Living in Southern California, we get used to seeing buildings come and go. The story is always the same-the property is too expensive to leave what was there alone. We've lost some really cool landmarks over the last several years, and no doubt will lose more. The problem is what we, as people who appreciate the past, consider to be landmarks don't always qualify for "normal" people.
I love checking out old buildings. In fact, it's one of my favorite pastimes while traveling around the country. I'm one of those who would enjoy converting an old commercial building into a residence (preferably one with about 4,000 square feet that could be used as a garage). Beyond just looking at these old businesses, I also enjoy doing business in some of them as I run across them, especially diners.
With most restaurants failing after just a few years, there are generally some pretty good reasons a diner has been open for 50 years. Among those reasons: The food is good and the service is personal.
It's when we lose these establishments that we all become frustrated and start looking for the nearest person in charge to complain to. Just how many strip malls and Starbucks do we really need?
When I'm told about these stories, or hear about all the protests, I can understand the loss of something, but then I start thinking about asking these people, "Well, when was the last time you bought something from them?" You don't get to lament the passing of a local business if you never supported it. If the last time you went in there to do business was more than a year ago, you can't complain about big business swallowing up the little guy. You need to support these small businesses, and that means spending money with them.
One of the examples most of us deal with is the small auto parts store. It's a safe bet to assume everyone reading this who has built or modified an old car has been in this dilemma: You're working on your car on a Sunday afternoon and need a part. The small stores are closed, so you have to go to a large chain. I have a '32 Ford with a '59 Chevy 283 and a '39 Ford trans that used a '50 Mercury clutch and pressure plate. Tell that to the 17-year-old behind the counter and watch his head explode as his computer won't accept the info when you go in for a fan belt or a set of spark plugs.
We're all looking for ways to cut costs with gas prices sucking up more and more of our income, but one of them should not be to save $2 on a case of oil. Support the shops that have the guys who know what an accelerator pump on a carburetor is without having your swap meet carburetor's part number, date of manufacture, and original application.
The relationships you can build with these types of businesses are invaluable when it comes time to work on one of your projects. I've done enough business with my local tire shop that the guy there will mount up different size tires so I can take them and make sure they'll fit before I make my final decision and pay for them.
These relationships work both ways. Because these businesses have treated me well, I feel the need to continue to treat them to my business. Luckily most of the companies that sell and manufacture the parts advertised in this magazine have the same philosophy. They have to because, as big as we think we might be, this hobby is a relatively small community, and word gets around about companies that aren't treating their customers well.
So get out there and support something you don't want to see disappear, and make some friends doing it.