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In Praise of Chain Stores
The Atlantic Online ^ | December 2006 | Virginia Postrel

Posted on 12/09/2006 3:35:25 PM PST by SamAdams76

Every well-traveled cosmop­olite knows that America is mind-numbingly monotonous—the most boring country to tour, because everywhere looks like everywhere else,” as the columnist Thomas Friedman once told Charlie Rose. Boston has the same stores as Denver, which has the same stores as Charlotte or Seattle or Chicago. We live in a “Stepford world,” says Rachel Dresbeck, the author of Insiders’ Guide to Portland, Oregon. Even Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, she complains, is “dominated by the Gap, Anthropologie, Starbucks, and all the other usual suspects. Why go anywhere? Every place looks the same.” This complaint is more than the old worry, dating back to the 1920s, that the big guys are putting Mom and Pop out of business. Today’s critics focus less on what isn’t there—Mom and Pop—than on what is. Faneuil Hall actually has plenty of locally owned businesses, from the Geoclassics store selling minerals and jewelry, to Pizzeria Regina (“since 1926”). But you do find the same chains everywhere.

(Excerpt) Read more at theatlantic.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: anywhereusa; atlantic; chainstores; classicalliberalism; cosmopolitesnobbery; freetochoose; libertarianism; momandpopstores; virginiapostrel

1 posted on 12/09/2006 3:35:25 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76

Mom and pop stores are gone because they are inefficient (exception: certain niche markets). What rational person would want to pay significant markup and have less to choose from simply to keep an outmoded and inefficient business model going? Personally, I like the idea I can travel anywhere in the US (and many parts of the world) and still pick up a Big Mac when I want one.


2 posted on 12/09/2006 3:43:12 PM PST by CitizenUSA
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To: SamAdams76
People who mostly stay put get to have experiences once available only to frequent travelers, and this loss of exclusivity is one reason why frequent travelers are the ones who complain.

This is a terrific article. Thanks for posting it.

3 posted on 12/09/2006 3:44:25 PM PST by pollyannaish
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To: SamAdams76
Why go anywhere?

Better weather and good golf courses!

4 posted on 12/09/2006 3:56:27 PM PST by Don Corleone (Leave the gun..take the cannoli)
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To: SamAdams76

Reference ping to a great article...


5 posted on 12/09/2006 3:58:34 PM PST by xjcsa (Stop global climate stagnation!)
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To: Dark Wing; Dog Gone

ping


6 posted on 12/09/2006 4:01:40 PM PST by Thud
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To: CitizenUSA
travel anywhere in the US (and many parts of the world) and still pick up a Big Mac when I want one.

About 8 years ago, I arrived in Perth, Western Australia after the long trip from Los Angeles. I was hungry and needed to stretch my legs so I found a MacDonald's about 2 blocks from the hotel. The Big Mac tasted entirely unlike anything I'd ever had stateside. It really sucked, but the fries were good!

7 posted on 12/09/2006 4:02:07 PM PST by ErnBatavia (recent nightmare: Googled up "Helen Thomas nude"....)
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To: Thud

Perhaps the happiest day of my life is when my family stumbled upon a Wendy's restaurant in Athens.

We had been eating squid eyeballs wrapped in soggy grape leaves smothered in stinky goat cheese for a week. We were about to starve.

We coulda died without that chain....


8 posted on 12/09/2006 4:05:54 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: ErnBatavia
When I travel on vacation, I make it a point NOT to patronize corporate chain restaurants. In other words, if I can get it at home, then I pass. I like to experience the unique places in a given travel destination.

Once each year, I travel to California in late Spring and one town, Davis CA, there are pretty good places to eat at in downtown. In fact one place - Crepeville, they do not even take credit cards ! The food is good. I cannot get it at home in Colorado.
9 posted on 12/09/2006 4:07:32 PM PST by CORedneck
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To: Don Corleone

Why go anywhere?

Hunting seasons don't follow the same schedule and fishing varies from place to place.


10 posted on 12/09/2006 4:10:24 PM PST by freedomfiter2
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To: SamAdams76

Why go anywhere? Because there is only one Grand Canyon, one Santa Fe, one Mauna Loa volcano, one Mt. McKinley, one Everglades, etc. etc. You can't see all that staying in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

And no matter where you go, only a small percentage of the stores are chains. And thank God they are there. It's comforting to find a McDonald's for a quick breakfast on the go, alongside a local Little Rock diner where you can get real grits and buiscuits and sausage gravy with your eggs if you prefer. It's a damned myth that once city is like another. They just all happen to now offer more choices than were once available.


11 posted on 12/09/2006 4:12:36 PM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: ErnBatavia

ErnBatavia wrote: "The Big Mac tasted entirely unlike anything I'd ever had stateside."

Yeah. I think McDonalds varies the food a bit depending on what's available locally. I ate at a McDonalds in Turkey once. Its food tasted pretty similar to the US stuff.


12 posted on 12/09/2006 4:14:31 PM PST by CitizenUSA
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There is nothing wrong with local culture or chains. You sample the local flavor when you are adventurous, and when you're tired and hungry and homesick, you go to Cracker Barrel. :)


13 posted on 12/09/2006 4:43:40 PM PST by Libertarianchick
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To: Libertarianchick
There is nothing wrong with local culture or chains. You sample the local flavor when you are adventurous, and when you're tired and hungry and homesick, you go to Cracker Barrel. :)

Choice. What a concept!

Think it will catch on?

14 posted on 12/09/2006 4:47:00 PM PST by Harmless Teddy Bear (Those who call their fellow citizens Sheeple are just ticked they were not chosen as Shepherds)
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To: Larry Lucido
But there is only one place that serves a "big" salad.
15 posted on 12/09/2006 4:54:36 PM PST by Rb ver. 2.0
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To: CitizenUSA
Mom and pop stores are gone because they are inefficient (exception: certain niche markets).

Not to mention that many Mom & Pop stores pleased their customers, had a lot of babies and became chains themselves. It's not like Sam Walton started out with $500 billion and 1,000 stores.

16 posted on 12/09/2006 4:59:14 PM PST by VirginiaConstitutionalist
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To: VirginiaConstitutionalist

VirginiaConstitutionalist wrote: "It's not like Sam Walton started out with $500 billion and 1,000 stores."

Good point!


17 posted on 12/09/2006 5:04:28 PM PST by CitizenUSA
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To: SamAdams76

I've often wondered what it is like to breathe pure ozone...


18 posted on 12/09/2006 5:10:42 PM PST by Old Professer (The critic writes with rapier pen, dips it twice, and writes again.)
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To: CORedneck
Speaking of non-chain, wifey and I still fondly remember this place from 20 years ago:

http://atlanta.metblogs.com/archives/2005/12/the_lantern_inn.phtml

19 posted on 12/09/2006 5:12:35 PM PST by ErnBatavia (recent nightmare: Googled up "Helen Thomas nude"....)
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To: Rb ver. 2.0

LOL!!


20 posted on 12/09/2006 7:38:41 PM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: VirginiaConstitutionalist; Rb ver. 2.0; MotleyGirl70; Cagey; Mr. Brightside

KRAMER: Yeah, of course you do. And do you know why? Because you're a bunch of yuppies. It's your go-go corporate takeover lifestyles that are driving out these Mom and Pop stores and destroying the fabric of this neighborhood.

GEORGE: Well, what's so great about a Mom and Pop store? Let me tell you something. If my Mom and Pop ran a store, I wouldn't shop there.


21 posted on 12/09/2006 7:49:55 PM PST by Larry Lucido
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To: Dog Gone

LoL!


22 posted on 12/09/2006 8:58:07 PM PST by relee (How ironic that the fatal flaw of communism would turn out to be that there is no money in it - AWB)
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To: SamAdams76
Chain stores deliver economies of the scale and choice that local mom and pop stores can't match. Since mom and pop stores can't compete with the chains on price and choice they can maintain an edge on quality goods and personalized customer service.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." -Manuel II Paleologus

23 posted on 12/09/2006 9:01:15 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: SamAdams76
The point to national chains is that people in small towns and nedium sized cities get the same services and amenities once available only to people living in big cities. The point lost on activists who oppose chains in urban downtowns is not that chains change the character of the places they'd take root in but rather that people have to drive further to buy the things they want and need. I can't think of anything more self-defeating, as Virginia Postrel's passage at the end of her column so vividly reveals:

"To [Robert Gibbs'] frustration, he finds that many cities actually turn away national chains, preferring a moribund downtown that seems authentically local. But, he says, the same local activists who oppose chains “want specialty retail that sells exactly what the chains sell—the same price, the same fit, the same qualities, the same sizes, the same brands, even.” You can show people pictures of a Pottery Barn with nothing but the name changed, he says, and they’ll love the store. So downtown stores stay empty, or sell low-value tourist items like candles and kites, while the chains open on the edge of town. In the name of urbanism, officials and activists in cities like Ann Arbor and Fort Collins, Colorado, are driving business to the suburbs. “If people like shopping at the Banana Republic or the Gap, if that’s your market—or Payless Shoes—why not?” says an exasperated Gibbs. “Why not sell the goods and services people want?”

Why indeed not? If people like doing business with a particular company, they should be free to have that choice. The character of our communities is not determined by what's outside the sign of a business; its shaped by the local culture, climate and living preferences. For frequent travellers, all of America looks the same. That's a snap judgment from people passing through a place. For the local folks though, its always the place they call home.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." -Manuel II Paleologus

24 posted on 12/09/2006 9:17:55 PM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Dog Gone
You are too funny!

I was in South Korea '76-'82. Dried squid, dog, Chicken heads, fermented cabbage, red bean paste and such were the local fare. I would have killed for a nearby McDonald's! Imagine me as a young child biting into what looked like a tasty donut to find it filled with bean curd(tofu). That sort of thing happened way too many times. I grew to like the salted seaweed and such but still came back to the US as a skinny underfed kid.
25 posted on 12/10/2006 2:20:21 AM PST by ME-262 (The Democrat party is slowly being reduced by abortion AIDS and imprisonment...and soon deportation!)
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To: CORedneck
I cannot get it at home in Colorado.

Yeh. Sitting in the middle of Wisconsin with a strong hankering for a stuffed sopapilla smothered in green chile sauce from the Elkhorn Cafe, Pagosa Springs...

26 posted on 12/10/2006 6:14:14 AM PST by elli1
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To: ErnBatavia
**** I found a MacDonald's ... The Big Mac tasted entirely unlike anything I'd ever had stateside. It really sucked ****

Yeah, Wallaby does take some getting used to.

27 posted on 12/10/2006 6:15:26 AM PST by Condor51 (Tagline Under Construction - Kindly Wear Your Hardhat)
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To: Condor51

"Who put the 'roo in the stew?"


28 posted on 12/10/2006 7:27:25 AM PST by ErnBatavia (recent nightmare: Googled up "Helen Thomas nude"....)
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To: VirginiaConstitutionalist
Not to mention that many Mom & Pop stores pleased their customers, had a lot of babies and became chains themselves. It's not like Sam Walton started out with $500 billion and 1,000 stores.

Didn't he start with Franklin Five and Dime stores?

29 posted on 12/10/2006 8:02:14 AM PST by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: Dog Gone
If you travel as long and as much as I have, you really appreciate getting a meal without getting sick too.

I used to eat steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner, because I could look at it and cut it open and if it didn't pass inspection, move on to another eating place. Even if the steak looked okay, it could still be tougher than an old boot.


Many days my meals were crackers, rat cheese, sardines and Vienna sausages.

Walmart is my general store on the road. Remember the horror stories about automotive parts and repairs on the road. I have paid through the nose for belts and tires.

30 posted on 12/10/2006 12:28:48 PM PST by razorback-bert (I met Bill Clinton once but he didn't really talk , he was hitting on my wife)
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To: razorback-bert

It's fun to try new places, but there's a sense of security in knowing that a chain store (or restaurant) is in the same town if it doesn't work out.


31 posted on 12/10/2006 1:19:24 PM PST by Dog Gone
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