Retail chain made the right decision; now it’s time to set aside hard feelings

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Any marketing expert will tell you goodwill isn’t something a 30-second commercial can buy. How a business relates to the community goes a long way toward that business being successful.

When Family Dollar, a Tampa, Fla.-based retail store, decided to back off its decision to build a standalone store next to the McLaughlin Garden & Homestead in South Paris, it saved a lot of people grief and, in the process, generated the kind of positive vibe that is priceless in the marketplace.

Family Dollar did the right thing.

This newspaper, in an August 22 editorial, explained why we felt the decision to locate the store next to the Garden was a bad one. The bucolic feel of the Garden, albeit nestled in between a railroad track and other nearby businesses, would be seriously threatened if more traffic from large trucks was added to the mix. The area simply is not conducive to the kind of activity such a store would present at that location.

We even called it a “no-brainer.”

Family Dollar apparently heard, not just the editorial voice of a newspaper but the rallying cry of community leaders, business owners and civic leaders concerned about what the new store would do to the Garden’s ambience.

As much as the story’s ending is a feel good one, however, it cannot be summarily dismissed that some people let their emotions get in the way of a reasoned discussion. They were so determined to block the sale and the new construction that they left no room for what others, including the sellers, had to say.

To be sure, the entire episode was reminscent of a bad soap opera, where the characters found themselves entangled in a sort of intra-family squabble over a piece of real estate the majority of them had no ownership, but an intense interest. It made for fascinating theater but in the end, it was a land deal that had its flaws.

Growth is a necessary element in life. In business, the objective is not only to stay ahead of the competition but to remain relevant to your customer base. Family Dollar clearly saw a need to do that here. It will find a way to adjust its business strategy.

One of the unfortunate ripple effects of the whole discussion was how a popular local restaurant found itself mired in a discussion over a retail store chain down South, when its owner would have preferred to be discussing the restaurant’s dinner menu in New England.

Opponents of the Family Dollar store made it clear that the restaurant would suffer repercussions, and for that, they were wrong. While the original move to permit Family Dollar to get an easement allowing big trucks seemed insignificant to the business owner at the time, it proved to be an unexpected headache.

The restaurant owner became collateral damage in someone else’s fight.

Now that McLaughlin Garden & Homestead owns the property that is adjacent to it, it can proceed with plans to extend the Garden, and allow for more space for its many functions. Meanwhile, preservationists get to retain a valuable structure that is reminiscent of the earlier days of the once historic looking downtown. It also puts to rest long standing periods of uncertainty that at times made some very good people come across as the villains.

One good sign that all is well would be a dinner engagement among all the various parties, at that same restaurant, augmented by a tour of the Garden afterward. Hard feelings aside, this area cannot afford to watch such either establishment suffer any more than they already have, through no fault of their own.

The Advertiser Democrat Editorial Board