Holland Sentinel, September 21, 2012
Another one bites the dust. As The Sentinel reported on Sept. 14, Dykstra Drug Store, a longtime local pharmacy, is closing. Dykstra has been serving the community for 60 years. Fortunately, yet somewhat ironically, owner and pharmacist Tom Klaasen has been hired by CVS, which has purchased his pharmacy operation, for its new store at River and Douglas avenues. It is good news that Tom can continue to serve the community he lives and works in, albeit within a corporate structure that is not tied to this community.
This is nothing new. Localists have watched our communities being invaded by corporate giants for decades. Usually, the infiltrators build on massive sites in the corridors that border a mid-size city like Holland, slowly forcing out the independent pharmacies, hardware stores, cleaners, restaurants and retailers that give personal meaning to our landscape.
According to Stacy Mitchell’s book “Big Box Swindle,” “progress” is a favorite word among big box retailers and their boosters. “While we may regret the loss of our hometown grocer or neighborhood pharmacy, these are necessary casualties on the path to economic advancement,” she writes in describing the common rationale.
Megachains may seem to contribute precisely what our community leaders desire most: economic growth, lower prices, new jobs and tax revenue. In reality, megachains contribute far less than they take away. As Mitchell states, “For all of the new jobs chains create, they have destroyed thousands more, at small businesses and American factories especially. Perhaps the greatest economic danger of all is that, as local businesses disappear, our communities are becoming ever more dependent on a handful of corporations that have no allegiance to the places they do business.”
As Mitchell points out, the effect of a mega-retailer on local economies doesn’t end with shuttered local merchants and laid-off employees. Most local retailers buy goods and services locally, bank at local banks, advertise in local newspapers, carry goods produced by local firms and hire a range of local professionals, from accountants to web designers. Every dollar spent at a locally owned store sends a ripple of benefits through the local economy. When chains displace local merchants, these economic relationships are severed.
Mitchell underscores the fact that when corporate superpowers sever the webs of exchange that link local businesses with one another and replace them with a single-track economy, wealth flows in one direction: out.