Mom & pop: homicide or suicide?

June 30th, 2011

Let's cry foul at corporate: let's bemoan the success of the man.

It was recently announced that a regional ice cream company in Searcy, Ark. is closing up shop, along with a fairly widespread distribution operation and about 200 employees. The reason was said to be competition from larger national brands, driving prices down.

I don't like to see a small business shut down more than any other average joe. I like small towns and small town companies. But like every other corner gas station or restaurant or bank or car dealership that has gone out of business, I think there's more to it.

I don't think you can justifiably blame large companies for the mass shutdown of local companies. Large companies do what large companies do best: make money. Might it be the small company's fault for not adapting to changing markets and popular sentiment?

This is where idealism takes a downward turn into the puddle of impracticality. It's very idealistic to want to open a used bookstore complete with exposed brick accents. Practically, nobody reads anymore. Chances of success are slim to none. Idealism will likely lead to failure.

Perhaps we can blame the government for overtaxation, which is something that does hurt small entrepreneurs much more than large companies. Perhaps we can blame mom and pop themselves for mismanagement, lack of adaptation, and poor planning. But I don't think we can blame corporate. He's actually being quite successful. Maybe mom and pop should learn from him.

I think it boils down to this: the American public has what it wants. If they truly wanted corner bookstores, they wouldn't go to Borders or Barnes and Noble. If they truly wanted private gas stations, they wouldn't go to the Phillips 66. We have violence on television because we want it. We have McDonalds and Walmart because we want them. We have hip hop music because we want it. Nobody is there to cram stuff down our throats if we weren't already asking for it. What kind of a business model would that be?

Perhaps we should realize that Americana is dead. Probably won't come back. It will thrive in a few mountainous resorts or college towns or artsy downtown districts. Outside of that: it's dead.

Either by homicide, or more likely, suicide.