We choose to educate our children at home for many reasons. One of those reasons is that we want to provide experiences that can’t be found in the mass-market public education environment. This philosophy shapes our shopping experiences as well, as we try to support locally owned businesses for a large portion of what we purchase.
Supporting a local business sometimes means waiting for a shipment to come in or making an extra stop. Slowing down allows us to look forward to something and experience anticipation. It isn’t always easy, and we do fall into patterns of convenience at times.
Too often as a society, we strive to save every minute and every penny so that we can rush home to our heavily mortgaged houses, heat up a microwave dinner and use what we saved to pay for more channels than we can watch. The time for a family dinner is spent in front of a computer screen while we communicate via social networking sites with people we don’t care enough about to invite over for a real dinner.
When a local business closes, we lose more than an extra stop on the way home and a couple of jobs. We lose one more piece that sets a unique little town apart from other cities that are increasingly homogenized into a predictable landscape of chain stores.
Exceptional service often sets small businesses aside from chain stores, but that service comes at a price. Hiring high-quality, competent staff can be costly, and small businesses don’t get the same purchasing breaks that mega-businesses enjoy. Staying in business in a slow economy is a constant struggle.
I was saddened a few years ago to see that our family’s favorite restaurant had closed. Family dinners at home offer us an opportunity to tackle the endless tasks of teaching manners and attempting to civilize our children. Dinner in a restaurant is the final exam for this course.
We went to Lucio’s together a few times each year, dining there more often than we went anywhere else. We knew our dinner would be prepared fresh, not squeezed out of a series of plastic bags sent in from some corporate warehouse. Once, in a pregnancy-induced haze, I walked in and announced: “Fruit! I want fruit!” Lucio prepared a beautiful, off-menu plate that exactly cured my craving. Such service is getting harder to find.
There are still many small, family-owned businesses left in our community. Get out, take your children and enjoy the diversity we have before your town is left with nothing but chain stores and strip malls.
A longer version of this post first appeared in the Appeal Democrat in January, 2010.
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