Local matters

How Dooney’s Caf

Jay Walljasper | Jan/Feb 2005 issue

From a distance it doesn’t look like a fair fight. On one side are multinational corporations, the World Trade Organization, large accumulations of capital, economics professors, management consultants, and what is generally considered the long sweep of history. Bravely squaring off against them all is Dooney’s Café, a bar and grill near the Bathurst subway station in Toronto.

But don’t count Dooney’s out. Its patrons may be few in number, but they are fiercely loyal to this neighborhood hang-out. They don’t want T.G.I.Friday’s, Burger King or another cutter-cutter corporate-concept eatery coming in to replace Dooney’s—no matter how much sense it would make on somebody’s balance sheet. This is because Dooney’s is a unique spot that expresses the spirit of this lively corner of Toronto. And that’s something worth fighting for.

I’ve never been there, but I will stand up and fight for Dooney’s too, thanks to Brian Fawcett, a breakfast regular at the place who runs a web site (www.dooneyscafe.com) and wrote a book, Local Matters: A Defence of Dooney’s Café and other Non-globalized Places, People, and Ideas (New Star Books, ISBN 1554200059). He lovingly celebrates the neighbourhood around Dooney’s—his neighbourhood—as a place where there are, “enough familiar faces to make you understand you’re not doomed to be a stranger in a strange land, or a mere consumer target in an entertainment or retail sales complex.” I think that description is the highest praise you can bestow upon any neighbourhood anywhere.

I will also stand up for Powell Mercantile in Powell, Wyoming. I’ve never been there either, but this clothing store has accomplished the impossible, according to noted environmental writer Bill McKibben in Orion (November/December 2004). It has stayed in business in a town with a Wal-Mart store nearby. Wal-Mart has driven countless locally-owned business to ruin as it marched across the North American countryside. In Iowa alone, a relatively small state, it bankrupted 555 groceries, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women’s clothing stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drug stores, and 111 men’s and boy’s clothing stores in a ten-year period. The economy and culture of these places has changed drastically, now that local shoppers’ money flows out of town rather than circulating again and again throughout the community.

Powell’s Mercantile beat the trends because it is owned by the community itself; 500 citizens put up money to launch the store because they didn’t want to see their Main Street boarded up. Indeed the store’s success has started a chain reaction, with other shops opening up in once-empty storefronts. The town of Worland, ninety miles south, is now doing the same thing.

What Wal-Mart has done to America, large supermarkets chains like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are now doing to England. Bakeries, newsstands, butcher shops, pharmacies, and even garages are closing in record numbers. The Ecologist (September 2004) reports that seven out of ten villages no longer have a local shop. The consequences are severe. The New Economics Foundation reports that small shops create one job for every £50,000 pounds in sales while for large grocery chains it is £250,000 pounds. Pollution and traffic increase as people now must drive to these big stores on the outskirts of town, and social interaction on local High Streets decreases.

Are these trends inevitable? Not according to Alternatives to Economic Globalization (Berrett-Koehler, ISBN 1576753034), a recently updated book from the International Forum on Globalization. Drawing on the insights of activists and strategists from all over the world, the book offers a practical program to preserve and strengthen our local institutions in the face of gargantuan globalization. The revival of locally-owned economies begins with informed citizens, ready to stand up as consumers, workers, investors, and activists. That means embracing the Dooney’s Cafés that still exist in your community and coming together as neighbors to create new initiatives like Powell Mercantile. This is how we forge a new economic and social vision for the 21st century.

Solution News Source

Local matters

How Dooney’s Caf

Jay Walljasper | Jan/Feb 2005 issue

From a distance it doesn’t look like a fair fight. On one side are multinational corporations, the World Trade Organization, large accumulations of capital, economics professors, management consultants, and what is generally considered the long sweep of history. Bravely squaring off against them all is Dooney’s Café, a bar and grill near the Bathurst subway station in Toronto.

But don’t count Dooney’s out. Its patrons may be few in number, but they are fiercely loyal to this neighborhood hang-out. They don’t want T.G.I.Friday’s, Burger King or another cutter-cutter corporate-concept eatery coming in to replace Dooney’s—no matter how much sense it would make on somebody’s balance sheet. This is because Dooney’s is a unique spot that expresses the spirit of this lively corner of Toronto. And that’s something worth fighting for.

I’ve never been there, but I will stand up and fight for Dooney’s too, thanks to Brian Fawcett, a breakfast regular at the place who runs a web site (www.dooneyscafe.com) and wrote a book, Local Matters: A Defence of Dooney’s Café and other Non-globalized Places, People, and Ideas (New Star Books, ISBN 1554200059). He lovingly celebrates the neighbourhood around Dooney’s—his neighbourhood—as a place where there are, “enough familiar faces to make you understand you’re not doomed to be a stranger in a strange land, or a mere consumer target in an entertainment or retail sales complex.” I think that description is the highest praise you can bestow upon any neighbourhood anywhere.

I will also stand up for Powell Mercantile in Powell, Wyoming. I’ve never been there either, but this clothing store has accomplished the impossible, according to noted environmental writer Bill McKibben in Orion (November/December 2004). It has stayed in business in a town with a Wal-Mart store nearby. Wal-Mart has driven countless locally-owned business to ruin as it marched across the North American countryside. In Iowa alone, a relatively small state, it bankrupted 555 groceries, 298 hardware stores, 293 building supply stores, 161 variety stores, 158 women’s clothing stores, 153 shoe stores, 116 drug stores, and 111 men’s and boy’s clothing stores in a ten-year period. The economy and culture of these places has changed drastically, now that local shoppers’ money flows out of town rather than circulating again and again throughout the community.

Powell’s Mercantile beat the trends because it is owned by the community itself; 500 citizens put up money to launch the store because they didn’t want to see their Main Street boarded up. Indeed the store’s success has started a chain reaction, with other shops opening up in once-empty storefronts. The town of Worland, ninety miles south, is now doing the same thing.

What Wal-Mart has done to America, large supermarkets chains like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are now doing to England. Bakeries, newsstands, butcher shops, pharmacies, and even garages are closing in record numbers. The Ecologist (September 2004) reports that seven out of ten villages no longer have a local shop. The consequences are severe. The New Economics Foundation reports that small shops create one job for every £50,000 pounds in sales while for large grocery chains it is £250,000 pounds. Pollution and traffic increase as people now must drive to these big stores on the outskirts of town, and social interaction on local High Streets decreases.

Are these trends inevitable? Not according to Alternatives to Economic Globalization (Berrett-Koehler, ISBN 1576753034), a recently updated book from the International Forum on Globalization. Drawing on the insights of activists and strategists from all over the world, the book offers a practical program to preserve and strengthen our local institutions in the face of gargantuan globalization. The revival of locally-owned economies begins with informed citizens, ready to stand up as consumers, workers, investors, and activists. That means embracing the Dooney’s Cafés that still exist in your community and coming together as neighbors to create new initiatives like Powell Mercantile. This is how we forge a new economic and social vision for the 21st century.

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