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Tamara Miller: Big box confessions

Tamara Miller
Vail CO, Colorado

Starbucks is slated to open today in Eagle and I have to admit I’m looking forward to it.

Starbucks doesn’t have the best coffee in town, nor does it have that relaxing coffeehouse atmosphere I like to enjoy on a leisurely weekend day. But when it’s after 4 p.m. or before 7 a.m., a holiday, a weekend or any old time that just isn’t convenient for mom and pop shops to be open, you can usually count on Starbucks. At the very least, you can count on a Starbucks bathroom when a public restroom can’t be found.

I had to defend my non-hatred of Starbucks to a woman I recently met at a party. I pointed to the company’s fairly generous benefit package for employees, my pleasant experiences at Starbucks shops around the valley, how tasty some of their seasonal lattes are …

She seemed unconvinced. And I felt guilty.

Still, millions of other people have found something redeemable about Starbucks, Target, Denny’s and the host of other national chains that put a lot of pressure on small businesses in communities around the nation. The fact is we know we ought to spend our money on local shops. The money supports local business owners, as well as diversity in the marketplace, and oftentimes, much better service and quality.

But must of us shop, eat and drink at the big chains, anyway. I guess we’re all just community killers. Evil, mindless little consumers that can’t see past our desires to see what we are doing to our towns.

Growing up, it never occurred to me to be such a conscientious shopper. You shopped for clothes in at whatever national department store was at the mall, you bought your school supplies at some massive discount retailer near the mall and you went out for Sunday breakfast at a place that advertised during NFL football games. That was near the mall, too.

In college I gained a certain amount of social consciousness, and with that, some more “responsible” shopping habits. In my 20s I further solidified those principles by purposely seeking out unique, locally owned places to spend my money, and preferring to not buy that unnecessary whatever if it meant going to the Mega Mart or some such place.

But here I am, four-and-a-half months pregnant with our first child, and all those more expensive, but more locally supportive spending habits my husband and I have are starting to look a little frivolous. I’m suddenly so much more enamored with things like “value,” “convenience” and “under $20.” And those glossy big-box advertisements that fall out of Saturday’s paper are catching my eye.

So forgive me, small business owners and anti-big boxers, for I have sinned. It’s been more than a two weeks since I bought anything at a locally owned store.

I’ve shopped in big boxes at least twice. On the way back from Denver, I grabbed a bite to eat in some corporately owned restaurant.

And yesterday, I bought a cup of decaf from Starbucks. It was hot, yummy and incredibly convenient and I plan on doing it again soon.

Opinion/Projects Editor Tamara Miller can be reached at 748-2936, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.


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