Many of you know I live in a comparatively small New England town. The population hovers around 25,000 on a good day. I tell you this because living in such a place means you get to know the people who reside here. You see neighbors in church, friends out at local eateries, your kids attend the same schools. The sense of community here is rampant and at times it can feel as if you live in a fishbowl with everyone knowing everyone else’s business. Or thinking they do!
When it comes to supporting the businesses of a small town, you see what the people around you are really made of. For 24 years YOUR KITCHEN STORE, owned and managed by Dean Eaton, has operated on the simple principles of giving you a good deal for a great item, giving back to local charities, and supporting all the other locally owned businesses in the area. Many times on the radio we have heard Dean say, “Buying locally supports the entire community through jobs, keeping the profits gained within the community, and helps keep local taxes contained.” When you buy locally you are confirming your commitment to champion your neighbors, because most local businesses are owned by people who actually live in the community. Probably on your street.
It was with a humongous sense of sadness that our community learned last week that YOUR KITCHEN STORE will be closing its doors at the end of this month. The reasons are simple: foot traffic is down and big box stores and the internet have taken over everyday retail sales. My heart is heavy with this knowledge for several reasons, not the least of which is that Dean’s store was my favorite store when I moved here 22 years ago and has never fallen off that first place pedestal. But I have other reasons for being so dismayed with its closing.
Dean told me the other day that the day after Thanksgiving 2015, 40% of all pre-holiday shopping was done on the internet that day. 40%. That number is astronomical and marketing analysts predict the 2016 holiday shopping season will see even higher online sales.
The advent of smart-phones, wifi everywhere, and a laptop in almost every home in America has turned us into a society that could truthfully do everything, gain every necessary item, and fulfill all our everyday needs without every leaving the confines of our homes. Yes, shopping via the internet is easy and welcome when you have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow you to actually go to a store and shop, I get that. Everyone gets that. And yes, those big name “convenience’ stores can be just that, convenient. But what I don’t think the average person realizes is how destructive shopping online can be, and is, to local community businesses who are trying so hard to compete in this new computer-ruled world. Or that the profits from all those convenient big stores don’t stay in the community. Yes, they provide jobs. No one argues with that, but the workers are merely part of a huge, impersonal team run by a corporation only concerned with profits. To even considering coming into a small town, many of those big stores are offered tax breaks that the average small business owner never is. Does that seem fair to you?
Locally owned and operated stores offer personal and knowledgeable service. I’ll be the first to admit I get a cheap thrill when I go into a store and the person behind the counter knows me, asks after my family, and gives me updates on their own. I get a real sense of community when I see these same business owners worshipping in local churches and synagogues, eating out with their families at local restaurants, and sponsoring local athletic teams. When I buy locally I am always confident the product I purchase comes with the business owner’s commitment to providing the best item or service at the best price he/she can. I am not fooled by the bigger stores offering coupons or one-day sales, just to lure me in, and then finding out the item I want is either not in stock, or the coupon doesn’t really fit what I want and need.
Integrity, honesty, decency, and fairness are all factors in a business that make me want to support it. In my town, I have found those qualities in each and every locally owned and operated business, bet it a kitchen store, a gas station, a restaurant, a farm stand, or a septic cleaning company.
I am beyond saddened that Dean is closing his store. He and his wonderful staff have helped me become the good cook ( no hubris here!) I am, by helping me find the perfect utensils I need, the best tasting sauces and mixes I want, and the perfect appliances necessary to create a master-chef meal. Dean has been a champion of all local charities, never refusing to donate an item or a gift card for a local fundraising auction, and he has shined a brilliant light on the National Organ Donation Organization and its needs for easily accessible and available organ and tissue donations to people who require them. The one and only good thing I see coming out of YOUR KITCHEN STORE closing its doors, is that now Dean will have more time to spend with his amazing and beautiful wife, Carol.
In closing, I’d just like to remind people how important and necessary it is to shop locally and support your community businesses and business owners with your patronage. We live in a fast, demanding, sometimes soul-sucking world right now. We need to slow down, take a breath, and support our neighbors and our towns through our spending habits and our advocacy for their businesses. Five of the best words in the English language are Locally Grown, Owned, and Operated.
Dean, you, your staff, and your store will be sorely missed in so many ways….