Here in America, we tend to hold to the wildly popular misconception that bigger is always better. We want a bigger house, a bigger engine in our car, a bigger bank account, etc. But bigger isn’t always better in reality, is it? Bigger houses mean larger mortgage payments and more cleaning. Bigger engines mean more money spent on gas for shorter distances, and a larger balance in your bank account means more responsibility.
Another example of bigger not always being better is when we talk about big box stores or big tech.
Big-box stores such as Walmart, Target, and Home Depot have sprung up all over the United States. And at the outset, they seem great. Prices are generally cheaper, inventory is almost always in stock, and their hours are nothing if not predictable.
However, they became a significant problem when their competition, those mom-and-pop shops that support our local communities, can no longer afford to stay in business.
And we are seeing this problem more and more lately, what with COVID-19 still a big deal for some and the limitations it puts on small businesses, as well as the move to do more and more shopping online.
Thankfully, some of those small-town businesses aren’t willing to just shrivel up and die out just yet.
Enter the one small-town bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas.
It’s called the Raven, named after one of famous author Edgar Allen Poe’s poems. The Raven was founded in 1987 by two college friends, Lou Wright and Pet Kedhe, who had a passion for literature, and in particular, mystery and crime novels.
In its early days, the store didn’t do too bad, and it grew as the University of Kansas, which is located nearby, continued to bring more and more people into the community.
However, as usual, bigger towns mean bigger stores.
Longtime employee of the Raven Kelly Barth remembers when big box stores began to move in during the early 90s.
She told Then New Yorker, “Back then, it was big-box stores versus indies, and I remember worrying so much. I had really just started working there, but it already felt like such a sacred place, and I was so worried we’d lose all our customers.”
According to The New Yorker, the Raven’s sales dropped some 15 percent when a Borders was put in down the street. Thankfully, due to the passion of its employees and some very loyal customers, the Raven survived. Decades later, and under new management, the Raven still exists.
But now, it faces a whole new battle: big tech.
Amazon, in particular, has caused the little store much worry in recent years, as their clientele grows only larger each day and with prices that shops like the Raven can hardly compete with.
But that doesn’t mean they are giving up.
Instead, new owner of the Raven, Danny Caine, has made it his mission to convince America that smaller is better.
As he explained in a Twitter post in 2019, Amazon, to their credit, can afford to offer lower than average prices on items such as books and comics due to their vast inventory and constant incoming revenue. However, when a small store like the Raven tries to lower prices, they don’t make nearly enough money to survive and continue providing business to their community.
Eventually, the store would be forced to close.
And when enough stores like the Raven have to shut their doors for good, it’s the beginning of the end of capitalism.
As Caine and our national Constitution explain further, the end of small businesses and competition creates a monopoly. While nice to have in the classic board game, monopolies are no good for democracy and our free nation.
Caine has since written a zine and, not long after, a full-length book titled “How to Resist Amazon and Why” to educate the public on why small-town stores like his matter and why they make our local communities so much better.
Caine told The New Yorker, “It’s not that we’re anti-Amazon, but we’re pro-bookstores and pro-community. I really just want people to think about where they’re spending their money, and why.”
And Raven employee and local organic farmer Jack Hawthorn reiterates those sentiments.
“You can buy your vegetables at the grocery store, and that’s fine, but when you know the land they come from or the farmers who grew them, and how much they care about the land, it’s different, you’re part of that community. Same thing for books, or whatever else you buy.”
Caine wants you to consider what happens when only big box stores or big tech is left?
As Amazon is already proving, entire communities dry up, and so do our freedoms.