Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Staples is Coming to Town

Say it ain't so.

The same company (Myron Hunt, Inc.) who wants to build a Starbucks in town also wants to bring Staples. You can read about the new proposal here, in the Addison Independent.

As the Addison Independent pointed out, there are several stores in town--especially Main St. Stationery and Ben Franklin's-- which carry the same products as Staples. And, if they don't have what you're looking for, they're always happy to order it for you.

MiddBlog spoke this morning with a resident who has lived in the Middlebury area for over 30 years: "We don't understand why some people want to turn this place into every other place. Particularly people who move here to get away from their rotten surroundings and then they turn around and want to put a mall in their back yard. Ugh!"

Here, here. When I was a child, the town I grew up in was in some ways similar to Middlebury: two lane highway through town, sidewalks, and a lot of locally owned stores. In terms of chain stores, we had a Hannaford (except it was known as "Shop 'N Save" back then), a Shaws, a McDonalds, and a Burger King. The highway through town was lined with some houses--many of which had been there since 1700's and the 1800's. Then Wal-Mart came to town and the whole place went to-- and I'm sorry for this, but there really is no better word in the English lexicon to describe it-- shit.

That two-lane highway? Now it's five lanes of madness. All of those beautiful old farm houses are gone. All of the locally owned stores are gone. Within a 1-mile radius, we have: Dairy Queen, KFC, Blockbuster, Staples, Home Depot, Loewe's, Wendy's, Tim Horton's, Ruby Tuesday's, VIP, D'Angelos, Payless Shoe Source, Five-Star Cinema, Quizno's, about 3 Mobil Stations, 2 McDonald's, and Fashion Bug. And, of course, Wal-Mart. Not just any Wal-Mart mind you, but one of those obnoxious Wal-Marts that has a grocery store, too. It's also a Wal-Mart that refuses to obey local town ordinances.

There are no trees. There are tiny oases of grass. My town quite literally paved paradise to put up a parking lot. Nobody walks anymore; everybody drives their gas-guzzling SUVs from store to store. Everyone has gotten really fat (not surprising with TWO McDonald's and ZERO walking). Most of the stores in town do not allow their employees to work full-time because they do not want to provide their employees with benefits.

Starbucks and Staples may seem pretty innocent on the surface. What's the harm that they could do? But where do we draw the line? If we let these companies come, others will want to come, too. And the way of life that we have in Middlebury will be ruined. Middlebury will become just another Anytown, USA with it's five-lane highway, endless box stores, and lack of trees.

Hit the comments.


Caitlin Knowles Myers said...

Hear, hear! Or... Not Here, Not Here! Large chain stores like Staples impose big negative externalities (sorry, I can't seem to resist economist jargon) on those of us who value the wonderfully anachronistic character of small town Vermont. I assume that I'm not alone in being thrilled to live someplace where the main drag does not run along side a giant parking lot in front of a row of Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, and so on. I hope-- perhaps foolishly-- that there are enough others who are willing to pay a little more or wait a little longer to get it from a small local shop that Staples and Starbucks can't make it here.

James Hexter said...

I might be in the minority on this, but I'm actually kind of ambivalent about Starbucks and Staples coming to town. On one hand, I agree with what you guys are saying; having big box stores does ruin the identity of Middlebury, not to mention taking business away from small businesses and ruining the sense of community and personal service it fosters. On the other hand, growing up in a town filled to the brim with chains, franchises, and big boxes, I've grown kind of numb to this idea of bringing in big chain stores. It might be the brand loyalty instilled in me early on that's easy to see once you realize it's there but hard to get rid of; it might be being used to the convenience these stores bring. I've never been happy with the arrangement in my hometown, to be sure, but I've never been completely dissatisfied with it either. Plus, the fact that my hometown made it on Money Magazine's top 100 small towns in the U.S. to live must account for something. I agree wholeheartedly with what you all are saying, but my response simply has to be "meh". Sorry.

Sage said...

It's just not the right place for big chains. It's just not.

I can't help being reminded of the "Gnomes" episode of South Park. Yeah.

Hallie said...

starbucks is one thing. at least it's fairly small, and it will be out of the way over in the franchisy part of town. plus it's taking over a space where something already was. a staples would entail a huge new space, probably the death of a lot of trees, and it's a big ugly building. also, starbucks might legitimately offer something people want (they do make really good frappucinos). i don't know anybody with a lot of brand loyalty to office supplies.

Sughey said...

Bring it on! If your idea of uniqueness and town charm is a rundown Ben Franklin-welcome to 2007 grandma. At this point, I'll take some pink staples!

Anonymous said...

I don't see what the big deal is. The town I grew up in is a lot like Middlebury--small, quaint New England village with lots of local businesses--and I often felt very stifled living there. Every time a "big company" like Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse, and one time a cell phone tower, expressed interest in moving in, some committee or other would launch a crusade against it saying the new addition would threaten our "small town charm." I understand the dangers of big chains putting smaller stores out of business, but the fear of becoming "Anytown, USA" is ridiculous and downright provincial. It doesn't take much for the fear of bigger (not to mention cheaper and more convenient) stores to turn into simply a fear of change.

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