I remember back when Wal-Mart and their ilk were building stores everywhere, and small-town businesses everywhere were being put out of business by their erstwhile customers falling prey to the fallacy that Price Is King, and lured into the soulless caverns that were Wal-Mart, Home Depot and so on, all for the chance to save a couple bucks on nails and screwdrivers.
I was heartened when I visited Britishland for the first time, back in 1997, and found that there were still plenty of ironmongers (hardware stores) dotted in the main streets of British towns. Invariably, I’d drift into one, and wish that I lived somewhere nearby because of all the cool stuff they sold, stuff which I hadn’t seen in over decade of walking through Lowes or Home Depot, let alone Wal-Mart.
Let me be clear here: to men of my generation, hardware stores are to us like drugstores are to women. Yet while you can find a CVS, Walgreens or Osco drugstore within spitting distance of your house in any town, you will not find a hardware store which caters to men. Oh sure, drive a few miles and get drawn into a Wal-Mart, only to find that if you want a couple of #2 self-tapping screws for that project on the honey-do list, sorry but they’re only available in the 50-pack, $5.99 instead of a buck for the two you needed. (And yes, I know all about economies of scale and bulk savings — but at the end of the day, you end up spending six bucks instead of two, and are saddled with four dozen screws that you may or may not need in the future.)
It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s a story from, of all places, Wales, where the local ironmongery was about to close its doors after years of serving the town, but the locals, realizing what they might miss if the place disappeared, did something about it.
Note how carefully they structured the financing, so that GlobalMegaCorp Inc. couldn’t sink their ravenous fangs into the place and turn it into something other than what they wanted to keep.
I wish we’d done something like this in small towns Over Here, but that bullet’s gone through the church and we’re stuck with megastores, damn it.
There are about three or four posts that burst the banks of this stream of consciousness, but they can wait for another time.