A few weeks ago, we had an interesting discussion about “Copy and Paste Towns” in our weekly newsletter. I mentioned how national chains want to “copy and paste” their standard template on your town. No one wants their small town to end up looking just like every other town and suburb. And we don’t want national chains to be sucking profits out of the town, further draining our local resources.
But that’s not the end of the story of chains in small towns.
James Fritts owns and operates five Dairy Queen franchise restaurants in Central Texas, in the US. He also serves on his local economic development commission. In fact, he’s president. He has a strong sense of customer service, of being involved and giving back in the community, and in creating a memorable experience for his customers.
James shared some thoughts on the potentially positive role of chains in small towns.
“Sometimes I think chains have a better chance of survival in communities than a ‘mom and pop’ venture simply because of the ‘branding’ that goes with a chain. It’s hard to mount an effective advertising program with a single outlet. Maybe co-oping an advertising program with competitors would work in some instances. People, by nature, like choices. If all the like businesses worked together to remind the citizens of their community that they have choices, it might increase volume for everyone. Also, being visible in ‘giving back to the community’ is HUGE. This is especially true for us since we can only reside in one of the 5 towns we have business in.
“No matter what, you must strive to become a ‘category of one’ or you will be just another commodity. Do this by being willing to do something that no one else is willing to do. Set yourself and your business apart from the rest.”
Contrast James with the local independent business owner who never gives back to the community, who is only open every other Thursday, and could not possibly care any less about customers. All of us have seen business owners in that category.
If we were only comparing these two businesses based on whether they are local independent businesses, then James would be seen as less valuable. That’s a mistake. Just being local isn’t enough to be a valuable member of the community.
Maybe we need to take a broader look in small towns, recognizing that it’s the people that determine the value. And it’s the people who will either help our town prosper or let it slide out of existence.
If you are a business person who cares about the future of your small town, you might like our weekly newsletter, A Positive View of Rural. Each week, it includes things not published here. Occasionally I reprint articles from it here to give you a taste of what you’re missing. Sound like something you’re interested in? You can join us right here:
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