Last week, I did what I do maybe once a month. I walked down to my neighborhood video store to rent a DVD and then pick up a falafel deluxe at Mediterranean Wraps. I love living in a place where you can walk to most places, especially where most of the places are locally owned and operated.
However, I was surprised when I arrived at the video store to find the “going out of business” signs plastered all over the façade. Why? Its never simple, but to begin with, demand is decreasing: people are buying DVDs instead of renting, legal movie downloads are starting to pick up here in Silicon Valley, and of course piracy in the form of illegal downloads and copies continue to nick away at the market size. Also, rents continue to rise as does the cost of labor. Lower revenues, higher costs. A sure combination to drive any business down. I talked with the owner, and she couldn’t sell the business (due to it being unprofitable and decreasing revenue) so she decided to just spend a month liquidating her stock. I purchased Matchstick Men for $6 and slowly walked back to my pad mourning the passage of yet another small business. Hollywood Video is within driving distance, but I have a feeling it too will disappear in the next few years.
In a rather ironic but perhaps symbolic twist of fate, my “rent 10 get one free card” is now permanently stuck on nine. I think I’ll keep it anyways.
On the same walk, I saw the new Starbucks was open. After an unsuccessful campaign to keep the chains off of California Ave. (the downtown area where I live), they built and opened the store in record time.
I’m can’t stop either of these happenings. And while I’m not happy about them, I acknowledge the market forces that drove both of them as generally for the good. I vote with my pocketbook, and I try to always choose what is best for the community. While it is an arguable position, I think locally owned stores and companies return more to the community than do chain stores. And I’m not alone with that view here in my little corner of California. I’m happy to live where many other community-minded people choose the same stores.
On an ending note, I can’t help but think of the developing world, places like Colombia and Vietnam. They too are starting to hear the siren song of mass-merchandising that will start to chip away some of their community. Let’s hope they choose wisely.