Let customers decide where to shop

Posted: Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I was appalled at reading a recent My Turn column (Empire, July 1) authored by a former president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce suggesting or implying that being in a retail business in Juneau is a birthright that should be bestowed upon the family by consumers. The author explained how so many local businesses would go broke if a Home Depot store located here, again implying that Home Depot would cause the disastrous effect.

If that were true, then the writer must also believe that it was Bill Cope, developer of the Foodland Shopping Center, which caused the Gastineau Grocery, Garnick's Grocery and Bert's Meat Market to go out of business in downtown Juneau. Shame on the memory of Bill Cope?

Bill Cope was a wonderful community business leader who believed in healthy competition and believed strongly in giving his customers what they demanded. Through efficiency, he gave his customers lower prices, longer opening hours and to many, most importantly, generous free parking. I doubt that Mr. Cope felt being in business in Juneau was a birthright. He earned his customers, just like every other business is required to do.

There are Ace Hardware stores all across the West that compete very well with Home Depot, but, as most will realize, it was Ace Hardware that ran most independent hardware retailers out of business many years ago because the Ace program of supply was much more efficient. Does this former chamber president feel bad about playing a direct role in the demise of Lyle's hardware downtown, Triplette and Trucano building supplies on Willoughby or Horton's hardware in Auke Bay? They could not compete with the consumer amenities offered by the new big family owned store next to the Mendenhall River.

The former chamber president should realize it is not the big box store that causes the shift in shopping habits, it is the consumer who should take the blame. Try convincing a consumer he should pay higher prices, have a smaller selection and enjoy the inconvenience of shorter opening hours and sparse parking. If he could do that, perhaps he could also convince voters that government spending is a birthright as well. There are some that already believe that myth is true.

Dave Fremming


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