The End Of Local. This Is Depressing

We used to have regional chains–stores like Caldor and Ames and Rickel. They’re all gone now.

When I moved to Connecticut in 1984 all the banks&#185 were Connecticut banks. Our phone company was Connecticut’s phone company. My local electric company was local too. None of them are any more.

We used to have regional chains–stores like Caldor and Ames and Rickel. They’re all gone now. Their business models were ineffective in the face of strong national competition.

To a national company Connecticut is a small state they’d rather not have to make exceptions for. We have become small fish in a big pond.

When local gives way to national we lose lots of peripheral benefits. With less in-state autonomy the managers here are at a lower level than their regionally governed predecessors. National companies taking advantage of economies of scale need fewer employees to accomplish the same job.

I’d like to think operators who live here are more responsive to local community needs too.

When business becomes national advertising dollars can bypass local outlets partially or entirely. Maybe you don’t miss that dumb Rickel jingle, but radio and TV stations sure do!

In this economic equation the lower cost structure of a national company is the leading indicator while reduced local employment and lower standard of living both lag behind. I think some of the economic malaise we’re seeing today relates to the nationwide placement of previously local business.

Where is the long term benefit to me and my neighbors as local disappears in favor of national?

I can’t imagine this turning around naturally. Who would ever start a mom and pop store or regional chain to compete with a national category killer like Home Depot or Walmart?

In the meantime it continues to get more and more difficult for businesses that used to thrive servicing regional operators. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s not over yet.

&#185 – There were a very few exceptions to this rule.

9 thoughts on “The End Of Local. This Is Depressing”

  1. My family was transferred to Connecticut from California is 1981 when my father was assigned to work on fast attack submarines. Coming from Orange County, California, it was like landing on another planet to drive along Route 12 (aka Route 1) in Groton. There was a mom & pop business (actually called Mom’s & Pop’s) not far from our house in military housing. The Pop’s side was a bakery/sandwich shop where Pop knew everyone by first name. Mom’s side was a laundry mat. It was a sad day when they closed down b/c they could not compete with corporately run monsters. For years, Caldor & Bradlees were the businesses that the town(s) in the area depended on. The shopping plaza that Caldor was located in is now owned by & heavily guarded by Pfizer…cooperate offices & their daycare center.

    The Waterford Crystal Mall was rather secluded on route 85 for many years. Until, over the last 3-5 years, large shopping plazas containing large cooperate chains & restaurants have taken over.

    I live in W. Hartford now, but when I go home to visit my mom, I miss it a little, but it’s not as hard to leave it behind b/c it’s not the same “home” as it was when I was growing up there.

  2. Kind of like Big Government taking over Gm, Chrysler and wanting to nationalize health care. I couldn’t agree with you more!!!

  3. The government “wanted” to take over GM the way a lifeguard wants to take over a drowning victim. And Chrysler wasn’t taken over by the government.

    As for health care, yes, it would be truly horrible if national health care passed and I was no longer locked into my current, $10K+/year health plan by pre-existing conditions.

    Could we stick to the subject? Our regional Longs drug store chain was just taken over by CVS, which seems to thrive on giving customers mostly-useless discount coupons. I miss the old stores.

  4. ACR – In case I wasn’t clear, I meant the exceptions were in banking. I know Chase was here in a very small way when all the other banks were local.

    Mr Kabin – In nearly all cases these companies that have supplanted the locals provide no or less healthcare–part of their lower cost strategy.

    I hadn’t thought of this as a political screed but it was mostly done while Republicans guided the government (state and federal).

    If there are long term benefits to these national businesses replacing local ones, I’d like to hear them.

  5. Growing up in Eastern Connecticut I remember always shopping at Ames as a kid. Although I think it went through a few names..Barker’s and then King’s. Caldor was always the anchor of the Norwichtown mall, but that is gone too. Last time I was home, Benny’s was still around. Maybe they are the last of the regional stores. One other thing I have noticed as I have moved from CT to TX to WI is that most grocery stores are regional. Big Y and Stop and Shop in CT, Randall’s and Kroger in TX and Sentry and Pick and Save in WI.

  6. In the end it’s the consumer who decides what stores stay and which go. The big-box stores didn’t start out as big box. Wal-Mart started with one small store. Like a cancer it just continues to grow. I still like to shop Page’s in Guilford or Goody’s in East Haven, most often when I don’t know exactly what it is I want. If I know what I am looking for I might just as soon go to Home Depot. The small stores are nice and I love them, but the big places have more selection and sometimes a better price. I think room for both exist as proven by the above two.

  7. I Agree, I agree. I am totally against big anything taking over anything. But to say that mom and pops provide health care to their employees is just mistaken. Most people, Including you Geoff, have health care because their medium to large size company pays for most of it. How do you keep blaming Republicans for everything that is wrong when clearly both parties have mislead this country for my entire 52+ years? Haven’t Democrats in this state’s Legislature run the show for quite a few years. Bob, you are right about the government not taking over Chrysler, they took it from Cerberus and Daimler and handed 55% to the union as payback for campaign support. Also, as anyone who has run a small business knows, the hardest part is government regulation and taxes. That’s what drives most small business out.

  8. Many of Mr. Kabin’s comments are correct. Rather than say what I agree or disagree with I’ll let his comments stand and give him the last word. I know they’re well thought out. Even though we often disagree I am glad to see his and all of your comments.

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