“So what’s wrong if the country has 158 neighborhood California Pizza Kitchens instead of one or two?” Virginia Postrel inquires in her In Praise of Chain Stores essay (Postrel 348). In rebuttal, I plan to answer her question with more reasons than one. However, the responses I intend to offer apply not only to the CPKs of America, but for all the national retailers, big box stores, chain stores, and the like. National retailers destroy the local character of small towns. Chain stores should be limited to only run in a few highly populated urban areas. Furthermore, the costs saved in the convenience and familiarity of chain stores do not outweigh the negative economic impact and damaging effects that they can have on a community’s well-being.
Postrel develops her support of national retailers throughout the essay, offering the opinion that it isn’t the stores that give places their character, but instead, aspects like the terrain, weather and culture that do (Postrel 347). While terrain, weather and culture can set apart regions, such as New England from The Deep South, and Southern California from the Midwest, it’s the community that gives each town their own special character. A community consists of the residents, their restaurants, hardware stores, pharmacies, ice cream parlors, farmers markets, and so on. These places, and the interactions that occur daily at each establishment, are the fabric that differentiate them, and create the breeding ground for diverse characteristics to flourish. While Postrel argues that wildly different business establishments across America in the past is a myth , it’s actually not necessarily that the products that varied from store to store, but more the aforementioned factors that truly set apart one town from another (Postrel 347).
When big box stores move into town, they take away from the charm and character that only the local businesses and locals’ ideas can give. The cookie-cutter chain store structures are built positioning a monotony and blandness over distinctive terrains, thus blurring the lines of separation between districts; Paving over landscapes unique to a region, and remodeling a plain familiarity for the sake of convenience. Even more disparagingly, national retailers have the capacity to eventually sink the local businesses as they dominate the market with their “low prices” - Prices that often times are advertised using bait-and-switch tactics, capturing the attention of the consumers and then driving them up higher once people are hooked. As the local businesses go down, the community suffers.
Postrel also proposes that it’s the frequent travelers who complain about chain stores, and not the locals, however, I have to respectfully disagree (Postrel 347). The bigger the stores are, the more disconnected they are from the people of the town, and their well-being. These are the people who are most affected by the changes big retailers impose. The locals are the ones more likely to...