No matter where you live in the USA, chain stores are everywhere, especially in the suburbs. There are hidden negatives to spending your money there:
- Homogeneous shopping experience such that where you live has no unique character.
- Money leaves the community, which lowers tax revenues. Money going into the pocket of local entrepreneurs that are likely to put that money back into other local businesses.
- Difficult for local entrepreneurs to compete, especially due to municipalities giving subsidies and tax breaks to large national chains.
- Stores commonly understaffed with people that lack knowledge and motivation, usually due to low pay and poor benefits.
- Less local jobs due to lower staffing by chain stores.
- Local businesses can be a social experience as they live in the community and they stay with the business for a very long time. Fast turnover at chains means you can’t build these relationships.
- While a chain may have better prices (although you’d be surprised), consider how you spend less time in smaller, better staffed stores, with knowledgable employees.
If you live on the peninsula in the Bay Area or in Santa Cruz, here’s a list I compiled. Note that some are actually chains, like Landmark Theaters, but they’ve bought up struggling businesses and left them alone to pursue their mission.
- Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz (bookstore)
- Toque Blanche, Santa Cruz (kitchen supplies)
- Los Altos Nursery, Los Altos (nursery, gardening)
- Country Sun Natural Foods, Palo Alto (grocery, health/beauty)
- The Garden Company, Santa Cruz (nursery, gardening)
- Illuminée, Santa Cruz (lighting)
- Ava’s Downtown Market, Mountain View (grocery)
- Good Neighbor Pharmacies, Bay Area (locally-owned pharmacies)
- New Leaf Community Market, Santa Cruz (grocery and health/beauty)
- Palo Alto Hardware, Palo Alto (hardware)
- Plumbed Elegance, Santa Cruz, CA (plumbing fixtures and supplies)
- Pottery Planet, Santa Cruz (pots!)
- Yamigami Garden Center, Cupertino (nursery, gardening)
- Staff of Life, Santa Cruz (grocery)
- Landmark Theaters, Bay Area (movie theaters)
- Teamworks, Los Altos (housecleaning services)
So, try these places the next time you think about giving your business to one of these companies:
- AMC Theaters, Century Cinemas
- Bank of America, Washington Mutual, US Bank
- Barnes and Noble, Borders
- Home Depot, Lowes
- Longs, Rite-Aid, Walgreens
- Merry Maids
- Petco, Petsmart
- Safeway, Whole Foods
- Target, Wal-Mart
If you visit my Yelp page, I’ve reviewed many of the companies I’ve mentioned here and plan to get reviews up for all of them at some point.