Hello Middleburg! I need your questions about our local Middleburg government – PLEASE send a message to letters@middleburgeccentric.com with Ask: in the subject and let me know what you want me to discuss in an upcoming article, as my well of topics is frightfully low.

While I wait for your questions and comments, I will take this opportunity to address our merchants.

Buy local! This is a two-way street for me. If you are a local business, please allow me to introduce myself and address my wishes regarding local businesses. My name is Mark Snyder and my dog, Lexie – a Carolina dog, often accompanies me. I have lived in Middleburg for more than three decades and most of you already know me. I always want to shop locally. In return, I want the businesses to make the effort to know me, to learn that I am worthy of their trust and to treat me like a local. I treasure the experience of shopping as a local – and it is one of the reasons I chose to live here. Be assured that I try to visit our local stores as often as I can and that I love to get to know you.

This has never been an issue, but a recent experience at my favorite pet supplier failed my expectations. I may be old fashioned, but I expect Middleburg stores to know me, preferably by name. As many of you know, I am accustomed to writing a Middleburg Bank check to pay without any issues because you know me – but also my name, address and telephone number are printed on them. I know – fewer and fewer people write checks and many now only use plastic.

I may be a dying breed, but writing checks allows me to track my spending, as well as my overall cash balance. I have a system in place for that. This is part of my experience buying locally. This is not something I expect from stores outside of town, most of which are big box or chain stores with anonymous owners and staff who do not know me, nor I them. They rarely get my business unless I am away from Middleburg.

When a chain buys a local store, however, it can turn the local experience on its head. This happened recently. The super friendly clerk explained to me that the Kiser’s Natural Pet chain purchased Wylie Wagg, one of my favorite shops, and dictated that they now accept only cash and credit cards. I paid with a credit card, but explained to her that, for me, the experience was too much like a chain. I am struggling to think of them as a local shop. If a merchant does not treat me like a local customer, why would I want to shop in their store? If this store now only accepts plastic, will I instead buy on the internet, where I can expect a discount?

I want all of our businesses to thrive. As a towns-person and a council member, I fully understand your importance to Middleburg. In exchange for my business, I expect a great shopping experience. I shop in local stores because I care about our businesses and will pay a little more for a great shopping experience. Most Middleburg businesses meet or exceed my expectations. However, when an outside company or a chain buys one of our businesses, is it still a local business? Will it make the effort to get to know me, learn to trust me and treat me like a local? Is that unreasonable; too much to ask?

I know I will return to Wylie Wagg – at least for now – but I am wary. Is it still a local business? Will it, can it still treat locals with the respect we deserve? I sincerely hope so, but Middleburg is not a village known for a chain-shopping experience!

What do you think? I would love to hear from those of you running a treasured business here, as well as local folks who shop here.

Please send questions, suggestions, comments or complaints regarding this or any topic to the Eccentric for Ask a Council Member. I would love to hear from you!

letters@middleburgeccentric.com