Death by delivery

Colorful ads for “local news” have been popping up on my iPhone lately. While I love the concept of having an up-to-date local news app at my fingertips, I know the ads for “local news” aren’t going to give me one. Overwhelmingly, news apps are automatic aggregators that have no human input at all. A surprising number of them are Japanese so they don’t even originate from this continent.

No, thank you, so-called “local news” app. I live in McMinnville, Oregon so I prefer the deep roots of the real human beings at the News-Register for my legitimate local news. I know I will get solid reporting by people who know the area and its people and fully understand local context. This community would suffer a tremendous loss if its 150-year-old newspaper was to disappear.

There is a lot to love about McMinnville. But if you think about it, nearly everything we love is tied to the people of the Yamhill Valley. But what about the rest of the community? What if all the colorful local businesses were to be replaced by big chain stores? It’s not that farfetched — not with all the local commerce-killing Amazon vans running around.

As the center of Oregon’s wine country, many of McMinnville’s tasting rooms are likely here to stay, COVID notwithstanding.

But imagine the new Third Street if the mom-and-pop shops were to disappear. Maybe Harry and David could take Northwest Food & Gifts’ spot. Trader Joe’s could move into the corner Harvest Fresh currently occupies. I’m picturing another Chilpotle where Las Molcajetes now stands. Mes Amies could be replaced by a Forever 21. Of course, we’ve got the “local news” app to replace the award-winning News-Register.

Geraldi’s could close up and Olive Garden could snag its space and the empty spot where Cornerstone Coffee operated. We could always use another Domino’s instead of Third Street Pizza Co. Speaking of pizza, Hopscotch Toys could yield to a Chuck E. Cheese because who needs a toy store when you could have yet another crappy pizza joint? Or maybe put in a Build-A-Bear. Timmreck & McNicol Jewelers could be replaced by Ben Bridge. And Amazon Books would be a handy substitute for Third Street Books. Imagine the smell wafting over downtown if Cinnabon shoved Red Fox Bakery aside!

Shoemates could give way for Foot Locker. Yankee Candle or Made In Oregon could replace Oregon Stationers. Naturally, Starbucks would shove aside Union Block Coffee. Panera Bread takes over The Sage. McMenamins isn’t technically local but I suppose an Applebee’s could render it less so — I mean, who needs the quirky eclecticism of iconic Portland hospitality when you could have the bland predictability of a national chain?

When mom-and-pop shops close up because they didn’t get enough local support, you’ll start seeing either a lot of empty storefronts or you’ll see chain stores moving in — maybe some of both.

I don’t care where you live, take your favorite local merchants — you know, the ones who help create and maintain your town’s personality — and replace them with national retailers. When all is said and done, you could see your merchant district morph into a bastard version of Washington Square mall. And that’s if your lucky and national tenants want to move in to all the vacant storefronts — otherwise, it’s just another dead downtown.

Unfortunately, I know some people are cool with seeing local merchants replaced by chain stores — this message isn’t for you. Ditto for the people who already work to support local businesses because you’re working to keep our merchants here. But for all those folks in the middle — I admit it’s me, too, sometimes — consider shopping locally next time you’re on your way to Walmart. Ask yourself if you could throw some of the cash you’re sending to Arkansas to our local shops instead. Ask yourself if the convenience of Amazon is worth the long-term damage such remote shopping does to a retail district like Third Street.

And don’t be fooled by businesses claiming to be local just because they have a few employees here. If having local employees was the litmus test, then Walmart and Lowe’s would be classified as local businesses. Say no, thank you to fake “local” businesses bent on killing true local merchants.

When you spend your hard-earned money around town, please be conscious of who you’re supporting. When you are about to hit that “order” button on Amazon, think first — wouldn’t it be worth the effort to keep your commerce local?

Remember, a lot of what you love about your community is likely flavored by the colorful merchants who bring life and personality to your area. They’re worth consciously supporting.

Composite illustration © Julia Joppien, product and stock imagery

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