Bang the Drum Again


What exactly does it take to get the message across, anyway?

I’ve been beating this drum for a long time and I’m getting tired of it.

Karsten-Denson is closing and I’m bummed (Longtime Macon Hardware Store Closing – Macon Telegraph article). One of the remaining memories from my boyhood, Karsten-Denson managed to survive all of the bad years downtown only to close now. An old-timey hardware store, they literally sell everything from lock washers to rabbit traps. Times are bad. They can’t hold on.

Beautiful wife got an email today from a shop that was once located in our small town’s downtown shopping district. It’s a Christian concern called Go Fish that imports handcrafted items from the Third World. The idea is simple and good. Go Fish establishes relationships with craftsmen/artisans in developing nations, enabling them to support themselves and their families. The goods they purchase are sold by franchisees in the U.S., again allowing them (the retailers) to support themselves and their families. It’s capitalism at its best. Everybody wins . . . and the message of Jesus Christ is communicated in the process.

The store moved from sleepy Perry to Warner Robins, a larger community 15 miles north of us. Presumably, the goal of a move to a higher traffic, more visible location was an increase in sales volume and profitability. But apparently this has not ensued. The tone of the email was not so much desperate as disconsolate, citing the economic downturn and urging former customers to visit the shop.

Bang the drum . . . when will we learn to support local businesses? Small retailers, hardware stores, and even printshops comprise the backbone of a local economy, especially in smaller communities. Look around in your community. It’s the local businesses that are really engaged. They sponsor local charities, events and Little League teams, sometimes even when the owners don’t make much for themselves (See my previous diatribe Why We Need Small Business).

With the economic slowdown, times are hard for these folks. (Yes, you can read that “us folks”). Should we not especially support a business that is engaged in the community and trying to benefit others? I am sorry, but Wal-Mart just doesn’t fit my image of the American dream. We were once a nation of entrepreneurs, farmers and small businesspeople who innovated, created value and exported it. We were thinner then, too.

Now we’ve become obese. Have we squandered all of our energy and creativity on a junk food binge? I seems that our ability to innovate, create and to work hard has been supplanted with the desire to consume the most we can at the cheapest price without concern for the consequences. Is it really better to enable exploitation in China for the sake of a cheaper price than to foster a cottage industry in Peru? And what happens to the hardware store, to the small businessperson here in Smalltown, USA?

We are in a recession, even if our President refuses to utter the word. Poor Richard is very suspicious of the theory that supposes we can spend our way out of debt. Our current consumption binge is not sustainable, even and especially when our own government prints and distributes more money to add to the fodder ($600 per taxpayer, no less). The dollar is in decline, a sure sign that the countries that support our debt are tiring of our unwholesome appetites. We do not need to spend more, we need to spend better. We need to consider where the money goes. If we do not reassess our priorities now, the system will crumble.

“Follow the money,” is the old adage, usually alluding to some sort or questionable or even criminal behavior that can be traced back to the source throught the money trail. Reversing the sequence works as well, though. Small business represents the last bastion of the great American ideal: innovation, creativity and hard work. If we follow the money we spend forward, spending it where it will help a local business, our regional economy or a cause we support; we can encourage activity that is beneficial to the economy in the long and short run.

Bang the drum . . . bigger and cheaper is not always better. Forget Wal-Mart. Invest in your own backyard. Support your neighbor. Buy local.


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