Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why chain stores are held in contempt

I'm not really sure what qualifies as a chain store. It seems to be ok to have more than one location of a family owned business. I think it's when the family incorporates their business and issues stock that they become outcasts, but I am still trying to get the details straight. At any rate, shopping at a chain store is a rookie move around here. If you do it, wear a disguise while inside the business, and quickly get your purchases into an earth friendly reusable bag so no one sees the evidence of your venture into the Dark Side. Whole Foods and Trader Joes do seem to be exceptions to this rule. So you won't need a disguise there. You can even use your earth friendly reusable bag that says "Whole Foods" all over it, pretty much anywhere without fear of retribution.

So now for an explanation, as I understand it, of why chain stores are the devil. Even though this is a BIG city with over 8 million people living here, it's actually a conglomerate of neighborhoods and tight knit communities. Families live in the same place, sometimes under the same roof, for generations and if you live here very long, you will get to the point where you can't walk to the end of the street without seeing someone you know.

So these families are also business owners. For instance, Has Beans (my coffee shop) is owned by Peggy. Jacky (the soul of Has Beans and everyone's favorite barista) is Peg's step-daughter. Jack was raised in a coffee shop and she will stop, mid conversation, with 25 other things going on, to say "what brew just went empty?" Because her ear is trained to hear when the carafes start going dry. And then, quick as a rabbit, she refills the french roast or whatever it was so we don't go without. So you see, if Starbucks were to install a store across the street from Has Beans, the locals would feel like Starbucks was attacking poor Jacky and they'd protest and put fliers up. It would be chaos. We want our coffee served to us in dark little shops with 20 year old books on the shelves, 3 outlets (for laptops), and most importantly, JACKY.

Other family shops we have a duty to patronize:
La Boulangerie Lopez - used to be "Lopez Bakery," a little shop that sold Mexican pastries, so small you could hardly even turn around in it and only one customer at a time would fit in the store. But I think that at least one of Senora Lopez's 7 kids took some business classes and expanded the place to something that might rival "Le Madeleine." It's not uncommon to go in there after the evening rush and see several of the Lopez sibs eating dinner at a couple of tables they've pushed together. They make the youngest, "Pollito (little chicken)," get up to wait on regular customers.

Enzo's: Hannah likes to go there to see the owner's 6 year old bus the table when we're through. Then she is very happy to give him a dollar. Don't worry the 6 year old bus boy gets to run around outside and play plenty. But he also likes to get a dollar here and there.

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