Shopping zombies, wake up!

There it was—that damn sign. I’d just walked up to the little coffee store in my local shopping center, and there it was, the sign I’d been expecting to see ever since the Starbuck’s opened in the Albertson’s next door: “Space Available. Call 222-3333.”

We’re very good at bemoaning the loss of all these “mom-and-pop” stores. They close up shop, another nice little establishment with its financial guts stomped out by an enormous corporate juggernaut, and that’s when we get to work, cranking up the phony eulogies in the wake of their croaking. We’re very good at those.

Trouble is, we’re also very good at ignoring these mom-and-pop joints while they’re still open and in need of a little financial support. Nothing is more worthless to a padlocked business than the sympathy and best wishes of those who forgot to stop in.

We’re to blame, of course, with our slothful consumerism. How many times a year does this happen: (1) a local mutters “what a pity” while he or she reads about the demise of another small local store, and then (2) realizes that he has been a shopping zombie for the last year, a veritable potato-head manipulated by both advertising and convenience into dumping 95 percent of his disposable income at Meadowood, Albertson’s, Home Depot, Costco and Best Buy.

There are, no doubt, plenty of locally owned businesses that are doing well. There are many more that are just scraping by, barely hanging on in the onslaught of this new, severe competition from the Megalithic Corporations that have descended upon our area in the last five years. The locals who are clinging to the financial cliff by their fingernails would be highly appreciative if more of us would knock it off with the lemming act and make a conscious effort to drop on by AND SPEND SOME MONEY once in a while.

This is very important, this spending money part. Don’t just drop in to say hello, unleash oodles of cheerfulness, and then split without making the cash register rattle a bit. That kind of support, while neighborly and pleasant, isn’t really support. And it certainly doesn’t mean DICK when you’re the one who’s crunching the numbers and popping the Advils at the end of the month. Local shopkeepers would much prefer you drop on by with all the warmth and friendliness of a wounded mountain lion if that’s the mindset you need to break out the plastic.

We all have our favorite businesses struggling along in various shopping centers, businesses that we would hate to see blow away. I would gently but firmly submit to you that the time to remember those businesses is now, not next month or this coming summer. Showing up now means you’ve got a good chance of running into that shop later. Showing up later increases your chances of running into that damn sign.