The Value Of Local Money
By Jody Reese
Bernardo’s Italian American Restaurant closed last week after more than seven years in business. It will be replaced by a Midwestern barbeque chain.
Bernardo’s was one of the last locally owned restaurants on the South Willow strip. It will surely be missed.
Running an independent restaurant is a tough gig these days. Large chains have real advantages.
By virtue of their size and buying power, national chains have the financial muscle to get prime locations, run slick ad campaigns and enjoy supplier discounts by buying in bulk. Most locally-owned restaurants can’t do any of that without breaking the bank.
There’s no denying chains are popular. They do a lot of things right. But if the arrival of such behemoths comes at the expense of locally owned restaurants, then we should all think a bit more carefully about where we choose to spend our dining dollars.
Why? Because the tougher it is for the little guy to make it, in the restaurant business or any other, then the less likely it is that Manchester or any other community will have any kind of unique identity. And that’s a crucially important factor in the city’s long-term future.
If Manchester allows itself to become just another suburban noplace, with the same stores and restaurants found everywhere else in the country, then we won’t be the kind of community that attracts the best and brightest in the decades to come. Think about it, why do we love going to Boston or New York? Is it to eat at an Olive Garden?
Local restaurants add flavor to a community and help to set it apart from other cities. That’s good for business. When companies are looking to open new offices local flavor and uniqueness is an important factor in that decision.
And if we fail to do that, we won’t be able to take advantage of all the opportunities in an increasingly global economy — one in which a great deal of wealth will be created not by manufacturing, but by intellectual activities such as software design, engineering and so on.
It’s important to remember to make a special effort to support the community’s local businesspeople because they’re often at a disadvantage against the big boys, for whom Manchester is just another lucrative market to exploit.
So all things being equal, I’d choose a locally owned restaurant over a chain any day, and so should you. You’ll not only nourish yourself, but you’ll help keep the local economy diverse and vibrant and healthy.
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