A thriving Downriver is my responsibility

Southgate Star

Most indie retail people I know choose not to scream bloody murder about unfair competition, national chains and internet parasites. They choose to keep their nose to the grindstone, focused entirely on doing their jobs better, upping their game, being better every day. 

That’s what I do, so much so that I wonder where I find the time to write what I write. The fact is, though, that I have this opportunity to share thoughts and opinions to residents in four local communities. To not write would be an abdication of responsibility.  I suppose you could say that someone else would pick up the sword and keep on. That would be good. But I’m not so sure, so I’ll keep writing for a while. 

It took me a while to pick up this gauntlet. I was like a lobster in a boiling pot;  I knew it was happening but didn’t want to really get it. Once I understood, though, I couldn’t get it out of my head. 

Organizations like the American Independent Business Alliance captured my attention, providing me with a steady stream of awareness-building information that ultimately led to the formation of a localism organization that will serve the entire city of Wyandotte.

That organization will do its own marketing, apart from this column. 

It’s not unfair to say, though, that the entire point of my column for the last 24 months has been advocacy for local and independent businesses. National chains have national money marketing them. They rely on the ability to gain market share through the sharing of those costs in any big market like Detroit with the other stores in their chain. They can dominate, creating top of mind awareness, while smaller businesses can do no such thing.

All “small” can do is be vastly superior to the chains that are ultimately their own worst enemy. Creativity, energy, infinitely stronger connection to the populace they serve, all are the hallmark of small and local.

I’ve been advocating for supporting that since I started writing. Supporting that energy is energizing in and of itself. It’s addictive, it’s exhilarating, it’s satisfying. And since those folks have no time to whine or be perceived as whining while Rome burns (as it were), it has been my great pleasure in doing that work for them.

In the face of the reality that hypermarkets sell gift cards for every national chain you can imagine, extending their reach just by having gift cards in a rack in other stores, it is not insane to believe that the edge that’s created that way could stand some push-back from someone not connected to those other local businesses, but every bit in their corner.

I believe that really, all retail has been experiential since forever. If you don’t enjoy yourself in my store, you aren’t coming back. If we fail to impress, if we are perceived as indifferent or inattentive (as I find far too often in my travels), we cause our own demise. We, then, are not the victim of the corporatism that nauseates me.  Independence is passion, or it fails. So my personal advocacy for Indie is not so much for the lazy business people, but for the people that light it up, the businesses that ignite the imagination of those that find those stores.

I find passion and ignition in all manner of operations I visit, and I try to learn from it and share it when I find it. Because that passion, as powerful as it may be, needs advocacy to extend and magnify its voice. 

More importantly, and tellingly: As much as I do this for those guys, the bigger truth is that I do this for me. I need my world to be populated by uniqueness, not cookie cutter sameness. And my world is everywhere I go.

It’s why I pick up trash on the sidewalks, and not just in Wyandotte. I get to choose how my world looks, how my world acts. I want it to be prettier, I want it to be cooler. I want more resources circulating in my world, and I know that if there is any chance for that to happen, it will begin with me. It’s responsibility; it’s selfishness every bit as much.

Everything I write is an effort to get people to share this obsession.  It’s not someone else’s responsibility to make indie thrive; it’s mine. It’s mine to change for the better, or worse, if I abdicate and disconnect.

My job is to get some of my readers to accept those responsibilities and connect the dots as well.  So that you, too, think it’s your job to ensure that the towns you love are vibrant, clean, and compelling.  Because that’s how you want YOUR world to be, too!

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