I almost always limit this column to topics about living with four-legged friends. Being a dog, however, I do have some strong opinions about protecting my territory. That territory includes not only my house, but also my family’s store and our beloved town of Middleburg. So this month, I’m getting little territorial and broadening my normal subject matter in the process.
Those of you who live in and around Middleburg know that the “traffic calming” construction project has become a daily frustration for much of the business community. The sight of traffic on Washington Street at a standstill with cars stacked end to end is now all too familiar.
We’ve been living with this since October, and it has changed the vibe of our little community. What was a bucolic village now has some rather urban problems. Getting in and out of town can be a challenge, and parking can be a little difficult too. I understand that this is the price of progress, but for many businesses in town, it feels like anything but progress. Some regular customers, as well as some tourists, are understandably opting to avoid Middleburg. Whether they’ll come back one day is anyone’s guess.
Meanwhile, another kind of small business disruption is happening all over the country, from tiny towns to sprawling metropolises. The convenience of online shopping is keeping customers from venturing beyond their screens. Huge companies like Amazon offer deeply competitive pricing and lightning fast delivery. Great deals arrive overnight, and customers don’t even have to get out of bed. It’s more than obvious why online commerce continues to grow year after year.
My family’s business in Middleburg is feeling the effects of both construction and e-commerce. These are not easy times for some local retailers and restaurateurs. I wanted to take a minute to sincerely thank all of the people who continue to come into Middleburg to eat, shop, or support any of our local enterprises. Your loyalty means more than you can possibly imagine. We are so very grateful.
As the world moves at breakneck speed towards a digital economy, it can be easy to imagine that small brick and mortar companies will soon be a thing of the past. That may be true, but right now, there are still lots of them turning the lights on every day. Remember that while an online purchase might help a venture capitalist or a big business realize greater ROI, a local purchase might help someone get a paycheck or keep the doors open. It’s that extreme. It’s that important.
It goes even deeper than that, however. Shopping locally keeps our community intact and thriving. It means that our residents see each other on a regular basis. It means that the daily hum of life continues through our streets. It means that we do not become a quaint memory of how things used to be in the good old days. Your decisions matter. Your choices help shape the success or failures of small businesses. Your dollars count.
In short, you have to personally keep watch over your community if you want to keep it. As it turns out, being territorial is a pretty great thing for humans. If only I could convince my people that it’s also a great thing for dogs!
Albert, a Jack Russell Terrier, is Chairman of the Board of Wylie Wagg, a shop for dogs, cats, and their people, with locations in VA and DC.