It is a sad day for local indies: Farewell, Ray Hunter

– Southgate Star

All independent businesses have their “regulars” – the customers that become devotees over the years, as relationships forged long ago get set in stone.

Not only are they comfortable and trusting of the service and honest representation of the industry such places provide – they also like, even love the place, maybe the owner, certainly the people that make that place what it is.

These people don’t need to be asked to shop local. Their response, quite appropriate, might be something like “Uh, yeah, duh….”  They would never hurt the store they value. They know that their world in particular would be the worse for the absence of the store that served them so well.

My daily or even periodic travel routines don’t take me out onto Eureka all that often. I wasn’t paying attention to the drama that was unfolding at Ray Hunter Florist and Garden, as they prepared to close their doors for the last time on July 14.

I have to tell you that even typing those words, for a business that is not mine, no less, makes me sad. Sadder because I didn’t know. 

The Ray Hunter business is not going to be eulogized here – it has already been done, and I’m certain, better than I could hope to do. What hits me now, after the fact, is the expression of sadness of one long time patron who simply said, paraphrased: “Oh, no, not another special place closing!  You will be sadly missed.”

It is easy to lament the loss after the fact, and many will.  It is harder to recognize the truth: All of their “specialness” was not enough to overcome the onslaught of competition that may have had lower prices.

Ray Arthur Hunter cited on-line habits as the primary culprit (with three or four Lowe’s, three or four Home Depots, and now a Menard’s within a few miles, big box retail had to have also hit them like a ballooning tsunami as well).

Hiis explanation seems sanguine and clinical. Mine would not sound anything like that. I might sound angrier, but there is no question that I would not sound accepting.  I would be devastated as if I had lost a family member.

For people like me that live and breathe the business we’re in, that business and the person are one and the same. 

The “disconnect” I have talked about in this column does, in fact, lead to this end game. People that are not in the acolyte category don’t actively try to hurt the Ray Hunters of the world. They simply have no awareness at all of the impact of their buying decisions. They are disconnected; they have lost the thread that makes up a community. As a result, we no longer even have the option of shopping at Ray Hunter.

We are left with the internet, and the big box alternatives that are staffed by people that know less about their products and that don’t know us personally. 

Nationals take local ideas and try to mass produce them, while sucking all the money out of the area that it once bounced around in.  

Internet options are even worse. I miss what has been lost. I resent that what has replaced it. The crappy new version of reality for all of us that, together, could have been avoided, if only we understood.

It doesn’t happen by magic, and it doesn’t happen by letting everyone else carry the water. If you want your area to be populated by cool and unique and excellent businesses of all kinds, you have to patronize those places.

You have to let it sink in that your own, personal purchase decisions are incredibly powerful. If you stop to think that another 25 purchases a day at Ray Hunter, diverted from stores that wouldn’t notice the difference – well, they wouldn’t be gone now.

We deserve and need local and independent, and we make it succeed or fail.  Help push back against the dumbing down of the American shopping experience.

Congratulations and appreciative thanks to Ray Hunter for 100 years, plying your trade, making a difference, leaving happy memories.

You are already missed.

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