfortunately for him, there were no anti-Wal-Mart people at the Rifle meeting. He didn’t understand that for me to create an anti-Wal-Mart angle to my story would have been a misrepresentation of what actually occurred. It would have been a different story had he actually shown up for the meeting. I would have included his input. But he wasn’t there. And that’s the point. It appears that as far as the Rifle store goes, people are either pro-Wal-Mart – or aren’t particularly concerned about it. This kind of “oh well” attitude, combined with the realities of economics, must be what is causing Smokin’ Willies, a former local joint, to be replaced by Subway, another national chain, and what is causing the Santa Fe Collection, a former Glenwood store with a second store in Eagle, to be replaced by The UPS Store, yet another national chain. I don’t know if chain stores are better or worse than one-of-a-kind stores, but when I see a chain store replacing an original business, I get a gut reaction and it makes my heart sink a little. I’m a hypocrite, too, because it doesn’t mean I don’t go to chain stores – I do. A couple weekends ago, I was in Sam’s Club in Grand Junction buying up printer cartridges and a microwave oven, items that cost far less in a warehouse store than at a regular retail shop.And yes, on that same trip, I went into overwhelm at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and walked away with toilet paper holders that were a lot nicer and cost a lot less than at the local hardware store (yes, I have no life; I price out toilet paper holders in my spare time!). Why do we like chain stores? No matter where you are, you know what to expect. There are no surprises. Also, you can usually get things less expensively and a lot of time, there’s more selection. But there’s something about a town filling up with chain stores that takes away the soul of a community.My mother owned and operated a shop in Aspen called Geraniums `n Sunshine for 30 years. It’s a wonderful, one-of-a-kind store, filled with artisan-crafted jewelry, kids toys and clothing, furniture – and a personal touch you cannot find in a chain store.She’ll be closing up shop probably in the next year to be replaced by – what? Another Prada? Another Banana Republic?It won’t be another Geraniums `n Sunshine, or Smokin’ Willies or Santa Fe Collection, that much I know. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext.

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