A few months ago a writer for the Wall Street Journal bemoaned the lack of national retailers in this city with the overt message is that it is fundamentally a terrible thing. Later I read about Icelanders celebrating the retreat of McDonalds from Reykjavik as a silver lining to the economic collapse there (even the Wall Street Journal wryly notes, "As cultural calamities go, there are worse fates. . .") or small towns activists lauded for keeping out a Wal Mart, or resort towns like Saugatuck, Michigan celebrated for keeping out all national chains. But the fact that Detroit has but one Starbucks and no Wal-Mart means we should be rending our garments and pulling out all our hair.
I laugh when New Yorkers complain about the strip mauling of Times Square or when I hear their weird nostalgia for when it was seedy and dangerous. If you really miss seedy and dangerous, I know a house I can sell you for a dollar. Seriously. The fact that risk-averse national retail outlets who care only about the bottom line won't invest here is part of why I love living in Detroit. Being skipped by decades of prosperity means that this city doesn't look like everywhere else. It comes at quite a cost, but I'll be doggone if I wouldn't celebrate the absence of these national retailers rather than add it to the heap of things we already have to complain about here.
How can you live without a big box grocery store? Where do you shop if there aren't national retailers? The retail vacuum is filled by the sorts of small companies and individuals willing to take risks or persevere under circumstances that corporate retail giants wouldn't tolerate. I find it inspiring, and from time to time I am going to write about some of the businesses we love and support to provide a counterpoint to the Wall Street Journal's overblown funerary dirge for Detroit retail.
This is really just a prelude, or an explanation for a series of forthcoming posts.
Post #2: R. Hirt Jr. Est. 1887
Post #3: Honey Bee Market La Colmena, Est. 1956