I received some disappointing news last week.
In a few short months, a family-owned jewelry store in my hometown is scheduled to close after nearly seven decades in business. With roots in the “old neighborhood,” five generations of my family, from my grandparents to my great nieces, have worn sparkly things and watches purchased at Freeman Jewelers.
First Holy Communion crosses, add-a-bead necklaces, charm bracelets, rings from Dad, Christmas gifts hidden in tree branches, engagement rings, and custom designs and settings have marked Sacraments, life milestones and special occasions.
My Mother is no longer able to wear the jewelry she once enjoyed so much. As her dementia progressed, she began throwing her jewelry in the trash. Someday it will be worn and enjoyed again by another generation, but for now, it is safely tucked away.
Her jewelry was purchased from this family owned store. The value of this jewelry is not in the precious metals and stones, it is in the memories. The memory of helping Dad select just the right gift. A tiny, wrapped box hidden on a Christmas tree branch. The memory of Mom’s face when she found it, and the delight when she unwrapped it.
For our family, there has never been another place to purchase jewelry. Or get a new watch battery. The Freeman family has been a constant. They are genuine, friendly and ethical. Their merchandise is beautiful and unique. They catered to every budget. While I am happy for the 2nd generation, sibling owners who will now enjoy some well-deserved retirement relaxation and fun; selfishly, I am sad to see them go.
I feel like we have a shared history, and I will miss them and their store.
Where will we shop now?
I’m not interested in Jane Seymour’s Open Hearts Collection, and I definitely won’t ever say “I went to Jared’s.”
Buying and receiving jewelry will never be the same.
Another family owned business, a lovely home furnishings and decor store also recently closed its doors after 30+ years in my hometown. Apparently, the trend towards online purchasing, and folks furnishing their homes with cheaper decor, rather than investment pieces, had resulted in declining sales.
I hate that this keeps happening, but I understand how it does.
In our pursuit of paying less, we have moved away from buying from the “little guys.”
We’ve been seduced by perceived savings at national chains, big box stores, and on-line retailers.
The falling prices at Walmart are enticing. Personally, I’ve never felt good walking into a Walmart. I find it rather depressing and avoid it. Now Target on the other hand….
We head to Target for household items. Instead of sticking to our list, we suddenly find $150 in “must-have” purchases. Come on, who hasn’t looked at their bank statement or credit card bill and thought, What the heck did I buy at Target last month?
A 20% store coupon makes us antsy. We must to get to the mall before our coupon expires. We can’t miss the chance to “save.”
I confess, I recently took a spin on the Old Navy merry-go-round.
They were having a sale. I went shopping. I earned super cash. I spent the super cash. The next day, everything was 30% off. I shopped again. I earned rewards.
Yippee!!! I was saving SO MUCH MONEY that my Gap Visa bill was……$500. Wait, What? How did THIS happen? I finally got off that ride.
We sit on the couch, shop online, and with one click enjoy almost instant gratification. They tell us: folks who bought this, also bought….this. So, we toss that in our virtual shopping cart, too. Amazon Prime. Free shipping. Brown boxes on the porch.
But, are we really saving anything?
Of course not. We’ve been tricked into buying way too much stuff.
Shame on us.
With all these big box bargains and online deals, we are losing more than just our own cash.
Locally owned businesses are the heart and soul of city. Community means people. These business people are more vested in their community than any big chain could ever be.
Losing the family owned businesses in our communities is also leading to the retail homogenization of America.
Every city and town has shopping centers with Kohls, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target, Staples, Home Depot, etc. It is revolving scenery, with only changes in landscape.
We can buy the same stuff in every city.
This is especially evident in department stores.
Macy’s and Bloomingdales INC line will soon have us all looking like these guys:
We are at risk of losing our individual style.
Even worse, communities are losing their individual personality.
What do we often love to stumble upon while traveling?
A charming downtown area. A walkable shopping district. Drinks or dinner followed by checking out the area, on foot. Whether it is a nostalgic or modern vibe, these areas give a destination its personality.
If we purchase a trinket, gadget, Christmas ornament, or article of clothing, it automatically has the memory of the shop where it was purchased and the trip we took, attached to it.
The same can’t be said for items randomly purchased at the mall, or a national chain. It’s just bland stuff.
I’ve had enough bland stuff. I’m hungry for local flavor. I want locally owned businesses to come back…STRONG.
Make a plan to celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 29th.
Stay away from the mall madness and the big chains.
Plot out some locally-owned shops to check out.
Support a hometown artisan and enjoy the added benefit of buying American made.
I bet you’ll find some unexpected treasures.
If shopping isn’t on your agenda, you can still participate.
Start your weekend by grabbing breakfast at a Mom & Pop coffee shop.
Visit your local hardware or paint store while working through your “honey-do” list.
Instead of watching the game at a chain sports bar, grab a beer at a locally-owned joint.
If dining out isn’t in the budget, hit the butcher shop and dine in.
Shop small on November 29th.
And then, make a habit of it.
Locally owned businesses are the precious gems in our community settings.
Let’s do what we can to make sure they continue to SHINE.