So much was made of the theoretical Main Street vs. Wall Street during this past fallâ€™s election that I think we forget that the iconic street of entrepreneurs really does exist in the small towns and urban neighborhoods all across America. And now, in some places Main Street has fallen on really hard times â€“ given way to Wal-Mart, poorly run schools systems or lack of imagination from civic leaders and an unprecedented level of recession.
But, there are pockets, and I hope you get to experience one, in New Yorkâ€™s SOHO district, on South Congress in Austin, on Shattuck Ave in Berkeley, in Glen Haven, Co population 165, and on 63rd Street in Kansas Cityâ€™s Brookside neighborhood, where the spirit of American entrepreneurism not only flourishes, it gives hope to all who would wonder where these lean times might lead us.
For these businesses and communities, the question is not can small businesses survive this recession, it’s can the recession survive the can do spirit of small business.
You know the kind of business I mean, right? You just feel better stepping into it, the sites, sounds, and smells take you someplace nice, and you voluntarily tell anyone who asks, and some who donâ€™t, that they, â€œgotta go there when in town.â€
In my hometown neighborhood of Brookside there are four shops on 63rd street, in particular, that embody everything thatâ€™s right about American business.
- Stuff â€“ An eclectic, local artist driven, gift store run by a pair of sisters
- The Reading Reptile â€“ A childrenâ€™s bookstore for people who really care about reading
- The (new) Dime Store â€“ The place to get anything for several generations, complete with well-worn wooden floors
- Worldâ€™s Window â€“ Innovative imports, gifts and culturally diverse clothing
In each instance these businesses employ some of the same characteristics
1) All are family owned and operated â€“ 3 by husband and wife, 1 by a pair of fun loving sisters. All employ family members and more than their share of area residents and high schoolers.
2) All make shopping about the service and experience, not the products. (Celebrating my inner diva at Stuffâ€™s Diva Day is an annual highlight)
3) All exude passion for they offer, whether itâ€™s spotlighting a local artist, turning a sidewalk sale into a happening, becoming the central character in the telling of the oral history of the neighborhood, or taking 30 minutes to offer great reading suggestions to parents and grandparents.
4) All are incredible networkers. I think this might be the key to any business success, retail or otherwise. The ability to shower prospects and customers with authentic engagement and to spread that wherever you go is a killer business skill.
So, please, use the comments in this post to tell us about your â€œMain Street,â€ and your â€œgotta go there when youâ€™re in townâ€ businesses, and invite us to encounter what keeps it alive and special.
You can also add your favs by clicking the link at the bottom of the map below (need to login to your Google account to do so.)
View My Favorite Main Streets in a larger map