Commentary by Bill Buchanan
The next time you go to a home football game, look at the advertising banners hanging around the field. The next time you see an ad in the newspaper about an upcoming citywide event such as Ojai Day, the Fourth Of July parade or “Taste of Ojai,” take a look at those who are listed as sponsors. Take note of the donor and sponsor list of the Ojai Education Foundation, the Ojai Music Festival or the Ojai Film Festival. Please let me know if you see Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, Staples, Costco or other large out-of-town retailers listed.
You won’t see any. And you never will.
National retailers are interested in one thing: money. They are like TV evangelists who plead with you to give your money to Jesus, but want their name on the check. They do not live in our community, and they are not concerned with it.
Too many small towns have been decimated by big box retailers. It is not a pretty sight. When I lived in south Louisiana in the early 1980s, I saw it firsthand. Lemann Brothers department store was founded in the 1800s and had survived the Civil War, World War I and World War II, only to be taken prisoner and executed by Wal-Mart in the 1980s. The final nail in the coffin of that small Louisiana town was when Wal-Mart decided that the store was not profitable enough, closed it, and left a 50,000-square-foot empty building as a reminder.
I have written many columns urging people to shop at home. I write them because I believe in the absolute importance of keeping as many dollars in the local economy as possible. Not supporting local merchants is like not supporting your family.
And a small town is a family. We live together, work together and play together. We are dependent upon each other for support for common services. That support determines the quality of life we enjoy in our town.
Money spent inside this city stays here. It goes to sustain the people who give jobs to local people. It means tax dollars are available to operate the city government. It gives local businesses the profit they need to stay in business, and to contribute to Help of Ojai, the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, and the multitude of other nonprofit organizations that perform so many good works in this town — —the organizations and businesses that are the beating heart of Ojai.
Granted, there are some goods or services that are not available locally. But for those that are, local businesses need your support. And though you may be able to find some items or services cheaper by buying them out of town, ask yourself this: What is the real cost of not supporting local merchants?