A very good, and important, point made in this NY Times "Complaint Box" piece. I sometimes fail to shop local. I buy back-to-school clothes for my son at Target, because the local South Brooklyn childrens' clothing stores are just too precious and expensive. But I buy my bread at Mazzola and Caputo, sausage at Esposito Pork Store, hardware at Mazzone, plants at Gowanus Nursery, groceries at the local Met Food and Fairway (there are local chains, after all), pastry at Court Street Pastry, stationary supplies at KC Crafts on Court Street, wine at Brooklyn Wine Exchange, Scotto's and Smith & Wine, cheese at Stinky and Caputo, Glasses at Insight Optical on Court, etc. I even get my hair cut locally.
By Jancee Dunn
Marietta Ladies’, Men’s and Children’s Wear has been part of my neighborhood in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, for over half a century. Hand-lettered signs fill the display window (“Heavy sox, $1.50 a pair”). Inside, the walls are lined with honey-colored wooden drawers stuffed with bras and pajamas. Two elderly brothers run the shop, which they inherited from their mother. I often go in to buy T-shirts (rung up on a cash register that, like the brothers, is old but still working).
When my friend and I walked by the store, she remarked that she loved it. I told her I did, too, especially because the brothers were perversely opposed to raising prices and you could get a three-pack of men’s briefs for $5. She laughed and said: “Oh, I’ve never actually been inside. But I like the idea of it. It really adds character to the neighborhood.”
Guess what: Your neighborhood isn’t a Hollywood back lot. “Liking the idea” of a store doesn’t pay its bills. I’m not talking here about the venerable old places that close because the landlord is quintupling the rent, or because the proprietor’s children are not interested in continuing the family business and would rather be rap producers or America’s next top model. I’m talking about the businesses that are gamely hanging on and would gladly continue — if they had customers.
A few years ago, I’d argue with a friend who visited a different chain restaurant every day for lunch. I would urge him to go instead to the nearby Galaxy Diner on 19th Street, which had rocket ships on the walls and offered a delicious grilled cheese for the same price as a fast-food burger. He shook his head and said he had heard that the waitresses had “attitude.” What, are we in Salt Lake City? This is New York! Remember the defunct McDonald’s slogan “We love to see you smile,” when employees were trained to beam at customers? I had to stop going because I couldn’t take the grins. Give me some genuine hostility with my fries. My friend never could be persuaded to go to the Galaxy. Anyway, it’s closed now.
So don’t just stand there and admire Russ and Daughters’ retro neon sign. Go in and order a quarter-pound of their life-changing whitefish salad. Buy a book at an independent bookstore every once in a while, instead of ordering it on Amazon. Patronize a restaurant that offers “chops.” That quaint old hardware store that’s been around since the Truman administration? Venture in and buy some light bulbs. Yes, they may cost a little bit more (although finding an actual clerk or the product itself in a big-box store will almost certainly cost you more in time), but I consider it a tax to ensure that New York City doesn’t look like anywhere else.
You’re only allowed to complain about that Chase bank or Duane Reade on the corner if you actually give business to the mom-and-pop stores that you cherish so much. Otherwise, I don’t want to hear about it.