Yesterday, I posted about a car dealer in Hutchinson, Kansas. That car dealership started in Newton, which is where my in laws live, so it’s a town I am somewhat familiar with. It’s not a large town, by any stretch, or at least it wasn’t when I was last there several years ago. There were still a wide variety of small independent businesses there, and it was a neat little place to visit, and when I said “I’m married to Floyd and Mary Jo’s oldest son”, everyone knew just who I was, and I was greeted like a neighbor. That was a mighty nice feeling, but I wonder if the same thing would happen today.
I’m noticing a similar thing here in my not-so-small-anymore town. I used to know everyone, and everyone knew me. Now I’m just a face in the crowd. New people are moving in at what is to me and alarming rate, and developers are building houses and apartments on what is basically swamp land. Apartments. Here in Bitty-burg. Folks, I graduated in a class of less than 150, most of whom could not wait to escape this little town. I wonder if those who have come back are as bewildered as I sometimes am.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the conveniences of the new Wal-Mart, and the multiple grocery stores and the fast food joints, and even the plethora of drug stores with their endless aisles of intriguing make-up phenomena. But I’m also missing the days when there were only 2 of each type of store, and the only place to get a burger was Shirley’s and if you wanted anything else, you had to drive across the river for it. As for truly local businesses, we are down to just a handful: a fish market, 2 corner convenience stores, and a hair salon or two. And Shirley’s of course.
So what brought this on? That little car dealership I mentioned yesterday as the place to get a used car in Hutchinson, the one that started in Newton, is also a Salina, Kansas Car Dealer. That small Kansas car dealer has expanded. It’s not just a local business anymore. While that growth is great for the owner of the car dealership, it has some implications for those who love their hometown just like it was.