Big box retail is dying, long live little bags. As chain stores ruined the landscape by making every highway exit look exactly the same from coast to coast, I just quit traveling. Why go there if it looks just like here?
Greed got in the way too...the more the behemoths grew, the less they participated in the community and the more they ruined the lives of those they sold to. Stagnant with wages, reluctant with benefits...phooey on them. Gap has announced they are closing stores. Have you heard anyone say they will miss them? Well, if you do, just drive to the OTHER mall right across the exit exchange, there is a Gap there too, and they have the inventory of every one of the remaining 2,500 Gap stores.
Finally, in every urban center of the land, let the small neighborhood business thrive. Beholding to the community they serve, friendly and charming, with individual attention geared to their specific clients. Small business WILL drive the recovery, and with it hopefully bring back some community, some family, some taste and some love.
It will take some time, but it will happen. I have SEEN the recovery, and it is in hundreds of little gentrified neighborhoods like the East Fulton Business District in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A few short blocks, ethnically diverse, walking friendly, hype-free and lovely. If there is a sign or a logo there, it was made by hand and made locally. Full of beautiful, happy store clerks, beautiful, homemade things, real food from local owned restaurants in buildings which once stood vacant...but each of them with an architectural charm from the past and renewed vigor for the future. I am going to guess a few folks were employed to fix things up too.
I was so impressed with one little establishment I asked my family friend to take a picture. Urban Exchange is a perfect example of the new economy and new business model. A consignment shop, upscale but down home (and right down the street) filled with beautiful affordable things and beautiful friendly employees.
Urban Exchange is located at 926 East Fulton Street, in The East Fulton business district. Consignors may drop off pieces ANYTIME during business hours, although week day drop offs are preferred. No appointment is necessary. Urban Exchange pays 40% of the selling price for current fashion women’s clothes and accessories that are in excellent condition. They are looking for brands such as J. Crew, Banana Republic, Free People, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, H&M, BCBG, Bebe, Diesel, Nine West, Steve Madden, AND so much more! They are looking for funky tops, hip denim, every day khakis, comfy sweaters, cheeky coats, jackets, hats, shoes, jewelry, belts and handbags......and so much more! We also collect hand made fashions made from repurposed materials. They pay 40% of the selling price. Payments are available for pick up on the 1st of every month.
They will look through your items, assess the style and label, and ensure all pieces are in excellent condition. They ask only all pieces are freshly laundered and pressed, and they steam each piece before displaying. They select the items they would like to accept into their collection, enter the description into the computer and assign an item number. Unselected pieces may be picked up within 72 hours and will be donated or responsibly disposed of if not claimed. Pieces are displayed for 60 days. Any unsold items may be picked up prior or upon the 60th day. Unclaimed expired pieces will be donated or responsibly disposed of.
Okay, so I didn't write the description above. But Stephanie Johnson did, the proud business owner who hired and pays the salaries of several wonderful people...and you can see she did it with care, respect for her clients and love.
I am choosing to show the shoes only, not because I have a shoe fetish, but because every woman I know does...and the selection is lovely and colorful. The clothing here is beautiful, and both lovely women I was with tried things on and I ended up paying for one of them. The little shop was full of happy folks and no one was herded into a cattle cage to pay like the Gap checkout. In fact we had to ASK where to pay, and it was right behind us staffed by ANOTHER lovely person, who I am sure the boss knows the name off, and will likely one day know the name of her husband, should she have one, and her children too, again if that is what she chooses. Maybe one day the cashier will drive past and remember working there, and point it out to her children.
As we drove home, we passed the "occupy" folks. I agree with them, but they might start thinking a little smaller and doing a little better. Rick Danko, a gentle talented man I respected much, once said something like "We thought we could change the world, but maybe we should just try to help the neighborhood."
Urban Exchange, a business model for the recovery AND a splendid place to shop has a website HERE.
(Please note Urban Exchange did not select this "media placement" or ask for a "click-through rate" or anything like that. Nor did they ask for this endorsement. I just liked being there, and I can share.)
COOL SHOE PHOTOS BY TOM SMITH