Beacon of hope

We have all thought, at some point about the big stores putting the smaller businesses under. It’s been discussed here often and I’ve made no bones about the fact that I am saddened to see this happening.

But I recently realized there might yet be hope. OK, this is not about a woodworking business per se, but the analogy should be clear enough.

My town is a small college town that was heavy with small, quirky, independent bookstores. They almost outnumbered coffee houses (which suffered a similar fate). It seemed like there was at least one on every street. We used to frequent one in particular where my wife loved to dig through their vast section of well-worn and often rare cookbooks.

When a large national bookseller announced its plans to open a store here, the independent stores fought them with everything they had. Unfortunately their fight was futile and the big chain store prevailed. The fears of the independents were proven totally founded because within a couple of years, all but one was forced to close their doors.

But several years later, the big chain store declared bankruptcy. It seems that they were put down by a new and unforeseen enemy of their own: e-book downloads. And now, that one store that hung on through thick and thin, a store that is a mere shadow of its former self, is the only place in town where one can buy an actual book. They may be worse for wear but, to me, they are a shining beacon of hope.



  • Andy says:


    I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I have been reading your blog for a while now, but my first time responding. I am responding because of this weeks and last week’s blogs. I feel that you are looking too micro and not enough macro. To make it less personal, let’s look at Wal-Mart stores and how they took over America (then the world) and the number of stores they put out of business. The stories are endless and too many to count. I myself saw a number of stores that I loved go out of business. However, I also noticed that they went out of business because Wal-Mart’s similar/same products were lower cost, more options of similar products, better hours, and usually a quicker in and out experience. Some Wal-Mart employees have little knowledge of their product area, I concede this. However, in Today’s society that is what YouTube and the Internet are for. Anything and everything you need explained is at your fingertips. Sam Walton was/is so successful because he revolutionized distribution of product to the end user better than anyone else. This reduced cost and revolutionized many industries – Trucking, Shipping, Warehousing, logistics, etc. In this analogy I ask you:
    How many more people were/are employed at Wal-Mart as a whole compared to 1-4 smaller stores? (You can even include department stores, mechanics, etc.) All of which were open less hours, paid around the same, and probably have less benefits than a corporation that Wal-Mart does.

    How many people out there were able to buy more goods from Wal-Mart because of lower costs? The trickle down from this is to all of the manufacturers being able to sell more products, inside and outside of the USA. This includes more shipping monies for within the USA even if it is produced outside.

    How many people across the world saw good 401K returns because of the size of Wal-Mart and its stock? Think about the secondary and tertiary jobs Wal-Mart has created or at least helped support – Investors, Banks, Tax people, etc.

    Looking at the Macro economy changes the view point quite a bit. Today is a very different society and a much smaller world than it was even 15 years ago.

    Back to your story before I stop rambling; which I could for awhile. The reason that the book store stayed through the thick and thin is that they had “something” that the others did not. This could be as simple as better employees that people enjoyed so they shopped there. Could be lower prices, but probably not compared to big box. Could be atmosphere, very plausible; there are lots of possibilities. But this is an example of Capitalism and the ebb and flow of business within Capitalism. This is pertinent to tonight and the socialism/communism that is going on with social welfare in our country right now. Instead of pouting that “so and so” is putting me out of business, maybe more people need to put on their big boy pants and find out why they are being beaten and come up with a better (business) plan. It would be very interesting to have you do a follow up to your article after talking to your local book shop owner and see what he changed and adapted to stay in business. It would be very surprising to me if he just kept the status quo and was able to stay in business.

    I look forward to reading more in the future.

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