I just realized that unless someone offers me a fabulous job back home in Chicago by March that this year will mark ten years that I have been in Maine. Yikes! Where did the time go? Maine has been a journey, some good, some bad with a great deal of adjustment, hell I am still adjusting to life in Maine.
One of the biggest adjustments that frankly I never thought about prior to moving to Maine and landing in a city of 16,000 folks is how important it is to buy local. Frankly buying local is great regardless of if you are in a big city or small hamlet; it’s just that in small places like where I live the impact of folks supporting their local shops really makes a difference.
In the past decade, Southern Maine has seen a great deal of growth with big box stores setting up and frankly it’s a battle for the souls of shoppers. When we first moved here, the only big box store within a 10 minute driving distance was Wal-Mart. If you wanted Target, that meant traveling to New Hampshire or heading over to the Maine Mall area, the state’s largest mall/shopping experience. Now we have Target, Kohl’s TJ. Maxx, Panera, Starbucks and others just mere minutes away. The impact of these stores opening up have hit Main Street hard, and truthfully it sucks, hell it sucks monkey balls but sadly Main Street and small mom and pop shops need to stop blaming others for their demise and look inward.
As much as I have tried in the past decade to support the local Mom and Pop operations because they are my neighbors, our kids go to chorus together, whatever the reason, I just can’t do it anymore. I am tired of rewarding people for half assed attempts. My biggest pet peeve with small locally owned shops is that in 2012, many of them operate as if this were 1984. I am sooo tired of hours that don’t jive with real life in the 2000’s…I know you want Sunday off but today is my day to get shit done. Also do you really think closing at 5:30pm on the weekday is a grand idea? I don’t. Even in Maine people are commuting further distances which means the days of being able to pop by your quaint little shop at 5pm are ridiculous. Most folks I know in Maine who are not self-employed or in a position to work from home, basically haul ass for work. I have a friend who traveled daily from Wells, ME to Boston 5 days a week until she took early retirement at 59. As you can imagine she rarely shopped local, the shops were never open when she was able to shop.
I hesitate to write this because I know many professionally and personally who are truly gung ho about buying local and ya know what, it’s great but again why reward mediocrity? I have a confession…when I want a splurge breakfast, I mean a caloric splurge, my new favorite place is IHOP. Freaked me the hell out since I had been on the outs with IHOP since my Mom’s death, see the last meal my Mom had before she essentially spent the last 6 weeks of her life in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities was IHOP. Her last outside meal was IHOP pancakes and strawberries….so yeah; it was a bad association thing.
Anyway some weeks ago with the College kid home we needed a place to eat breakfast at 1 in the afternoon and I will be damned IHOP came through in a clutch. The cinnastack pancakes are my new guilty pleasure, they make shredded hash browns not the home fries most local joints in Maine prepare and every time I go there, the meal is the same. Let me repeat that the meal is the same. No wild variations, no showing up at the door and seeing the sign saying closed today. Nope when I have a hankering IHOP makes me happy and I don’t have to spend damn near twenty bucks on my breakfast alone. Helloooo, breakfast is typically a cheap meal but many local places in Maine, if they are good at what they do, they charge insane prices. People are you aware of what people actually earn here?
Oh I have tried so hard to love the local, non-chain, non-big box styled places in my town (note, I really do dig most of the stuff in Portland compared to where I actually live) but the truth is the love is just not there. I am tired of being asked to support businesses that don’t support me, the consumer. I admit that I would hate for Southern Maine to start looking like the real ugly parts of MA which are like loaded down with chain restaurants and shops but maybe a little change is good.
I constantly hear talk of what can be done to get people to not go to the big box and chain places, well my two cent opinion is maybe you need to change the way you operate. Sure I get it that staffing is costly but maybe running a shop with no outside help is not realistic unless you plan on living and breathing that business. I have never seen a big box store closed on Mondays (normal in Maine for locally owned restaurants) or closed for vacation. Also I need local folks to embrace technology, seriously you need websites that provide real information and are updated often. I know, I know….but still it is 2012.
So yeah I am a buy local dropout, now if I spend my dollars with locally owned shops it’s because they offer me value. In these trying times I want and need to know that my dollars are valued.