When I was in Pella, I think the only store I recognized in the downtown area was a Hallmark store. It made me realize how much franchises have changed the course of commerce:

> The growth of franchises has helped facilitate long-distance relationships, be it family or friends. It’s easy to give a gift from your local mall, knowing the recipient can easily return it to their branch of the same store at their local mall. 

> Spanning geography also comes in handy for service, like buying a car in one city and repairing it at a dealer in another state. 

> There is a sense of comfort due to the familiarity. You can go to a new town and know what restaurant has food that you will like, you know how it is prepared, and you have a good idea of the price range before you enter. The adventure may be gone, but chances are higher that the place will meet your expectations because you know what you are getting before you go there.

> On the down side, places now look so much more homogeneous, even in Europe, because the same stores are everywhere. There are many fewer “local” establishments that give character to the place. It used to be I knew I was in Chicago because of Marshall Fields and New York with Macy’s, but now Macy’s has no allure because it is everywhere.

Franchises and the growth of chains are one more way that we are all interconnected, but don’t get complacent about the chains being “your” stores. Keep in mind they are part of a larger enterprise and a portion of the profits go elsewhere. This weekend as you’re out spending money, be intentional where you do so. Buying local doesn’t mean the local chain.

beth triplett

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