Keeping Louisville weird and Raleigh "unchained"
People are getting really fed up with the big box chain stores forcing themselves, unwanted, on their communities.
While it is true that people could simply not shop at a big box, it turns out it is not that simple. Many downtown businesses are just barely making it, so if a small percentage of their customers gets drawn away, they’ve had it. Even if a large majority continues to support downtown businesses, loyal shoppers and community boosters may find businesses closing, and vibrant downtowns and community life going down, too.
So what are people doing? In small cities and towns around the US, people are launching campaigns to support their local businesses. In Louisville, they have the “Keep Louisville Weird” campaign. Then there’s the “Raleigh Unchained” campaign.
What’s motivating these activists in small red-state cities? Some want to keep vibrant downtowns as centers of community life. Some like locally owned book stores, coffee shops, and other stores, and appreciate the foundation local business owners provide for an active civic culture. Some don’t like the de-humanized atmosphere of big boxes and want to avoid supporting large corporations that are driving down wages and working conditions and fueling a global race to the bottom.
Some of these businesses and independent business association are working together under the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), an organization that our board chair, David Korten, helped launch. And the Institute for Local Self-Reliance provides studies, news, and policy ideas for communities looking to keep their local business community vibrant and their landscape free of big box malls.
The big cities, too, are getting into the act. Wal-Mart recently abandoned plans to site a shopping center in Queens, New York, in the face of opposition from labor unions, small businesses, and others.
Some of those big box stores realize a bit late that they really aren’t wanted. Whether for that reason, or because they decided to open up a super-super store 30 miles away, abandoned big boxes litter the landscape. Check out these creative examples of How Communities are Re-Using the Big Boxes.
By the way, I got some of the leads for these stories, and I get lots more from the Progressive Review, produced by journalist, iconoclast, Green, independent thinker, and author of The Great American Political Repair Manual and Why Bother, Sam Smith. He was blogging before it was trendy in the form of daily emails with links to timely and surprising articles and his own commentary. I get his emails every day, and read them as often as I can.