Friday, September 18, 2009

Where’s The Heart?

Growing up, my understanding of “The Great Depression” was extremely diffuse. I heard my parents and grandparents tell me about proud men selling apples on street corners in a vain attempt to provide for their families. I heard vague tales of businessmen jumping off rooftops because they lost it all on Wall Street. I had images in my mind, largely created by Hollywood, of the common man (Henry Fonda) struggling through the dust to find dignity and work. But it remained abstract to me. The last year has brought the concept into focus. No longer a bunch of random images or movie-fueled feelings, I have seen a lot of people I personally know and care about lose jobs or lose all their money. It’s hard to get your arms around the enormity of it all. Car dealerships going out of business overnight, neighbor’s houses quietly going up for sale and, unfortunately not selling. The chain of consequences leaves the ether and starts to become very concrete. I talk to everyone, and it is the same in all businesses (liquor and guns might be the two exceptions). Everyone feels that the public is kind of hanging back, waiting either for a “happy days are here again” moment, or for the other shoe to drop. I think it won’t happen that way. Instead I believe it will slowly creep back to a new understanding of “normal” and that old cliché “no matter where you go, there you are” will work its magic. I feel it already. Our business has changed, but through the changes we have made, and because of the public’s enduring love of, and need for music, we will continue to do what we do.

So, what can we, as individuals, do to move the process along? I have found that one of the most meaningful things I can do as a business owner and a private citizen is to hone my understanding of place. Living in Colorado, we are always confronted with stunning natural beauty, ideal weather, and a cultural scene that is the envy of any other state. I try to never forget what a great place I call home. But I also try to make sure my dollars and efforts go to helping the state as well. It may be old news to some, but the forces of corporate greed do not have our best interests in mind. I just read in the The Denver Post that a new Wal-Mart is opening in the charming little town of Elizabeth. I love Elizabeth. I drive down there a couple of times a year to see my dentist. It’s worth it to me to drive an hour to get that little hit of small town charm. In the article it said many small businesspeople in the area were worried that this opening would affect their livelihoods. They are right to do so. It will. Not only will it take customers out of their stores, but more importantly it will take the money spent there out of the community as well.

With that in mind, I try to focus all my purchases locally. Some things are very hard to accomplish. Buying gas for your car or some grocery staples are almost impossible to do locally, yet the awareness is growing in me, and I think in others. The more I keep my money here, the more I feel like I might be helping out that neighbor who is losing their house, or encouraging another local business owner to rehire a few employees, so they can pay their rent, and their landlord can then go to a local restaurant and have a meal, and then they can buy some more locally grown peaches, and so it goes. These small acts add up to big changes. In answer to the question posed in the title: HOME, that’s where the heart is. – Paul Epstein (aka Sporkmeister)

**For more reasons to shop local, and to search a local business directory, go here

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