About 300 metres from the Mundare Sausage roadside attraction is the Mundare Bakery. You cannot shop there. They are now permanently closed.
I’d heard an awful lot about the Mundare Bakery, “a special place, the kind you remember, but can never find,” the defunct business’ website now reads.
The shop was, it’s website tells us, “passionate about baking delicious bread from scratch” and “proud to be a small town bakery.”
But like many small towns in Alberta and elsewhere, businesses come and businesses go. So do the trucks delivering packages from Amazon.
A few weeks ago, Mundare was one of a number of small-town stops on a day trip with friends to see roadside attractions and partake of some small-town economic development.
But town after town, we found businesses closed, buildings for rent or for sale, and as a local business acquaintance recently lamented on Facebook, “Oh hey – that a customer? Nope. just another tumbleweed.”
So on a trip that was in part to look at what rural towns offered in goofy attractions and unique shops, we found the great little bakery in Mundare was now closed, a Ukranian restaurant in Vegreville seems to have suffered the same fate, and a great little eatery in Myrnam we’d heard about had closed the Friday before, a local told us.
A stop in Glendon, home of the Giant Perogy on a fork, was met with a curious question from one of that town’s few shopkeepers.
“You folks came to the wrong town. There’s nothing here,” the proprietor said.
An interesting conversation followed his comment, one about the state of economics there, the loss of jobs, people moving away, and his faint hope for better days ahead.
But for some shopkeepers in Glendon, Mrynam, Vilna and even here in Morinville and area, it is a question of how long can they wait for those better days ahead and will they return when we can order whatever we want with a click of the mouse?
It is great to see existing businesses thrive, and it’s great to see new business survive. But it takes customers through the door and cash through the cash register to keep that happening.
When you see business owners posting Shop Local on their Facebook pages, it is a sure sign that people simply aren’t, or at least not there.
Many of us who preach the Shop Local mantra, business owner and consumer alike, do our best to walk the walk. But for the most part, we pay lip service to the notion. The cursor moves in the dark of night, when the shops are closed, towards that buy now button that will put an Amazon package on our doorstep within days.
And when the online package is open and the brick and mortar store doors have all closed, we will scratch our heads and wonder who will donate raffle and door prizes for our sports team, club or organization now. Certainly, not Amazon.
But to be sure, Shop Local is a two-way street and everyone has a role to play if we want more and different businesses in a community.
Businesses need to give customers a reason to visit their stores, and consumers need to provide the companies with the opportunity to earn that business.
Businesses need to make their shops look like they are open for business. Shopkeepers need to act like they want to serve the public. Stores need to operate on the hours that are most likely to have customers through the door and not the hours that work best with their lifestyle.
Shoppers need to make an effort to know what businesses are in the community, do their part to spread the word on positive experiences in those shops they deal with and make an effort to visit a couple of stores they’ve never been in before.
The Chamber needs to step up on supporting local business beyond an advocacy role, putting the same effort into shop local initiatives that they do on China trips, golf tournaments, printed business directories, and award galas. The new business-to-business mixers are a good step, but something to make the general public more aware of the businesses in town would be added help.
We all need to remember that it is far too late to make a purchase when the doors are closed, and the tumbleweeds are blowing up and down an empty Main Street.