The Connection Between Communities and Small Business

This is by no means a “discovery” – just a quick observation on the role that small businesses play in the mental creation of a community.

When people ask me where I live now – I say “by 51st and Telegraph.”

I always know their response: “Oh, right by Bake Sale Betty’s!”

Sometimes Piazollo wins out – but it is one of these two businesses 90% of the time.

When I lived in San Francisco I would often tell people that I lived by Zeitgeist (still one of my favorite bars in the city) and most people knew exactly where that was.

The irony: Across the street for Bake Sale Betty’s is the Temescal library. It is an original Carnegie library. In San Francisco I was across the street from the LGBT center. But rarely would people ever use these civic institutions as landmarks to describe my location. Even in Los Angeles, where I grew up, most people would name the Westside Pavilion (a mall) over the Federal Building (where my father protested during Vietnam) or the West LA Library, just a few blocks away from me.

Considering the role small businesses play in the identity of a community it is no wonder that news organizations like “Village Soup” are growing, slowly but surly. They treat small businesses like part of the community – not just as a source for advertising.

The separation between advertising and content means small businesses don’t need newspapers to get in front of community members. Yelp is more important now on the web than the local newspaper (leaving aside accusations of Yelp shakedowns). Why would a small business subsidize a newspaper and pay for advertisements when the business plays a fundamental role in defining the community already? One could argue that it is the newspaper that needs the voice of the small business in order to relate to the readers.

When you look at how the Seattle Times, the SF Chronicle and other newspapers are inviting local bloggers – this is a step towards just that. Right now the bloggers are independent. But what if the Oakland Tribune invited Betty herself (the one who has a bake sale on my street) to blog. It would be a coup for the Oakland Tribune in relating to the Temescal community.

5 thoughts on “The Connection Between Communities and Small Business”

  1. That’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in things like news organizations making friends with location services like Foursquare that focus on physical places. We have relationships with — to be a little Sesame Street about it — the people (and more often, the businesses, all corporate personhood aside) in our neighborhood.

    Four people have checked in at your neighborhood post office on Foursquare: (Amy G.’s the mayor!)

    But Bakesale Betty? Pretty popular:

    There’s some fun communication theory in here somewhere about the signals we like to send our friends…

  2. Check out what Davis Advocates for Neighborhood Groceries (DANG!) did to bring “community” back to their neighborhood . We now have one of the best little groceries in the state . It is owned by Bay Area grocer Harley DeLano and his family

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