The Corporate Snuffing of Mom and Pop
My father was an Automobile Dealer. Over the years he owned several different stores but none were more beloved than the first location he purchased in the mid seventies. Despite the growth of his dealerships volume when you walked into his flagship store you felt its personality. The fact that he was ever present certainly contributed to the "family" atmosphere that existed but it was more than that. In the last few years of the stores operation I observed my father and how he interacted with customers and employees. I watched him embrace perfect strangers who were not able afford the work necessary to have their car repaired and he would wave the fee. I sat and listened as he asked our office manager to cut a check for an employee whose year had been overwrought with sorrow, he wanted to send her and her kids to Disney World. Yet I would never know his worries or his problems because his focus was truly taking care of the others who came through the door, employees and customers.
In today's world, the land of Walmart and i-apples and move fasters and cyber connections the personality of our communities is dying. I sit across from younger family members and attempt conversations as they text their friends about nothing of consequence. I can't help but wonder, are our communities now suffering because our speed of sound pace has propelled us so fast our feet no longer touch the ground? Today's future generation is not as grounded as it's predecessor's, heck some can't even give a proper handshake. If they are not grounded, then one could argue they are not invested. If they can't look you in the eye when they shake your hand, how can you trust what that handshake may symbolize. Don't forget, it is now normal for someone to end a relationship via text!
(The Map above Depicts Walmart Locations Across the Country)
What does this disconnect have to do with mom and pop? My father was part of the generation that Tom Brokaw refers to as the, "greatest". Sadly we are not forming bonds with our community as we did in days praised by Brokaw. Without the bond or the trust how can we truly appreciate each other? Ninety percent of the people my dad did business with was on a handshake. He knew many of them since high school. He supported them in their enterprises and vice versa. Many of his friends bought cars from him not because they like the product but because they liked him. Of course there are those who get it. I knew them. I sold them cars. I watched as they cried when they heard of my father's retirement. They cried because they feared the next guy wouldn't care or have the time to know their name. He would be unattached. Coincidentally, he is not be part of the greatest generation.
I lived for a short while in South Boston. The neighborhood feel was one of the things that I loved most. In Southie, like many cities, there is not a lot of room for big business. So you go to family named corner stores to get your milk. You are able to have a conversation with the owner about the day and it reminds you even if subliminally that life is in the details. I understand that there is a lot to be said for convenience but before we turn our suburbs into canals of mega stores take a look at the vapid faces that greet you within them. Are the people who are working for too little to support their families going to let you pay for that carton of milk next time because you didn't have enough cash? They can't.
Mom and Pop is dying. We listen to politicians discuss the shrinking middle class blaming things such as taxation, big government and the painfully slow financial recovery for its demise. We can help slow the growth of this chasm by patronizing the local stores, the ones whose name is not in every city all over America. In doing this, we support our community. Personally, I feel better knowing that by paying five cents more I may help send Mom and Pops kid to college, rather than paying five cents less for the fancy suit to buy a new car, boobs and botox for his wife and vacation for his girl. Just sayin'.
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