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Viewpoint: Give me life, liberty and a Target (please)

Liz Engel Clark
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

There’s just something about a chain store, especially one that’s familiar, that conjures positive experiences and a surplus of selection.

It could come in the form of a Target, a Home Depot or Best Buy, some of the most sought-after stores in the Upper Cumberland, or in the less exciting – but no less important – name brands like Dollar General, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Taco Bell, all of which have opened in counties outside Putnam in recent months. Like it or not, we love our chains.

But, honestly, what gives? Why are we so bound by bigger box stores? Just think about where you grocery shop, bank or work out. I betcha one is a chain. All this in spite of the pull from our chain-store-induced coma with “shop local” campaigns, which have become more trendy these days than your local Starbucks cafe.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve fallen into the same trap. Just in recent months, chains Kay Jewelers opened here and Buffalo Wild Wings solidified plans to come to Cookeville. I was excited. Not because Kay’s can sell me something shinier than JJ Jax on Lowe, or that BW3’s necessarily has better wings than, say, Crawdaddy’s on the West Side, but because of what it meant. Maybe, to me, it meant that Cookeville was registering louder on the retail radar. And that companies were finally taking notice. Maybe I wanted to have the same allure as Mt. Juliet, which just seems to glow from the interstate when heading Nashville bound. Chain stores are exciting and, just maybe, they’ve got us brainwashed (it must be those big-dollar marketing budgets). But more so, it’s the familiarity, the knowing-what-to-expect expectations, the assurance of an all-but-assured safe bet.

So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?

Well, unless you straight up boycott these types of stores, sign petitions to keep them from coming, or erase them from your cities using anti-chain retailer ordinances (like in San Francisco), nothing really. There’s pros and cons to chains, just like there’s pros and cons to moms and pops. Maybe we just need to be more tolerant, appreciative and aware of the unique places that have been here all along and the ones that will pop up in the future. (Have you, for example, ever been to one of the boutiques in Jamestown, Cookeville or Crossville? Great finds that you can’t find anywhere that’s got a corporate trademark after its name).

Because presumably, all chains started somewhere. Did you really think McDonald’s – sometimes demonized as the epitome of American chauvinism – was always a conglomerate that you could find on every street corner? (Sidenote: McDonald’s, in case you didn’t know (I sure didn’t) started as a family burger stand in San Bernardino, Calif. It was Ray Kroc who spread the concept brothers Dick and Mac McDonald had first started).

I say it’s all about balance – you could employ a Superman philosophy, shopping chain by day and locally by night. All I know is I’ll never be ungrateful for options and competition. It’s partly what made this country great. And it’s one of many good things Cookeville and the Upper Cumberland has going for it.

Liz Engel Clark is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at (931) 528-8852 or

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Terri Brock
Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Although I can understand the desire to have Target "right here", I also appreciate the reason I decided to live here in Cookeville rather than in Florida. I grew up when Orlando was a quiet - good for raising families - big town. Today it is overcrowded, shopping out the rear, and no "family atmosphere" can be found except at the attractions. I don't want that for this great town. Drive around. Land is being cleared at a record pace for more stores. Why? Because we want the convenience of having it right here? If we are going to build, build things that are family oriented (this doesn't include shopping)! Do you really want the rat-race in the long run? I don't want that for my children or their's in the future!