We Vote with our Dollar
            Fall 2004
            Van Wagner

            In recent years there has been a major change in the retail economy of our area.  Especially in
            the past year, dozens of chain “super” stores have opened to compete with local businesses.
            When these stores first came to our area I was impressed.  Everything a shopper could desire
            under one roof.  However, I now find myself questioning whether or not the benefits outweigh
            the costs.

            Large chain stores can often offer goods at lower prices than locally owned “mom and pop”
            stores.  As a result, many businesses in our area have been squeezed out of business by their
            huge competitors.  Some people feel this is fair economics, survival of the fittest.  But “survival
            of the fittest” is not a phrase that comes to mind when I think of life in a small town.  In towns
            like my home, Danville, we all rely on each other as neighbors.  My thoughts most recently turn
            to the Flood of Ivan when entire neighborhoods came together to assist those in need.  Our
            small towns define community in the purest form.

            What is a downtown worth to a community?  What is the financial value of having many diverse
            businesses “downtown”?  Take into consideration who sponsors our local festivals, school
            functions, and charity events.  The majority of giving comes directly from locally owned
            businesses.  These are the families who share our neighborhoods, churches, and schools.
            These business owners have a personal stake in the health of our communities.  What stakes do
            chain stores have in us?  When the day comes that our area is no longer profitable for the chain
            corporations, what will these leave us with, other than several thousand acres of abandoned
            asphalt and vacant storefronts?

            I realize the cost of living is climbing every year. My wife and I are raising a family on a modest
            single income in a home we do not own.  It is hard for many families to meet their needs on tight
            finances.  In some cases, it costs more to shop locally.  However, I feel very strongly that the
            cost is worth every penny.  By shopping locally you are investing in your community’s future.
            When we shop at giant chain stores, where is our money going?

            A challenge to You
            This holiday season, consider doing all of your shopping at independent businesses.
            Rediscover your downtown stores.  You may be surprised at the creativity and diversity
            offered by our locally owned business that is missing in the “super” stores.  We vote with our
            dollars, who are you voting for?

            Van Wagner
            Danville area resident
            November 2004