Long Island’s Main Streets Represent Our Heritage and Future!
(Long Island, N.Y.) Walking through Main Street/Montauk Highway in Babylon Village the other day with my husband, we stopped at Sweet Sensations ice cream shop for vanilla shakes so thick they barely made it through the straw. Then I drooled over the toddler dresses at Bubble and we wrapped it up by picking up some organic macaroni & cheese from Shari’s Healthy Gourmet and heading home.
What does my relaxing evening have to do with business? It got me thinking about the importance of towns like Babylon Village across Long Island. During our walk, we counted seven closed businesses with “For Sale” or “For Lease” signs on storefronts. Babylon Village is a thriving Long Island community — one of the more economically healthier towns along the south shore.
Main Street and the American Dream
Our country was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For many Americans, that pursuit of happiness involves owning their own business. Entrepreneurs like myself simply can’t be happy working for someone else — many of us have tried. That’s not to say I don’t answer to other people. As a freelance writer, I joke that I don’t just have one boss, I have about 10 — and they change from month to month.
I get to choose, almost daily, who I work for, what I do and — most importantly — when and how often I work. That’s why I was out for ice cream at 4 PM on a Friday afternoon last week.
Main Street: A Part of Long Island Heritage
It was inspirational to walk down Main Street and see so many businesses (those seven storefronts aside) that represent other people living their dream, too.
Many people already think of Long Island as one giant strip mall or “cookie-cutter” shopping center after another, with suburban houses on 1/10-acre lots in between. If we lose our Main Streets, we’re one step closer to proving that perception right.
Our Main Streets, our beaches, our parks — these places give Long Island character. Memories are formed there. (How many of you reading this had your prom pictures at Argyle Park? Or went bar-hopping in Port Jeff or Huntington Village? Took clients for lunch at your favorite sushi place “in town?”) If we don’t support local businesses, we will lose a rich part of our heritage.
It makes sense as a business owner to shop around for the best deals. We’re all busy, and it’s easier to hop on Rte. 110 to visit a warehouse club, a superstore, and get all our shopping done in a few stops, saving money while we’re at it. Or even place an order on the Internet and have it delivered.
But understand the implications of your actions and every once in a while, patronize local businesses. So often, the service and quality is better in local shops, even if the prices may be slightly higher. (And you’d be surprised at how often they’re comparable to big box stores!) You’ll meet interesting people who care about their work, make connections for your own business and, most of all, know that you’re doing something good for this Island we all love.
Support Local Businesses this Fourth of July
In the mid-90s, I wrote for a local paper called the Bay Shore Independent. Bay Shore’s Main Street was thriving and you couldn’t find an empty spot of real estate in Babylon Village. The Internet boom had just started; blogs were strange things techies who lived in their parents’ basement wrote for to bemoan the cancellation of the latest Star Trek series.
One of the newspaper’s editorial visions was to promote and support small businesses. Maybe that’s where I got this passion. Or perhaps it began with trips to the local candy store in Brentwood near the IGA when I was just a child, where we bought balsa wood airplanes to fly in our backyard. That candy store is gone — along with so many other businesses — but others remain, reminding us of that time (before I was born, but my parents always talked about it…) when the Long Island Expressway only went as far as Exit 54 and there were no Wal-marts.
If you hear patriotic music playing in the background as you read this, maybe I’ve crossed a line into sentimentality. But if I’m going to get sentimental, I can’t think of a better cause than supporting our local economy.
This Fourth of July, make a point to celebrate one of the things that makes this country great: small business owners and entrepreneurship. Shop at a locally-owned store, even if it’s just to buy snacks on your way to the beach. Happy Fourth of July!