Talking Chain Stores & Big Boxes

Let’s talk about chain stores & big box stores. Let’s begin with a bunch of questions for thought about the location of chains & big boxes.

Chain establishments are sometimes inevitable. We all know that. We see that as we travel the country (and world). And most of us cannot avoid chains completely. (If you do, please share your secrets). When we accept that fact on some level, we are left with the next step: how to make chain stores work with our communities, specifically the built environment.

Remember this Dollar General found in historic Fair Haven, VT? Would you shop here? Why or why not?

Maybe proper location is one answer. That goes hand-in-hand with proper zoning and a community master plan. Does the location of a chain store or big box store matter to you? In other words, if you do shop or eat at chain establishments (and most of us do, however infrequently), are you more likely to patronize one in a downtown/village/neighborhood setting or one in a strip mall or in its own structure? And are you more likely to be a customer if you feel the building fits with the built environment? Or less likely if you find the building to be intrusive and inappropriate?

Smaller chains might be a better example for this question, those such as Starbucks or Subway or hardware stores like Ace or Aubuchon. If you see one of those businesses in a downtown, would you be inclined to shop there? Are you then more likely to ease up a bit and shop at one that is outside of downtown or in a less than ideal location?

Do you have a pet peeve for a particular chain? For instance, I am perturbed entirely when giant drug stores insist on having their own building and parking lots. If you have a particular big box that you always avoid, at what lengths do you have to go to do so?

If you’d like to contribute to this discussion, one question or all, please answer in the comments.


3 thoughts on “Talking Chain Stores & Big Boxes

  1. Jim says:

    When generic CVS and Walgreens buildings replaced the 1800s buildings on two of the four corners of little Brownsburg, Indiana’s main intersection, I was so disappointed. It dramatically changed the feel of the town. Not like those old buildings were well or fully used — they weren’t. But really, those two drug stores brought traffic to downtown that hadn’t existed in years and years.

    I wonder if it were possible to reuse the old buildings for these stores somehow, at least to preserve the facades. I don’t know. But it’s hard to deny that people go downtown now when they didn’t very much before. I don’t have answers here — just lots more questions.

    I will admit that I have mixed feelings about urban planning. I was a member of a church some years ago that bought a couple acres of land in my city (Indianapolis) and aimed to build a fairly simple frame, partially brickfaced building to worship in. We wanted it set back from the road with a large parking lot, our front door facing the street. The city had some sort of “village plan” for this part of town and our design ran afoul of it. They wanted us to build a much more expensive building that we couldn’t afford, and have its back to the street, facing this decaying little neighborhood behind our property. This was supposed to help promote a sense of place in this part of town somehow. Problem was, we were a regional church and wanted to face out, not in. We wrangled with the city for months at considerable expense and finally won our way, but by that time we had spent 30% of our funds on that fight. That church still hasn’t built its building; they can’t afford it now. Everybody lost.

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