All "friendly local retailers", are local but not all "friendly local retailers" are friendly. I was just over on GVs catching up with various gardening blogs when I came across an entry by Trey, owner of The Golden Gecko Garden Center. On his blog (thegoldengecko.blogspot.com) he's criticizing Home Depot for their latest ad campaign that tries to brand HD as the "friendly local retailer." I'm not sure Trey has much to worry about because I don't think anyone will ever really buy into the idea, but what I don't agree with is how he puts local retailers on a pedestal.
In my 29 years I've only been in one local retailer that lived up to the myth of the "friendly local retailer." It was a few years back and it was a garden center in N. Arizona and the proprietors of the place where straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting and treated me like I was royalty even though I was only there to buy a couple of plugs for a container garden. They even laughed at my dumb joke of just being there to make a "small thyme purchase." I've never experienced anything like it before or afterwards. You know why? Because the "friendly local retailer" is a myth created by Hollywood and people's selective memories of days gone by. Similar to when people wish for those simpler times when men wore hats and women wore gloves while they ignore the fact that during that same time period some people couldn't drink out of all water fountains or that people were attacked for trying to enter schools. Yes, those were the days.
I know it's posh to rag on big box stores and sometimes I participate. But I'm not deluding myself- I know you can have an equally horrible experience shopping at a local nursery center. If you live and garden in Chicago you probably have been to Gethsemane Garden Center and like me, love it. But you know the prices can be steep and while service there is generally very good you can come across an employee having a bad day or a problem with your purchase. Even this "friendly local retailer" has it's detractor. I've been talked down to or just ignored while there but I've also had great service. Similarly at big box stores I've come across my share of surly or angst ridden employees but I've also come across employees who were good and worked there because they loved plants. And to be honest I'd rather deal with the girl who is chatting on her cell phone while ringing me up than the snobby attitudes you can find at a local garden center.
Big box stores are the root of all evil and one day the people running Home Depot will spend eternity in plant hell for crimes committed against annuals. Ok? But I'll still continue to shop there because big box stores make gardening affordable. It's unfortunate but true, gardening isn't a cheap hobby/lifestyle. I live in a working class neighborhood and a lot of the people around me probably couldn't afford to garden if it wasn't for the prices at big box stores.
I always smile when I see a mother getting off the bus with a tray of plant plugs in one hand and a kid in another. It's not uncommon to see people where I live pushing their laundry carts filled with plants down the street for a least a mile in the middle of summer. Or sitting next to someone on the bus obviously still experiencing the high of buying those first plants of the season. It's those little moments along with later seeing those plants on windowsills, flower boxes or in yards around me that really make me feel connected to where I am and the people around me.
Mr Blake do what you have to do to make Home Depot seem like the "friendly local retailer" I personally won't buy into it but if it encourages people around me to beautify our community with plants then I'm all for it.