The restaurant decorated with bright glass bottles, renowned for its French toast and its convivial atmosphere when the tables are set up for outside dining.
The dry cleaner who doesn’t need to be told that you like your shirts folded, not hung. Light starch.
The shop owner that runs down the street after you when you accidentally leave your credit card behind.
The hardware store with the sign that says, “Husbands cannot buy paint without a signed note from their wife.”
The local website that runs the picture of your missing dog – connecting you with the neighbor around the corner who found him.
Yes, you can eat at an Applebee’s or buy your paint from a Home Depot. You can buy your books on Amazon, or download them to a Kindle. You can use an iPhone app to find the closest movie. But there’s a difference between something that’s geographically convenient and something that’s authentically local.
And the difference is this: Local doesn’t scale. Local isn’t McDonald’s, even if the McDonald’s is right down the street. Local doesn’t send profits back to a home office somewhere else. Local is something that’s part of what makes where you are unique. As unique and flawed and loveable as your own kids. Something is authentically local if it’s the first thing you’d want an old friend, visiting from the other side of the world, to see. It’s authentically local if its disappearance could potentially break your heart.
Local is suddenly the newest, hippest, most lucrative frontier. The local advertising market alone is estimated to be $100 billion a year. Companies like AOL, Google, Apple and Groupon all want a piece of the action. Some of the devices they sell you are even collecting data about everywhere you go – all to help their local campaigns.
Certainly big corporations add a lot of convenience and consistency to our world. They also threaten to homogenize it. If you want home to feel different from everywhere else in the world – or if you want a world that’s interesting to explore, support what’s authentically local. Know the difference, and vive la difference!