Several of my fellow contributors at Humane Pursuits relish the small town, “real humanity” feel of Mom & Pop stores. Brian wrote about his love of real neighborhood coffee shops last November, for example.
In general, I enjoy locally-owned businesses but cannot find reason to deplore the success and use of consumer economy titans like Costco and Starbucks. Mom & Pop, in my opinion, should not have a carte blanche authority to offer less variety at a higher price. In most every place that I have lived, independent coffeehouses and other locally owned businesses still exist along side big box stores and other chains. Admittedly some places do not sustain that same variety and national chains possibly do lower the overall number of locally-owned businesses a given market can support.
Nevertheless, I think chains can and do bring positive benefits to their community, beyond mere price advantages and a greater selection. In an article posted today in The Atlantic, its author Michael Parks meditates on the importance of Dairy Queen to rural Texas. His reflections remind us that most modern corporate behemoths originally began as a Mom & Pop enterprise. He also touches on the rise of franchising which has enabled many entrepreneurs invest in and serve their local communities.
It is an article worth reading because the moral imagination brought to bear in arguments about the perils of Big Business may need a little perspective.
I leave you with the article’s closing paragraph:
Finally, and most importantly, soft serve requires a machine. A machine, in turn, requires a store. Not quite solid, and made largely of air, soft serve can’t survive a freezer. You can’t buy soft serve in a carton. Every cone requires an excursion into the world. It is a public ice cream, meant to be eaten fresh. Following the invention of soft serve, the creation of thousands of new places to go and sit and eat it was almost inevitable.