Comic book collectors & readers are usually solid supporters of their local comic book shops. I’m a long time resident of the Washington DC Metro area, and I have a few local businesses that I love and support in addition to my local comic book shop. Olsson’s Books & Records is one of the places that’s still hung around that I love going too. I especially loved their Bethesda, MD location that used to be on Old Georgetown Rd, until it got torn down to make way for more condos…ugh. I read in the Washington Post that after 50 years of doing business Olsson’s is going to have to close down another of its locations and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in away to try to stay afloat.
This just kills me. I understand how business works, big corporations aren’t inherently evil just because they’ve found a successful way to bring books and movies to the people at lower prices with a big, 2 story box with a Starbuck inside and I understand that in the digital age its easier to use Ebay and Amazon to find new and used books at a unbelievable prices. But you know what I don’t care, I couldn’t give a shit. I still put a value on receiving quality customer service, actually having a knowledgeable person with a passion for the products assist me, or actually having a relationship built with the operators of a business. Its part of what I like about my comic book shop and what I look for in other businesses I frequent.
It angers me when everywhere I go on vacation or business around this country I’m confronted with the same damned department stores and big box retailers. I make an effort to find the real local retailers and restaurants. Nothing angers me more when I used to travel on business then wasting dinner out going to a franchised restaurant, even a place that is nice like Ruth’s Chris, instead of a real local treasure.
The local flavor of this region continues erode, giving way to mega corporations, real estate buy outs and unreal rental rates. The list of places that miss in the DC area continues to grow and the variety in places to go dwindles. Garfinkel’s and Woodward & Lothrop are long gone, but you can’t throw a rock around here without hitting a Macy’s. Kemp Mill Records has dwindled down to 2 locations, Olsson’s as I mentioned earlier is slowly dying, local coffee shops are closing up because they can’t compete for traffic with Starbucks, even local restaurants are sitting half empty while the friggin’ Olive Garden has a 2 hour wait.
People trust me Pizza Hut and Olive Garden’s pasta is dog food compared to what you’ll get at a true Italian restaurant. Forgo the free bread sticks and salad, be adventurous and go to some place authentic and locally owned. If you’re looking for a book drive past the Borders and find that shop at the older strip mall or in what used to be the Main street area. If they don’t have the book you want they can get it, they will actually appreciate your patronage and they’ll probably be able to suggest some other author who you’d also enjoy reading. Check out the used book stores too, odds are they got it. The prices I get at my used book stores, beat out ebay or Froogle finds easily and I can start reading my stack of books that afternoon, no shipping rates and no wait.
I know this is a tired rant that has been made over and over again. I’m not under some illusion that I’m writing anything innovative tonight. Just because the point has been made often doesn’t mean it isn’t worth making again. I just ask that you make an attempt, I know sometimes you have to go to the big box places to save a dime or to get something immediately, I’m not unrealistic. Support local businesses big and small as best you can, they give the variety & soul to our national landscape and make our individual regions unique.
A very small sample of my favorite Maryland/DC area businesses, shop their e-Stores.