Mystery business: good or bad?

I have read with interest the various comments of community members about the so-called mystery business that is allegedly coming to Hillsboro at some point in the not-too-distant future.
All ambiguities aside, and there still seem to be many of them, I can?t help but wonder whether this imminent arrival will be a good thing or a bad thing for the community.
On the one hand, I understand the concerns of the established businesses that may be adversely affected by a certain ?Fortune 500? company plopping itself down on the northwest corner of town. The fear is that the business, widely believed to be Wal-Mart in one form or another, will take money out of the coffers of the established mom-and-pop stores in the greater Hillsboro metropolitan area.
We already boast two groceries, a couple of regional department stores and a full-service pharmacy. Residents can buy gasoline from at least three dispensaries. These are the retailers most likely to be adversely affected by the new business.
It can be argued that there is only so much cash in the community to go around. Who needs another grocery-pharmacy-gasoline retailer?
But, I am not ready to sound the death knell of the long-established merchants in town. I prefer to look at the arrival of a new business as an opportunity for local traders to shine at what they should do best: treat customers as neighbors and friends.
Here are a few of my thoughts on how the glass may in fact be half full.
First, a recent trip to Kansas City illustrated for me how niche businesses can be highly successful. Corner grocery stores and small shops are thriving in many areas. Local vendors should be seeking ways to satisfy customers? needs without counting strictly on community loyalty.
How about converting a downtown food store into a specialty meat shop where out-of-towners could come seeking world-famous pork products? The growth of Whole Foods has shown me that people will pay a premium for organic eats.
A local butcher shop might be just the thing to show off sirloin-slicing skills as customers can watch their orders being processed right in front of them. Will this new chain store be able to take the time to talk about the best cut for the grill? Likely most of the beef, chicken and pork will be pre-packaged.
A historical example of this theory in action is the local hardware store. There are several big-box outlets within 30 miles of Hillsboro, and the two department-type stores I mentioned earlier sell some of the same products. But a good hardware store is worth its weight in galvanized nails and deck screws when it comes to DIY advice. Even if items cost a bit more locally, good service can make all the difference.
My second point is the potential for outside money to come into the community.
If visitors see a vibrant, healthy economy in our fair city, they will return again and again, and when they do, they will stick around to eat, play golf or maybe even bowl a game or two.
If we continue to take pride in the appearance of our town, those passing through might even consider settling here. More families mean more students for our school system, another potential positive.
Eventually, as this scenario plays out, new specialty businesses may want to locate here. We could get that movie theater we have always wanted. Maybe a new family restaurant will open so a guy could get a chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes somewhere other than the school lunchroom.
A third possible benefit is the very competition that a new retailer will bring. Have you noticed the price of gas is often as low as in the larger towns lately? I have seen one station raise the cost per gallon one day, only to have it drop the next morning because the other petrol peddlers didn?t follow suite.
It only stands to reason that the more choices we have, the harder businesses will work to keep us happy.
I find it interesting that some of the local business owners seem to believe in the free market system as long as it doesn?t directly affect them. To the patriots in the crowd, I say, what could be more American than open competition?
I have said for years that our downtown will only survive if the stores offer products and services people can?t easily find somewhere else. It should be a center for insurance agencies, law offices, medical and dental facilities and other service suppliers such as newspapers and technology specialists.
One thing we know for sure, when a community stands still, it begins to shrink. If we develop a hostile attitude toward new retailers, we will surely stagnate.
Sometimes when I am downtown, my mind drifts back to the old days. I have only lived in Hillsboro for 34 years, but I can see the changes that have taken place. Gone are Gambles, Ben Franklin and the fabric stores. The video rental store and Radio Shack has closed. The Laundromat has moved to another part of town. The Iron Kettle has gone up in smoke. There is no longer a men?s clothing retailer. The antique store has become extinct.
Yet, some new venture always seems to take root as entrepreneurs probe the possibilities. And, I don?t see that spirit being swallowed up by one new business, no matter how aggressive it may be.

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