A couple of weeks ago I was a post on Twitter by a local guy who happened to be at Carousel Mall here in Syracuse. He was commenting on this long line in front of the new Popeye’s chicken place in the Food Court, saying the line was ridiculous, and followed up with “Eat local people.”

The next day I happened to be in the Food Court and I took this picture, as I was amazed that it was getting that much attention as well. There are 2 other chicken places in the Food Court, one which happens to be my favorite, and both were fairly empty as Popeye’s was living the good life that day.

Getting back to my friend’s original comment though, when he made his statement about eating locally I countered that people were at the mall, they were hungry and probably not ready to leave, and that telling people to go eat locally was illogical. There are no restaurants in the mall that are local; there’s actually only a couple of businesses in the mall that one might consider as local businesses.

It’s always an interesting discussion when we talk about just how much we should be using local businesses. I even got into this discussion back in April when I asked why people won’t use local small businesses, instead almost always going for larger businesses, whether or not they offer a better value.

Here’s the thing. I do support buying locally, and going to local establishments. I go to enough of them, as I like trying out new places (goodness, look at the reviews on this blog of restaurants).

At the same time, I don’t hate on big restaurants or big retail stores just because they’re not local. I might gripe about them for other things, but never because they’re not local.

You want to deal with reality? We need jobs; everywhere in the country there’s this need for jobs. A local restaurant is cool, but Outback Steakhouse has more locations, the opportunity to build more at more locations, and offers the opportunity for a lot more people to work. And those people are spending the bulk of their money locally.

Frankly, there needs to be this symbiosis between local businesses and the big boys. As much as people like to hate on Walmart (for more reasons than one), look at how many jobs a Walmart creates in any community they end up in. True, they’ve been known to put some small companies out of business, and that’s a shame, but sometimes, as Mr. Spock said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. It’s not compassionate, but it is logical.

Instead of bashing the large businesses, those of us with small businesses, or those among us that wish to promote local businesses, need to figure out ways of promoting the uniqueness of those businesses. As John Hunt of Movin’ 100 said at a recent presentation locally, you look at your competitors weaknesses, not to condemn them but to promote yourself.

If you notice, there’s not a single large business that can compete with the summer ice cream places. How many large chains can compete with the reputation of Dinosaur BBQ? How many communities across the country are wishing they had an Armory Square?

Balance; we need the major companies here in Central New York because they provide jobs. We need the local businesses because they provide a great experience. We need to see the best of both worlds, and embrace both as our own, for the common good.
 

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