Supporting Local Doesn’t Always Work! [Opinion]
With the closing of another local business, are people just not being supportive?
On Sunday, Tin Man closed their doors. There were most likely several reasons that lead to this closure, but people are latching to this idea that we just aren't supporting local in favor of chain restaurants. This piece of writing is by no means anti-local nor is that my intention. However, placing the blame solely on the consumer isn't fair either.
The first aspect is that of cost. Local businesses are often slightly more expensive than their chain-restaurant counterparts. This is in part because chain restaurants get better deals on supplies, etc. This area thrives on chain restaurants because we are a working class city. We think Olive Garden is the most romantic place to propose (while wearing a Carhardt jacket). Customers are looking for the most value for their dollar. If you have a choice between getting a $5 chicken sandwich at a local business, or a $2 chicken sandwich at a chain, most people around here are going to get the cheaper sandwich. It's not the fault of the local business, they can charge what they feel is fair, but people are also going to try to save the most money. This isn't even taking into consideration that the $2 sandwich is all some people can afford. If you only have x amount of money for food, you're only going to spend x amount on food. It doesn't matter if your chicken sandwiches are made from chickens that are free-range, grass-fed, and raised listening to Phish.
"My favorite song is the one where they just do drugs off their instruments."
Another big issue is that some local places just offer what everywhere else has without attempting to mix it up. In the chicken sandwich example, we already have so many places to buy chicken sandwiches. You gotta do something different. When I think of a local business that has been successful, the two that immediately spring to mind (and this isn't counting bars): Azzip Pizza and Spudz-N-Stuff. Both of these restaurants have become juggernauts of the Tri-State, because they are offering something completely different. I love both of those places. Granted, both of these places might play into the above example of being slightly pricey, but you are more willing to pay the price because they are destination eating. You can't get what they serve anywhere else in the area. If you want Azzip-style pizza, you gotta get to Azzip. And that's why they are successful.
Just look at how much joy Azzip brings Ryan O'Bryan!
The final issue, is one that we don't like to accept, and that is simply, sometimes a local business fails because it just isn't good. It happens, and it isn't anyone's fault. But you can't expect someone to choose a bad business just because it's local. We are creatures of habit; we are (most of the time) going to choose what we enjoy. And sometimes that's going to Wendy's for chicken nuggets or Taco Bell for a chalupa at 2am. And I'm not suggesting that Tin Man wasn't a good business. Tin Man was just the catalyst for this. I have friends that worked at Tin Man and I feel for them right now. I know that place was loved. But it isn't solely our fault that it isn't around now. Tin Man got a fair shake and it just didn't work out.
Just like Angelina and Brad.
I hope you haven't read this far and think I am just crapping on local business in favor of chains or whatever. Although, chain restaurants are just local businesses that managed to become super successful so maybe we should cut them a break. I just get tired of this idea that we aren't trying hard enough to make local business successful. We want them to be successful, that's why places like Lamasco, Bokeh Lounge, Penny Lane, and the above examples are doing so well. Their success is our success, because maybe Azzip Pizza will inspire someone to do something else that is original (and then I can give that business all of my money). I'm super excited for the River Kitty Cat Cafe opening this year. I think it's going to be great. I'm excited to support local business, but local business also needs to get us excited to support them a.k.a. BE DIFFERENT!