Mind Your Business - Left Side

Small is beautiful - for the local economy and community camaraderie

Let me get one thing out of the way upfront: I like some national chain stores. I’ve been to Target, for instance, more times than I can count, for everything from blue jeans to Blu-ray discs. I also like Barnes & Noble for its spacious stores, huge inventory, comfy chairs and laidback policy of allowing customers to browse and read for hours without sales pressure. (For the record, I started shopping at Barnes & Noble when it was an independent bookstore in New York City. But I digress.)

That said, I think our local city governments could and should do much more to promote the growth of small, independent retailers and service businesses through tax incentives and zoning ordinances.

Alas, they appear to be doing the opposite. Take Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood, for example. I recall one lovely Christmas Eve day about 10 years ago when I took care of last-minute shopping on a stroll down Colley Avenue. I purchased a few extra gifts for my kids at a local toy store; bought wine, chocolates and other items at Taste Unlimited; found some earrings for my mom at a local jewelry store. Although Taste Unlimited is still in business, the Colley Avenue store has since closed—and the other two stores are out of business entirely.

But my experience that day drove home to me some of the benefits of having a vibrant cluster of small, locally owned businesses in your community.


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