By Steve Siciliano
If you’re as old as I am you remember the time when folks did the majority of their shopping at small family run businesses. The Grand Rapids neighborhood where I grew up had a number of these mom-and-pop shops within walking distance from our lower west side home. There was a hardware and a bakery and a corner drug store where meager allowances were spent on comic books, baseball cards and penny candy. A fair-size grocer was on Fulton Street down towards the park. If mom needed a gallon of milk or a pound of sugar or a loaf of bread and she needed it now, she sent us to Borucki’s, one of those once ubiquitous neighborhood grocery/butcher shops that was just a half a block away.
Most of these small independent shops are gone now. Today when we need something we hop in our vehicles and drive. National chains have replaced the corner drug store. Big boxers with acres of floor space have replaced the neighborhood hardwares. Supermarkets have replaced the friendly mom-and-pop grocers. Today we can purchase goods with little or no human interaction. “Don’t forget to take your receipt and all of your change.” It’s all very convenient but also quite impersonal. That self checkout with the detached voice may be very efficient but it doesn’t know your name.