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What You Can Do

January 23, 2020


Traveling through 30 states has taught me something: a lot of the United States is starting to look alike. Certainly every town has a Dollar General. Hell, every wide spot in the road has a Dollar General.

You know the biggies. McDonald’s. Burger King. WalMart. But there’s creeping uniformity in everything else, too. Planet Fitness is everywhere. Pearle Vision. Home Depot. Come off an exit into a town and you could be in Ohio or Florida or Arizona. Only the trees give a clue what region you’re in.

If you want your town to thrive and its unique local culture to thrive, shop locally. Yes, I know it can be more expensive and more inconvenient. Start small and have patience. Get your coffee at a local place. Have lunch at a mom and pop cafe. Send a bouquet from a flower shop, not from an online service.

Then branch out. Go bigger. Get your tires from that local guy. Find a local tax preparer instead of using H&R Block. A local gym. And so on.

I beg you. Appreciate your local treasures. Go there. Spend money. The money returns to the community instead of going off to stockholders. They support Little League teams and donate items for fundraisers and let you use their parking lots to sell Girl Scout cookies.

In Salt Aire, Alabama, a cafe owner stood on the porch of his shop with me for 15 minutes, telling me about his business, the neighborhood, and where my next stop should be. We only stopped talking because he had other customers he needed to catch up with. Try THAT at Starbucks.

I have been 17,000 miles and too much of it looks alike.



  1. January 23, 2020 05:43

    This is a good perspective gained through your travel: just how much our towns are beginning to look alike with the proliferation of chains everywhere.

    • January 23, 2020 06:43

      It’s so sad. I don’t want everywhere to look like a stucco melange of Cape Cod/Spanish style/Shabby Chic.

  2. Annie Peterson permalink
    January 23, 2020 06:30

    I find these travels of Sue Bob so interesting and fun. I will never make these journeys, so thru Sue Bob eyes I have traveled with and thru her. Want to see more. I very interested and love how she reaches out to local people and activities.

    It really is important to try to buy from the local boutiques, taste the local honey, eat the local fruits and veggies..keep on keeping on Sue Bob!

    • January 23, 2020 06:44

      Thank you, Annie. It has been fun and educational. I was in such a rut that I’m glad to have busted out and taken a look at our great country.

  3. January 23, 2020 07:10

    For years and years, my parents shopped at a family owned grocery in our small town. Everyone shopped there. One of the baggers who would load my Mom’s groceries into her car, grew up to become my HS algebra teacher. Walmart opened just outside of town. They were smart in location. They set themselves up south of town. Most people in my small town commute to Tulsa for work and they passed this new Walmart every day. Our family grocery store closed. There is now a Dollar General and scary rundown grocery store that as an emergency only store. Our main street started to deteriorate very soon after the grocery store closed. It’s heart breaking because it could be such a beautiful and unique little space. But I have hope. There’s new local produce grocery shop that has opened there and I’m noticing a resurgence in the shopping local scene. My favorite part of traveling is seeking out that local scene. Thank you for sharing your adventures.

    • January 23, 2020 07:44

      I wish someone would take my groceries to the car! It used to be so nice. And pump my gas. Remind me why we can’t have nice things anymore?

  4. Carolyn Stephens permalink
    January 23, 2020 08:50

    Even franchises are no longer locally owned. Used to be a couple could buy a 7-Eleven franchise and make a nice living. Now franchisers only want to deal with large companies that can buy 100 or so franchises.
    We used to take a lot of road trips and we also noticed that ever wide spot in the road had a Dollar General. Also an A.G. Edwards office which I thought was interesting.
    Are you heading back west now?

  5. Robin permalink
    January 23, 2020 10:38

    I can’t agree more! Please please keep your money local when you can.

  6. January 24, 2020 07:40

    In India, a cup of tea in local shop costs about 15 rupees. But, Cafe’s cost 100+ rupees.

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