Letters and Opinion

To grow economy, support small biz

April 24, 2010

Indianapolis, home to a higher convergence of chain restaurants per capita than most any U.S. city (44-percent higher than the national average), retained its crown last week.

A group of local entrepreneurs and I have spent the past six months working to open a new independent coffee shop off the Saxony development of Interstate 69’s exit 10. It was a conscious decision to help grow the culture of the area, with a focus on local and organic offerings. We desired to create a focal point for the community, a source of jobs, and a good location where job interviewers and prospects could meet.

We rejected advances by national franchises, and opted instead for a local brand, using local roasters, local milk and local talent. We were even funded by a local bank, and designed by local artists with a website by a local web developer.

[Recently] we learned that the landowner who we worked with opted to give the location to another bidder: Starbucks. To make the project work, their bank wanted a national chain. Now—before you think Starbucks swooped in and offered more money—this was the bank’s call. It was an assessment of risk.

But it’s hard to fault the bank. Chain restaurants are a safer bet than small businesses. We, the consumer, are to blame. We have been driving local shops out of business for years. We vote with our wallets. Every small-business failure increases the overall risk for financiers, which increases the barrier to entry for new small shops.

Without competition, capitalism doesn’t work. With only a few chain players shipping our dollars out to Wall Street, it’s less capitalism than it is corporate colonialism.

We have to change our habits. Otherwise, when we emerge from this recession, what exactly are we emerging into?
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Eric Redmond

Bitter/Sweet Coffee LLC

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