Monday, August 18, 2014

Must Have Socks and Underwear! The Impact of Large Businesses in Small Communities

 Oh, My!

When we were considering moving to the small town of Anacortes on Fidalgo Island, a waitress at a local restaurant told us we didn't want to live here. Of course, I asked why. She said, "Because you have to drive all the way to Burlington to buy socks and underwear." 

My first thought was: In the city, where were living at the time, it took me a half hour just to get to the grocery store - and that was if the traffic was decent. 

My second thought was: Geez, how many pairs of socks and underwear do these people need? I mean come on, this is not a need-to-buy-often item. I can see being concerned about groceries, but socks!

My husband and I moved to Anacortes anyway, despite the socks and underwear issue. We just stocked up before we got here. Since then, I have come to adore this small community, its small island charm, the wonderful people who live here, and most importantly the fact that it is not overly developed like larger towns. Yet it is close enough to a larger town for when I need extra socks and underwear.

I am a firm believer in supporting small businesses, not the large chains and box stores.  Like other small towns, there are a handful of people who are pushing to have a large store brought to town. Their reasoning: jobs, sales tax, money, convenience and most importantly - SOCKS!  

What they don't seem to realize is how much a large chain store destroys the quality of life in a small town. 

Things to consider:

Jobs:  the people working at the large store will come from other communities - not here. They will then leave their job at the end of the working day and return to where they live, spending their hard-earned money in that community - not ours.  Versus local independent business who usually try to hire locally. 

Housing: There is no infrastructure in this small community to support a large retailer, especially when they only pay minimum wage. We don't have affordable housing for those employees, meaning they will live somewhere else. 

Environment: The employees of a large retailer will have to commute from somewhere else. This will mean more traffic to and from our small town to the large town.

Infrastructure: The money brought in by the large retailer will not be reinvested back into our community, yet we will have to support the infrastructure that is required to have them here - like wear and tear on our roads, etc. Versus local businesses who reinvest their money back into the community in which they live and work.

Sales Tax: sure there may be an increase, but it won't really help in the long run.  In fact, it could hurt. Having a large retailer here will most inevitably mean that we will lose small existing businesses - businesses that collect and pay sales tax.

That large retailer will push out the small businesses that are a part of the charm of this wonderful community. The small businesses that not only collect and pay sales tax, they also hire locally, and they reinvest their hard-earned dollars back into the community for which they serve. 

We can have both - convenience and quality of life (and socks), if we support our local small businesses. If you need socks - just let them know. 

Is socks really worth jeopardizing the quality of life here? Most of us live here or moved here because of the kind of life this small community provides.  

Think of going to Burlington/Mt Vernon as an adventure, a mini-vacation full of errands. Then come home and appreciate what we have, what most towns do not get to experience anymore.

Here is a link with studies on big box stores vs independent businesses and how they impact small towns.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Who Is Karma Paying Back?

Recently I wrote a post about Karma, how Karma Bites and Protects. The post was meant as a form of gratitude to Karma, thanking her for her payback to an evil bank.

In 2009, five years after the evil bank, life sort of fell apart even further for my husband and I. We had to close our second business, we were flat broke, the economy was in the tank and we couldn't find jobs, and we were almost homeless.

Our son and daughter-in-law graciously offered to let us live with them. It swelled my heart with joy and pride that they did, but I refused. They were newly married, we had absolutely no money and no prospects on how to earn money. I could not bear to become a burden to them. Instead we elected to stay where we were and try to make it work, for their sakes and for our own sanity and sense of worth.

Luckily, we have a wonderful, patient and generous landlord, who worked with us. We live in a great community who helped in any way they could, some how it worked out and it still working out.

We aren't out of the woods yet, but the future, at least the present future, doesn't look as bleak and devastating as it did five  years ago. We have settled into a quiet life, we work hard to make ends meet, and the stress and drama have settled down. That is - until now.

My sister, recently divorced and on disability, is in the same situation we were in five years ago. She is moving here and has no where to go. And, guess what she wants? That's right, to stay with us. It could be for a week, it could be longer. Housing is in short supply, low income housing is up to two years, and finding something affordable is almost impossible.

I am sick with conflict - I want to help, but I do not want her or anyone else living with us right now. It would disrupt our flow, our peace, it will bring stress and conflict.  Yet, how do I not help?

It was this morning that hit me, is karma stepping in? Am I suppose to help her, like others helped us? Is Karma paying me back for calling her a bitch? I meant it in a good way when I called her that, it was a compliment, it wasn't meant to offend. If Karma really wants to payback someone, find her a nice little place of her own where she can move on with life, recover, and learn about herself.

I think Karma is paying someone back, I'm just not sure who?  It most definitely is not me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Karma Bites, But It Also Protects

Long story short, my husband and I had a nice size business in the Seattle area. In 2004, it was just over twelves years old, we had five employees, and had close to a half million dollar in sales coming up in 2005. Sounds good, until you read that in 2005 our bank of ten years, decided with no warning and no good reason, to call our line of credit. We were in a middle of small large projects with the government and could not pay it off at the time, so they cancelled it. There is more to the story than this, but let's just say, what they did was wrong and what followed was a life-changing event.

The bank expected us to just do whatever they said, instead I fought and I fought hard. I knew in my heart that what they were requesting was wrong, very wrong, and turns out (later) most of it was actually illegal. I sought the advice of an attorney, in hindsight I am not sure how solid his advice was, but at the time I didn't know any better.

As a result of the bank's unscrupulous tactics, we lost everything. Our attorney advised us to close the business, to file personal bankruptcy and to just move on.  We closed the business. We filed for bankruptcy and lost all of our personal belongings. And, we are still trying to move on.

While going through this horrible experience, I didn't once just lie down and take it. I stood up to the bank, at least as much as I was able to. My anger fueled my drive to not let them run over us and take everything we worked so hard for. I have an extremely hard time with injustice, and what they were doing was very unjust.  We couldn't fight them in the courts, attorneys were unwilling to take on a bank, so in the long run we did lose.

After all was done and said, we lost most of our possessions, we were financially bankrupt. But, they didn't take our pride, our souls, we stood our grounds and we fought.

That small bank is now gone, a victim of their greed. They, like so many other banks, got into serious trouble with the FDIC. They were forced to sell their assets to another bank. The owner of the bank is personally in serious trouble with the FDIC.

The moral of the story - KARMA is a REAL BITCH. And, sometimes she is a MEAN BITCH.

Tony and I are still recovering from that ordeal.  It taught us some valuable lessons. It damaged our trust in institutions, like banks and attorneys, at least for a while.

I have moved on, for the most part, the anger was the hardest to let go. But, I thank KARMA for helping, she paid the bank back for us, with interest. So, Karma, from us and other small businesses - THANK YOU!