Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What If Mom and Pop Are Jerks?

The kids had outgrown their bikes and TheWife was determined that we would get bikes as well so that we could have regular family rides, so we're in the process of buying new bikes. We went to our local bike shop and bought models that we could have gotten a bit cheaper on-line. We did this because we believe in supporting small local business and because we really like our local bike shop (if you are in Maryland, Mount Airy Bicycles is a wonderful place with very well-informed, very nice staff).

In the same way, when TheWife and I go into Frederick for a nice meal and take a walk afterward, there is a small sweets shop that we would occasionally visit for an after-meal treat. It is just a few blocks from a national chain that I also enjoy (opened by two Jews in Vermont...), but we prefer to support the little guy instead of Unilever who bought them out years ago and so we went in. The owner hires local teens to work behind the counter, a classic first job. When the teenager who was waiting on us asked us if we wanted nuts on a sundae that did not come with nuts, she was severely and publicly berated, treated in a fashion that was nasty and utterly uncalled for as a result of a completely minor offense. The owner, it turns out, is a real jerk. We now cannot bring ourselves to go back in.

The question, then, is whether supporting local business is inherently a good thing. Should we find out who owns the business first, or is there value in having a variety of local businesses regardless of who owns them?