A&N Going Out of Business

One hundred and forty years after its founding, A&N is closing. The Richmond-based chain has 48 locations throughout the state, and is run by Mark Sternheimer, the great-something-grandson of founders Mark and Lena Rose Sternheimer. The place has a great history. They had 53 locations just a few years ago, with our downtown location being one of the five that were shut down recently. The company just can’t make enough money to stay in business. I’ve made an effort to shop there in the two years since I discovered it was local, but apparently not many other people did.

70 Responses to “A&N Going Out of Business”


  • That’s terrible. There’s a documentary out on either Showtime or HBO on what national chain retail stores like Wal-Mart do to regional, state-wide and local stores. It’s unfortunate that’s why it’s important to shop local!

  • Well, I did my share. I have spent quite a bit of money at A&N on Pantops Mountain since they opened.

  • A&N may have done a little better if they invested anything in customer service. There never seemed to be anybody there who could answer any questions about shoes or anything else.

  • I used to like A&N quite a bit, because I could always walk in, find exactly what I needed and get out. (Something not possible at Wal-Mart. I noticed in the past couple years, they just stopped carrying alot of the products I bought, and I think people are right about the customer service too. I never realized they were local, mainly because they never had the kind of feel of other local shops like Ragged Mountain. I’m sorry to see any local business go belly up, but in this case I do think there were things they could have done to prevent their untimely demise.

  • Ragged Mountain Running Shop is fantastic. And you’re right, their customer service is tremendous. That’s why they are so popular. They find the right fit every time. A&N could have improved in this department.

  • A & N another
    favorite of mine too. Yet another business from the days of my youth folding. Sad.
    Anyone here rememember the Ben Franklin on West Main, where Stacey Hall is now, a dime store type place? Love the oldfashioned 5 $ 10 places. Or anyone from the Culpeper area remember Newberry’s downtown?
    Had not been in it recently, so will not comment on the customer service-but then thats a problem in a lot of places. Its not that people are unhelpful, its that so often you can’t find anyone working the floor. Rose’s on Pantops has that problem, Lowe’s has people working the floor-but often they can’t give the correct information. Once had to ask 3 people before one told me the right place where something was.

  • That’s why it is so important to shop local. Keep the money in the area. It’s why I’m not crazy about a connector between NoVa and CVa. Infusing NoVa money into this economy may be good in some regards, but that then means you’re competing against NoVa income. Might not be good.

  • There is no customer service here. That’s why I shop in Richmond and Williamsburg. I’d prefer to shop in my community but there aren’t any good stores here and the selection and service pretty much suck. I refuse to go to WalMart because of their labor practices. When was the last time someone approached you with a smile on their face and asked if they could help you? But of course when you only make $7 and hour what do we really expect from the retail workforce?

  • Shop local sure, but the scale of the problem is just absurdly large. It’s like saying charities should provide all health care and schools to the poor, without gov’t support. Stay with me here. Large retail chains account for some incredible percentage of all retail sales. Walmart can bully down it suppliers on cost and carry every brand they want and invest in the latest control systems. Even its large competitors cannot match it.

    And psychologically, look at how people flock into Starbucks, Applebees and the Paramount’s touring shows, when they are more expensive then comparable local offerings. And how people *want* to work at Walmart. They have an easier time hiring people than stores with older, more faded names.

    You cannot fight the market with guilt campaigns. Walmart et. al. simply must be regulated, unless you want a future like Idiocracy, the movie. “You mean like toilet water?”

  • “When was the last time someone approached you with a smile on their face and asked if they could help you?” The last time I went into Wal-mart. I don’t care if the Waltons or the Sternheimers get my money. Neither family invites me or my friends to lunch.
    I support Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, and Food Lion because they hire people that Belk, Fellini’s and Kroger’s do not.

  • Be more specific, CvilleEye – what kind of people? I think I know what you’re getting at but it needs some clarification.

    A&N going out of business is a shame because the shoes were cheap. The clothes were meh – they all shrunk too much for me.

  • Wal-mart hires the elderly, McDonald’s hires the old (not just the elderly) and those who didn’t graduate from high school, and Food Lion will hire the recovering alcoholic.

  • So that’s why you shop there? That sounds like a stretch.

    Local businesses are much more likely to keep the money local by supporting various charities or sponsoring various events or dinners. You see it all the time. When is the last time you’ve seen Food Lion or Wall-Mart sponsor a running race, little league baseball team or give money to a non-profit. Never!

    Keep your business local! I firmly stand behind this mantra.

  • “When is the last time you’ve seen Food Lion or Wall-Mart sponsor a running race, little league baseball team or give money to a non-profit.” And whose children are receiving these little gifts? Those whose parents and grandparents who stay off of welfare by working at Wal-mart, McDonalds, and Food Lion. Wal-mart and Foddlion actually have formalized charity arms that contribute to charities around the country. McDonalds provide scholarships for their employees to college. I’m really not impressed when I see an insurance company plastering it’s name on the back of a baseball jersey. It’s taken out of it’s advertising budget to lower its taxes and buys it good will. Local businesses provide wages for local people. I don’t care if the owners live in Singapore or Richmond, I’m not getting any money out of them.
    I also know a lot of businesses that give nothing to local charities, they are too busy struggling to stay in business.

  • some things to note. Plenty of Walmart, Foodlion and McDonald’s workers receive welfare because these outstanding employers don’t pay or have any decent benefits. Kroger and Giant are unionized-good pay and benefits and not so many on food stamps and ADC. Career grocery workers can actually support their families.

    So someone slowly explain to me why I should shop at WalMart? To support local workers? To support a company that gives nothing to the community? I’d rather support companies that actually care about their workers. Walmart and FoodLion make a ton of money off the backs of their workers. Folks need to stop buying their Chinese junk (made on the cheap labor of Chinese workers) and maybe these companies will go away and quit putting our local businesses out of business and sending our jobs overseas.

    And of course there are plenty of folks working at UVA on welfare. The entire pay scale here is just to low for low wage workers to live. it needs to be raised alot.

    And people wonder why our economy is tanking?

  • Maybe uVA will go away, and the City government along with it. Let’s get rid of all of the employers who do not pay their workers enough to not qualify for welfare. What? So many welfare programs depend upon income below certain percentages of the median family income so we will always have people who qualify for welfare? This is getting more and more complicated.
    By the way, when Food Lion, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart close, where will their employees work? Isn’t the answer really, who cares?

  • The bottom line is these employers need to pay a living wage. So folks can move off welfare and out of poverty. it sounds like you think it’s necessary and fine to have working people on welfare and foodstamps even while they work. Of course there will always be people on welfare but it shouldn’t be people who work hard at one or two jobs.

    I highly doubt that McDonalds and FoodLion has forced local businesses to close. WalMart has all over the couuntry. Obviously the city isn’t going away but at least they pay a living wage and UVA is coming along at $9.56 an hour-and that has taken 10 years.
    Yes it is complicated and political.

    Isn’t the answer really, who cares? Lots of people care in this town and work to make it better here.

  • First of all, a 50-store chain based in Richmond does not a “local” business make. A&N clothes are made with the same sketchy labor practices as everybody else.

    Second, the whole “Walmart vs Local” debate is complex and I have mixed feelings BUT…was this propaganda or did I just see a news story the other day about a city that opened a WalMart and literally hundreds of people were clamoring to work there because of the “good benefits”? I couldn’t believe it when I saw it (and I only was half-listening). Can someone confirm?

    Third, I’m no rabid fan of the bigbox, but “local” doesn’t always mean good service or good for the economy. If, say, there are 3 locally-owned donut shops in a town, then SuperDonuts opens its 1000th store here with an unlimited supply of every donut the local 3 offer and more, plus it’s conveniently located with lotsa parking, plus it’s open more hours than the other 3, plus it’s cheaper than other 3, plus it pays its employees more than the local 3…then the local 3 are going to lose. Not because they’re small, but because they don’t serve the customer as well as SuperDonuts. It’s not like WalMarts come to towns and firebomb local businesses. All they do is open their doors. Then YOU, the American consumer, decide which business will survive. And the bigger companies often (not always)win because they more effectively give people what they want and need.

    And what if the 3 local donut shops employ a total of 9 people at a time, and SuperDonuts keeps 25 on at a time? Who’s helping the local economy more now? And what about the auxiliary local business created by local business? There’s no guarantee of that. The 3 local shops could be getting there donut mix from the exact same factory in Singapore that SuperDonuts gets theirs.

    Businesses fail, whether they be Sears or Mom’s Local Clothing Shop. When big ones fall, we feel the pain. When little ones fall, we feel the pain. None of us wants our own locally-based national businesses to fail. Raise your hand if you want MusicToday or Crutchfield to close so that local versions of their businesses can prosper.

    There’s a side issue that people rarely bring up that has a central effect on the WalMart vs Local debate, and that’s zoning laws. Have you ever noticed there are few WalMarts in the downtown centers of big cities? Have you ever seen a WalMart without a giant parking lot? Have you ever noticed that new neighborhoods are built with an extreme segregation of commercial and residential property?

    WalMarts exist in their current form (a big box surrounded by an even bigger parking lot) because of the neighborhood model of segregation of residential and commercial, which in turn is based on the car-centricity of American culture. When cities were designed with the person as the unit of size, you got cities like New York, London, Chicago, Hong Kong. Very dense in every sense. Newer cities with the car as the unit of size (Los Angeles, Virginia Beach and almost any American suburb of an older city) are not nearly as densely designed.

    The American dream began to include a place of respite that was away from the hustle and bustle (and minorities and immigrants) of inner city streets. With the car it could be done. Your house was surrounded by nothing but a few other houses, and the 5-minute walk to the store on the next block became the 5-minute drive to the store a mile away.

    I submit that it’s this pattern in American zoning, which we enjoy on the one hand, that leads directly to the existence of bigboxes.

    Bigboxes fall in line with this segregation by putting their stores within driving distance (as opposed to walking distance) of their target (no pun intended). That new scale of convenience distance means they can buy cheaper, less centrally-located land and put a bigger store with more of what people want in it. Not only are bigboxes thinking about serving the customer, though. They are businesses after all. Being able to park your car in front of the bigbox also means the customer can cart more items OUT of the bigbox. Which is why WalMart doesn’t have many “flagship” urban stores in downtown areas (Like Macy’s or The Gap)…the land is very expensive and there’s no parking. While you can easily carry $500 worth of high-fashion clothes to a taxi or bus, you can’t do so with groceries, a grill and a lawnmower.

  • Whats with this “bad customer service” as a reason not to shop in Charlottesville? Such a generalization! I have encountered all kinds, good,bad, indifferent. But I have to say that the good has overwhelmingly outweighed the bad. And it has been in all types of businesses, from big chains to small, locally-owned shops. And what should we expect from our clerks in stores? Efficient, timely service and a professional manner. A customer should not expect the person serving them to kiss their ass in gratitude that they are giving them their business.
    As for the remark about WalMart, McDonald’s and Food Lion vs Belk,Fellini’s ,Krogers hiring practices-if Cville Eye is aware of a business practicing discriminatory hiring practices on the basis of age, handicap, etc he should report it to the proper authorities.
    Another thing these businesses are capitalistic for-profit concerns . They are not rehab or social services agencies. I know an 86 year old gentleman who works for Kroger and have seen several individuals working there who appear to be developmentally challenged in some way.
    On the other hand,at Food Lion I have had bad service,inept or surly clerks, and so on, things I have not encountered at Kroger, Giant, or Whole Foods. I avoid going there as much as possible for that and other reasons. Certainly their quality and selection is not that of the other stores .

  • Well said, SamanthaSnacks. And Jan, you forgot to say where the people will work. Will they be employed by the local merchants on the downtown mall?
    People who work three jobs do not work 120 hours per week. Many of them do not work a total of 40. They just work part-time for three different employers. They are not oppressed slaves.
    If people are really shopping locally, then there would be a mob at Reid’s on Preston.
    The last I looked people were protesting in front of the Rotunda about wages, not at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart.
    And, yes, there’s a lot of propaganda out there, most of which has been paid for by the unions which watch their members’ employers replace them with electronic check-outs while the few remaining employees get $1/hour wage increase and fewer hours.
    Also, the real bottom line is people need to get an education so they can move off of welfare. Employers are not going to pay people $14/hour to come in the evenings to vacuum when they can buy one of those little robots to do the same thing.

  • Hollowboy said “As for the remark about WalMart, McDonald’s and Food Lion vs Belk,Fellini’s ,Krogers hiring practices-if Cville Eye is aware of a business practicing discriminatory hiring practices on the basis of age, handicap, etc he should report it to the proper authorities.” I’ve got more to do with my time filling out a bunch of forms for the EEOC and running back and forth to some government agency. I’ll just continue putting my money where my mouth is, in those stores where I see the hard-to-get-employment working. And, yes, I’ve seen elderly people working in Kroger’s and I shop there, too.

  • First of all, a 50-store chain based in Richmond does not a “local” business make.

    Sure it does. That’s like saying that your food isn’t organic if it’s from a multinational factory farm. It’s still organic. You just don’t like it for other, perfectly valid reasons.

  • This is an excellent debate. I would add a couple of thoughts that I had after catching up on the discussion. Most of this discussion is focused on employees of the stores that we do or don’t frequent here in Charlottesville. I personally try to shop locally which I define as buying from stores that are owned by someone who lives here in Charlottesville. Generally I believe that smaller stores, local restaurants (vs national chains) have stronger employment practices (check out Bodos) but it is also very important that the owners of the stores live here in Charlottesville. It means that the money I spend at Reid’s, C’ville Market, Bodos, Martin’s Hardware etc is not going to leave the area. Another crucial component, I think, is that our city (which provides a lot of services) relies heavily on taxes from business (especially up the 29 corridor). Often large box stores entice localities to give them tax breaks and other incentives because they can be a draw for folks to come into the town elsewhere. Personally, I don’t see how that helps us out here in Charlottesville. . retail is not really an industry unless the businesses are owned locally. Employment is a tricky game for those of us who don’t believe that people should spend so much money/time buying stuff that they don’t need (which probably contributed a great deal to wal-mart’s existence). . . retail certainly employees a lot of people. There are a number of very interesting documentaries on these issues including a very funny movie that was just here “What would Jesus buy?” which stars a C’ville native and discusses our nations buying habit.

  • Wal-mart has low prices and that is the main concern for 90% of the people and has been since ancient times. Conscience campaigns about where you shop and what you buy are a distraction from the needed changes in regulation, zoning and laws.

  • “Personally, I don’t see how that helps us out here in Charlottesville. . retail is not really an industry unless the businesses are owned locally.” The meaning of this is totally bypassing me. Can you clarify?
    I can go with either definition of local, although I grew up calling Leggett’s a locally owned business because the family was in the region and Miller&Rhoads was thought of with pride as somewhat local because it was headquartered in Richmond. Then, again, we have not found a place for locally-owned franchises. Your point about ownership is well taken. That’s why I made my originial statement concerning the Waltons and the A&N owners. I wouldn’t be surprised if they entertain each other Harvard-trained children on their privately owned islands in the tropics. Seriously, we have no idea where they spend their money. Once I had a firend with five teenage children who owned two restaurants. She bought all of their clothes in New York. She employed locally, paid local business taxes, and local real estate taxes on her home and rental properties. Some of the money under her control was spent locally and some of it was spend elsewhere.
    And, as an aside, I do know a shop-locally fellow in my neighborhood that buys and sells on the internet through Ebay. He calls it recycling.

  • There’s alot of interesting things being discussed here. First of all, I’d like to point out a misconception.

    WalMarts exist in their current form (a big box surrounded by an even bigger parking lot) because of the neighborhood model of segregation of residential and commercial, which in turn is based on the car-centricity of American culture (emphasis mine)

    Samanthasnacks, you may not realize this but the Neighborhood Model is actually a term from the philosophy of New Urbanism, which actually aims to integrate commercial and residential space. Of course, it’s easy to understand your confusion after seeing the term allied to places like the Hollymeade “Town Center” with its massive parking lots and segregated commercial and residential areas.

    Okay, moving on… Anyone remember the News Reels in the 50’s and 60’s that talked about how in the year 2000 that mankind would be freed from our labor by technology and automation? Now the average American works more hours per week than their grandparents did. What happened? The answer is that we traded higher wages for cheaper goods.

    When Henry Ford came up with the idea of using the assembly line to build automobiles he could have just made cars cheap. Surprisingly, part of his success was that he passed those savings onto the workers, and his workers became some of the first people to buy his cars. You see, when you pass the the savings onto the workers then they have more money to buy goods. If you just discount the goods, and reduce the wages then you’re actually making it seem like workers can buy more, when they have less money with which to do so. It’s the big lie of technology that we’ve all bought into sold to us by our own government’s propaganda. The only thing that our current economic model accomplishes is to make the CEO’s more wealthy, while we work more hours for cheap plastic goods.

  • I have never worked as hard as either set of my grandparents did and wouldn’t know how. Also, they had homemade outhouses. Detroit also help deplete the southern farmers of their most able-bodied and productive workers. Economics gets pretty complicated.
    Ford’s workers may have gotten some cheaper cars and Ix’s workers may have been able to buy their own homes but the rest of us had to pay more for their goods so that their workders could pay less. It’s like the NGO’s selling male condoms for 10 cents a piece in third world countries. We pay more for them so that they pay less.
    Question: what locally grown fruit can I buy now to help prevent scurvy?

  • Cviile Eye, keep in mind that these are statistics. My guess is that since you have the free time and income to chat on a Blog that you don’t represent the majority of Americans. For example, I know a woman at UVa who is a laboratory technician has only one child, doesn’t drink or do drugs, and still has to work at a grocery store at night to make enough money just to live in subsidized housing. Keep in mind, this is a person in highly technical field doing scientific experiments. Even she would be considered above our national average. Look at the figures are for the people that are living below the poverty line in the U.S. then see how well you could live in Charlottesville even making 5-10 thousand above that.

    Economics is one of those subjects that isn’t nearly as complicated as people assume it is. In fact, sometimes I think that the so-called experts in the field overcomplicate it as a means of obscuring the obvious truth of the thing. At its root it is just energy dynamics, the same kind that operates in ecology. True, that is also not a simple subject, but it isn’t nearly as mysterious as people claim the economy is.

    Economies are just a means of representing and delivering energy from one place to another. What the actual goods or services are doens’t really matter so much. The question that we never ask, and should, is what purpose our econmy is supposed to serve. We make the terrible assumption that econmies should exist for their own benefit, and so we make political choices based upon market outcomes (instead of visa versa). A market doesn’t care whether you are trading oil or environmental restoration sevices. For that matter, it doesn’t care if you paying people to build affordable housing either. The Blue Ridge Parkway is an excellent example of this. It was build by the CCC as a means of employing people during a depression, and it worked. Not only did it work, but it continues to generate income, even now. We need the kindof vision we had then, before we have a national economic crisis.

  • Raise your hand if you want MusicToday or Crutchfield to close so that local versions of their businesses can prosper.

    I very much want MusicToday to close so that grassroots, local music can prosper. They are the Wal-Mart of the Charlottesville music community; they are engaging in shady business practices, trying to crush all competition, and offering a watered-down product at a higher price.

  • Lonnie, you’re losing me. “A market doesn’t care whether you are trading oil or environmental restoration sevices.” Yes, economic models are economic models. Are you saying it doesn’t matter if I’m able to buy fresh fruit in Charlottesville in January or must rely upon dried fruit I managed to put away in my crawl space last fall?
    “For that matter, it doesn’t care if you paying people to build affordable housing either.” The CCC was a government program. Who’s paying the home builders to build affordable housing and are you saying that nobody should be building any housing that isn’t affordable?
    Maybe your friend is working extra so she can afford a 20% downpayment to buy a house rather than use some government program. How much is the father contributing? If nothing, why not? I don’t really expect for you to answer because I doubt if you are privy to her financial business. So let’s take her out of the conversation.

  • Cville Eye,

    My point is that the market doesn’t care what we are buying and selling, only that we are. That means that as consumers and society at large we need to decide what our priorities and goals are an not let the market decide that for us. For example, if we all decided that that dream of the 50’s of being “freed from our labor” was the goal then we could come close to that (Think France’s four day work week), or if we decided that we wanted to have a society where everyone had healthcare and affordable housing then we could do that, and use the market to achieve it. As is, it controls us rather than visa versa. Too often people use Free Market Economics a cover for corporate subsidy. They do that through hiding the real costs of economic policies to the environment and people.

    This relates to Walmart and shopping locally, because of our misunderstanding of how the system works. Lower income people assume that Walmart is providing jobs and cheaper goods, but under the surface they’re causing poverty. An economy is healthier if you can get the money to go through more people in a given time span, but Walmart takes the money and ships it out of town. A local business may not always have the best wages, or cheapest goods; however the money is likely to change hands more often locally before it leaves and this creates wealth. In practical terms, the owner of Bodos is more likely to go to Ragged Mountain and buy a pair of shoes, and the owner of Ragged Mountain is more likely to make a donation to PACEM.

  • Why would he buy his shoes from Ragged Mountain and not Supershoes? This sounds like a local trickle-down economic theory that I’m not convinced is valid.
    1) I doubt if much of what they’re selling is produced locally, so a large amount of their income is going out of the area to restoc
    2) It’s a good chance that their capital is coming from a non-local lender who may or may not have a local agent
    3) A lot of their overhead expenses may well be going out of the region, such as rent and electricity.
    How much is left, I don’t know.
    I wonder what is the actual percentage of local non-profit funding actually come from local small businesses. I know that the United Way touts their large contributors and they seem to be UVA and GE. They have said that local small business contributions are important but I was shocked at how small a percentage of their annual collections were attributed to small business. Maybe its’ changed in recent years.

  • In the case of Mark, the owner of Ragged Mountain, his contributions to the local economy aren’t hypothetical. He’s got a long record of donating time and money to the local community. Also, regardless of where the shoes themselves are made, its one of those businesses where people are really purchasing the service, not the shoes. I wouldn’t go to Super Shoes if I’d just had a knee injury and wanted shoes that’d work better for me.

    Also, the economic theory I discuss is the polar opposite of Trickly Down Economics. Reagan thought that by giving more money to the wealthy that it would trickle down to the middle class and the poor. The problem with that is that rich people just put the money in the bank or invest it. If I give a homeless guy twenty dollars then I know he’s going to spend it. Therefore, it makes alot more sense to invest money in the poor and middle class because they’ll be vastly more likely to spend it and thus create more wealth for everyone.

    As I said though, the beauty is you can trade almost anything and it still works. It may not be perfect, but the carbon trading system demonstrates that you can even base an economic system off of reducing pollution. Suddenly, planting a tree is given a value that can be traded to someone else. This isn’t just theory either, it’s happening. Best of all, trading these carbon credits is growing into a huge business worth lots of money.

    Incidentally, at one time I used to joke that I was the trickle down theory because I was a public relations photographer contracted by the Rupublican Party to shoot their events. That was a rather surreal time in my life. After all, otherwise I could have never imagined myself going to the RNC Gala. I’ve got some great stories from those days…

  • So, since the merchants in Albemarle and Charlottesville sponsor nothing in Goochland County and spend no money there and pay no taxes there, how does the buy local model apply to those Goochland County residents? Are they free to buy shoes anywhere?

  • “The problem with that is that rich people just put the money in the bank or invest it. If I give a homeless guy twenty dollars then I know he’s going to spend it. Therefore, it makes alot more sense to invest money in the poor and middle class because they’ll be vastly more likely to spend it and thus create more wealth for everyone.”

    So basically you’re saying that consumption does more to create wealth than investment? You can’t have one without the other, so it’s not really an either-or choice that can be made. But it’s far less clear than you make it sound whether that twenty bucks invested by a rich guy (which is money available for your or my mortgage, school loan, or business loan) is less important for growing “wealth for everyone” than twenty bucks spent by a homeless guy.

  • And Jan, you forgot to say where the people will work. Where did they work before WalMart came to town???

    Most of which has been paid for by the unions which watch their members’ employers replace them with electronic check-outs while the few remaining employees get $1/hour wage increase and fewer hours.

    Oh please. Where did you get that? Check out all the electronic check outs at FoodLion compared to Giant and Kroger. It’s called COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. Do you think that when an electronic check out is put in a store the union just runs to the corner and cries about it while 10 people lose their jobs? Uh NO. But the 10 non unionized FoodLion employes DO lose their jobs-and then have to go on the dole to feed their families. Come ON. Are you really argung with me that non unionized stores are better for the community and the local economy than unionized stores???

    This relates to Walmart and shopping locally, because of our misunderstanding of how the system works. Lower income people assume that Walmart is providing jobs and cheaper goods, but under the surface they’re causing poverty. An economy is healthier if you can get the money to go through more people in a given time span, but Walmart takes the money and ships it out of town. A local business may not always have the best wages, or cheapest goods; however the money is likely to change hands more often locally before it leaves and this creates wealth. In practical terms, the owner of Bodos is more likely to go to Ragged Mountain and buy a pair of shoes, and the owner of Ragged Mountain is more likely to make a donation to PACEM.

    You’re right Lonnie. You said it better than I. I’m sure not an economist.

  • Ragged Mountain and Bodos must be spreading around a lot of money. And where does the money go after it gets to PACEM? Towards the employment of the homeless? Where did they work before Wal-mart came to town. Obviously not at Ragged Mountain or Bodos. That’s why when Wal-Mart came to town the County said “More jobs coming! More jobs coming!” I don’t think most people are interested in following your model of “Let us work and you can have our scraps through the homeless program.”

  • If, say, there are 3 locally-owned donut shops in a town, then SuperDonuts opens its 1000th store here with an unlimited supply of every donut the local 3 offer and more, plus it’s conveniently located with lotsa parking, plus it’s open more hours than the other 3, plus it’s cheaper than other 3, plus it pays its employees more than the local 3…then the local 3 are going to lose.

    You can pry my Spudnuts from my cold, dead hands.

  • I’m sure Ragged Mountain and Bodos are spreading a heck of alot more money around the commnity than WalMart and pay a decent wage. Bodos was paying $8.00 an hour long before the living wage initiative started here years ago.

  • The issue isn’t Ragged Mountain or Bodo’s which are two fine locally owned businesses. In addition to providing for the owners, they contribute in other ways to this community. Other businesses which are not owned by local residents do also and have their place.

  • I think that occasionally during this thread the idea of a “the economy” and the local economy are being interchanged. A number of comments have indicated that our our economy (national and local) is in a large part based upon consumer spending. To me this seems like a very confusing and misleading representation. Primarily I feel this way because when we take a look at our own community and individuals I don’t believe that consumer spending leads to prosperity. Nothing can replace employment with regards to personal wealth (until you have enough money and knowledge to invest it). However, I would argue as many have that stores like Wal-Mart have a net-negative effect on employment. They are large employers but they slowly drive a large number of small businesses out. Charlottesville has done much better then other location. In upstate New York (where I have family) there is not a small grocer within 1 hour of the wal-mart. The creation of the store in one town (small towns) closed all of the small stores in surrounding towns. Now folks not only have to drive more to buy food but they also (theoretically) have to drive further to work. Would someone like to argue that working at Wal-mart is more satisfactory then working at a small store run by a family who works alongside?

  • So basically you’re saying that consumption does more to create wealth than investment? You can’t have one without the other, so it’s not really an either-or choice that can be made. But it’s far less clear than you make it sound whether that twenty bucks invested by a rich guy (which is money available for your or my mortgage, school loan, or business loan) is less important for growing “wealth for everyone” than twenty bucks spent by a homeless guy.

    Generally, the rich owner of a corporation is neither spending nor investing in local Charlottesville Businesses (unless he happens to live here). Just because a rich guy drops twenty dollars in the stock market into a mutual fund doesn’t make it easier for you to get a better loan for your home or business. Generally, Rich people invest money in other Rich people’s ideas. They also tend to put it into long term investments which means that the money isn’t out there moving around and generating wealth in the same way the $20.00 did that I gave the homeless guy.

    Nalle is right that employment is better than consumer spending, but it isn’t an either or situation. With a local business you get both. It’s also probably true that what works for the economy isn’t always so great for the individual. For example, spending lots of money generally won’t make you wealthy. Plus it’d probably be a better investment to help the homeless guy by putting $20.00 in a program to provide housing than if he spent it on whatever.

  • I’m sorry to see them go, but a lot of their stuff is pure crap. I bought a pair of jeans there last year which went through the wash maybe 6 times before the seam along the butt just opened right up when I pulled them out of the dryer.

    Then there was the flashlight I bought at the same time for $2 which literally did not work at all. Brand new, I put in 2 batteries and the thing would not turn on. It was a completely useless object from the minute it rolled off the assembly line.

    Oh, there was the folding pocket knife that broke into it’s various pieces about a week after I bought it. Also I recall a hooded long sleeve camo T-shirt that I bought for early season deer hunting 2 years ago. That lasted about 2 trips through the washing machine before the dye almost completely washed out of it (the actual stitching held up, though).

    I’ve got stuff from A&N that did last. I have some sweat shirts I bought about 5 years ago that have held up. But every time you walk in there and buy something it’s a total crap shoot as to whether it will still be a useful object a month later. Which is why I stopped shopping at A&N at all. Frankly, I’m not surprised that they are going under. The modern consumer standard for even cheap clothing is higher than what A&N provides.

  • Taken from the Uunited Way’s local website at http://www.unitedwaytja.org/SantaFund.shtml in regards to contributors to the Santa Fund:
    “The following local retailers have provided excellent support for the program:

    A&N Stores (Charlottesville)
    Davis Department Store (Dillwyn)
    Family Dollar Store (Louisa)
    Roses Stores (Charlottesville and Farmville)
    Goody’s Family Clothing (Charlottesville)
    Kmart (Charlottesville, Waynesboro and Madison Heights)
    Belk (Charlottesville)
    TJ Maxx (Charlottesville)”
    Most are part of some chain. I do not know if the contribution is a corporate contribution or comes from individual employees’ pockets. I don’t know what is the relationship of the local store to the owner and I don’t care enough to spend time finding out. Perhaps the list is significan for not only seeing who’s on it but also who’s not. I’m not.
    As for the $20 slipped to the homeless guy, he’s going to have to put that money in Ackerman’s bank to keep until he has enough to pay for lodging for one night. How does the economic impact of that $20 compare to that of the non-local contributors to the JPJ Arena and the football stadium? I dare say those two venues have contributed far more to the local economy. As I said before, there’s room for both in this community.
    Nalle, I seen Reid’s and Estes’ and P&J, etc. survive where family-owned corner groceries have not. I’ve seen Colonial Stores, A&P and Safeway supplant the grocery stores and I’m not surprised to see Super Wal-Mart groceries supplant super markets. I’m sure those stores of which you speak most likely supplanted some other type of merchandising 40 or 50 years ago. In fact, if they were operating then, maybe they just decided it was a good time to retire since their children were not interested in continuing the buisness and they knew that their long-term customers would be taken care of. Perhpas they met with employment arm of the Wal-Mart and arranged for their employees to be given extra consideration for future employment. We have no idea. I’m just speculating, as we must without concrete information, as to why those long-time customers seemingly abandoned their former haunts for the shiny new digs. Reid’s seems to be thriving enough to be requesting permission from the City to actually expand the foot print of its current location.

  • HollowBoy –

    Yep, Ben Franklin was a staple of my youth too. I loved going to Sears (Stacey Hall) with my parents on a Saturday, and then getting to hit the Ben Franklin (Balsa Airplanes) afterwards. We often followed with a trip to Motor Specialties (NAPA – now Jarman’s), where a C’ville Bottled Jefferson Grape Soda could be had from the old-style chest vending machine.

    What is ironic to me is that Ben Franklin is the Corporate precursor/parent of Wal-Fart. Sam Walton started out as a Ben Franklin franchisee – and when they didn’t bite on all his ideas, he went around them.

    I am very sad about A&N – I don’t care about the “Customer Service” – I loved the one on the downtown mall, and shopped there for years. I have felt blessed to buy knit shirts (like an Izod or Polo) *without* the stupid label/logo, and with decent materials at a downright cheap price for years. Ditto Levi’s. I don’t know where I’ll go.

    I already buy my running shoes at Ragged Mountain, and have for years. They are local too, and the Lorenzoni’s are heavily involved in supporting the local running scene, so I’ll buy from them even if they are more expensive…I’m paying for those ‘externalities’.

  • Man, all of this waxing philosophical about local versus national chains and economics and charity and so forth totally misses the point.

    A&N went out of business because they stopped selling mostly good stuff and started selling complete crap that often fell apart right after you left the store. When your products fall apart like that, people (like me) stop buying them. Then you go out of business. There’s nothing more complicated about the demise of A&N than that.

  • Mr. Landers, you’ve got that right. I’ve limitied my purchases there around fifteen years ago to winter socks, gloves and headgear.

  • Also, the customer service factor has to be considered. I just never got that feel when I went in there. Still, sad story.

  • Yeah, as i said, A&N was hardly a model Charlottesville Business. I’m a big believer that you can make it as a local business in Charlottesville but there are some important rules that must be followed:

    1) Good Service – It’s why most of us shop locally. As David Wilcox would say it’s because “they know how deep the frost goes here”.

    2) Offer something unique and of good quality – if not through the product than the service. If there are ten other donut shops already then you better have some pretty incredible donuts.

    3) Cultivate a connection to the larger community.

    4) Have consistent and reasonable hours (I can’t tell you how many great restaurants I’ve seen close just because no one could figure out when they were actually open…)

    5) Location – If a three other stores just failed in a location in the span of a year then consider elsewhere (Although Milan moved into a Location of Death but still made it work somehow, but i think they are an exception).

    6) Finance – Be prepared not to make any money the first couple years. Factor that into your business plan. Too many people start without adequate funding assuming they’ll make up the difference. You won’t.

    Do these things in Charlottesville, and you can even take on Walmart with no problem.

  • I always used to shop for athletic shoes at A&N when they were downtown and in Barracks Rd. I can’t afford Ragged Mt. prices, and A&N had namebrand discontinued lines cheap. You could also find reasonable sportswear there. But, when they moved, they both seemed to cut back on the amt of quality stuff, and they weren’t so conveniently located. Maybe they were on the downhill slide then.

    As far as Walmart et al vs local: first, Walmart pays people so little they have to go on public assistance for foodstamps, childcare, and healthcare. So, our tax dollars are really a subsidy to Walmart. And, plenty of locally-owned businesses hire the folks you refer to, Cville Eye. Including Fellini’s. In fact, local businesses frequently give people who are marginal (ie, recovering alcoholics) not just a job, but also take them under their wing and help them get on their feet. I don’t think Walmart does that.

    However, I’d include both local/regional chains and franchises as local businesses–because they are locally/regionally owned and run. And the local owners often give their employees the same chances that small local business do. Franchises are a different business model than a multi-nat chain that retains control of the local store. It’s not realistic to expect only small businesses in our modern economy–economy of scale can be beneficial to consumers, and not harmful to communities, if they behave responsibly.

  • In the not so distant future, the whole world will have just one company-Walmart & Sams Club. It will be the Walmart Bank, Doctor & Dentist-Grocery Store and everything in between….JC

  • “Walmart et. al. simply must be regulated, unless you want a future like Idiocracy, the movie.”

    But Walmart is already regulated. Are you saying you want price controls or other mandates meant to subsidize A&N? Do you support the use of government authority to help one family, especially when it comes at the expense of all the shoppers in town? If you prefer regional chains to national ones, then you should shop at them, or send them donations through the mail. But please don’t ask other people to pay for your own preferences.

  • I think it’s a bad idea to generalize local=good/underdog and national=bad. I have worked for locally-owned businesses whose owners were weak, lazy, greedy people who took advantage of their employees and didn’t care about the community. What’s important is a company’s soul, not its size.

    I agree with the idea of sharing the wealth with your employees instead of hoarding it among the very few. Perhaps the rich guy/homeless guy metaphor wasn’t clear enough. To not use a metaphor, I think of the example of Ben and Jerry’s company policy of the highest paid employee not making more than a certain percentage above the lowest paid one. When a company has a policy like that, we’re not just talking about running down to the corner for a beer and a meal, (like a homeless person would do with $20). We’re talking employees being able to invest in the same way the board members can: in a home, in land, in investments, in education for themselves and their children.

  • I’m somewhat disturbed at A&N store right now. They have 60% off signs in all the windows. But the catch is the 60% off is subtracted from the white price tag, not subtracted from their normal everyday price contained on the orange price tag. Had money really been an issue I would have made my family put everything they had selected back. I guess it was my fault for not asking about the 60% off policy. I just assumed it was 60% off their normal everyday price on the orange tags. My bad!

  • Samantha Snacks, I do indeed think your metaphor is a better one. Keep in mind though,I was originally responding to someone’s allegation that I believed in trickle down economics. The other point I wanted to make is that the money contributed to the economy doesn’t stop just with the employment itself. Think of all the goods and services that all the Ben And Jerry employees must be buying becuase of their business model. In your example that means jobs for teachers, contracters, surveyors, urban planners and financial advisors. That means that not only is there more money for the employees but more for the entire community. As someone else pointed out, Bodo’s is another local example of this business model.

    You’re also right about not all small business owners being necessarily great people. I’ve certainly worked for my share, especially when I was a photographer…

  • Jack Landers, you;re right, A&N had a lot of crapola, as well as some OK stuff. The place was not Saks and the staff were not maitre d’s, but overall I liked it better than Walmart, and a little better than K-mart, since I could walk there & it was smaller. Whatever, local merchants indeed can be quite nasty, or not.

    Idiocracy, I might as well respond to “If you prefer regional chains to national ones, then you should shop at them” to which I call complete BS. I don’t care where people shop. I want workers to have rights. And I wouldn’t mind some better zoning. Example: national health care, which many employers large & small would welcome. Example: zoning that puts the parking lots in back. Example: regulations for better food and plastic toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is down to about 3 inspectors for the whole country. Example: antitrust enforcement, no incentives for businesses to relocate, higher corporate taxes and lower personal taxes, whatever. It’s all policy, it’s all debatable. I don’t give a flying rat’s behind where people shop, that’s just egotism.

    I have my own preferences, but I’m not deluded into thinking it is saving the world. Policy is policy, fashion is fashion. Look at all this greenwashing cr*p about carbon offsets. What malarkey. Turn off the heat in your bedroom if you want to use less energy. Then vote for politicians who will take away the oil company’s government fricking subsidies.

  • JC Clark, if we ever get to a time when Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club control everything (see the post above), I’ll bet you that Wal-Mart’s friendly cost-cutting, yellow, smiley face logo will morph into this destructive $$$ dollar-sign logo.

    If Wal-Mart gets full control, you wait and see – the prices will rise!

    That will be a dark day for everyone. Bet on it!

  • Anyone remember the old late-night movie on WVIR, hosted by Harold Wright himself, called “Slime Theatre”? A&N and another long-gone local business, Lupo’s, were among the sponsors. The locally-produced spots for A&N were hilarious. I remember one in particular being sung to the tune of the Kinks’ “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”…

  • the Kinks’ “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”…

    That would be Lou Reed.

  • Yes, there apparently is not too much dough in there. To add, and of course with the theme song “I Am The Slime” being performed by the late, great, the one-and-only Frank Zappa.

  • I have another complaint about superlarge businesses getting gov’t subsidies. Countrywide, the nations largest mortgage blahblah, which was a whisker away from bankruptcy before Bank of America last week, actually sells CD’s to savers, it is a bank. They were paying a very high rate because of the looming bankruptcy, about double the normal rate. The CD’s are federally insured up to $100,000. That is a serious subsidy. Federally guaranteed loans *to* the hellhole of the mortgage crisis.

  • This article from today’s New York Times is only tangentially related to this thread, but even a tangent touches the circle at one point. The phenomenon described in this article (in a nutshell, what happens when blue-collar jobs disappear from a community that has depended on them for years, leaving Wal-Mart and McDonald’s as the only major employers in an area) is, IMHO, the root of most of the social problems people complain about today. It’s what happens when you fetishize and worship “the market.”

  • I am missing the connection between the historically recurring economic migration and the retaillers like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s except that now the displaced workers will see a friendly face whereever they go and may be able to find temporary employment after they get there while they’re trying to get on their feet again.

  • This is an interesting discussion.

    On the one hand, I like the idea of shopping locally, and try to practice that in my daily life. On the other hand, there’s a certain elitism to the shop local mantra, since shopping local is expensive and isn’t practical for everybody. Yet, if you really work at shopping at only local stores, you end up buying fewer things over all because there is less merchandise available. I discovered this when I spent a month buying all our food at local shops.

    I see our economy on a collision course with disaster. I’m no economist, but it seems that consumer spending is huge in propping up our economy, and consumer debt is a serious problem. People spending outside their means is what keeps our economy going, and that can’t be good. Not to mention the depressing mountains of stuff with which people fill their houses. This has lead to a booming business in helping people organize and manage their possessions. So we buy and buy, and then fret about clutter, overload our landfills with last year’s Wal-mart junk and get deeper into debt buying more junk to replace the stuff we just purged and organized instead of saving and the president tells us to shop to help our country in a time of crisis. It seems like an intractable problem.

  • We’re overeating materially Patience, and it’s because we’re depressed about the shameful actions of our government and our feelings of powerlessness.

  • Ever since we became a charge card economy, it’s true. I don’t see anything changing since a huge percentage of the shoppers have grown up with excessive credit.

  • As quietly as it is kept, China refused to allow the CitiCorps to came in and distribute their charge cards about two years. China has been under verbal attack ever since.

  • pardon me, but since when has crutchfield not been a local store? I believe Bill Crutchfield lives in Charlottesville and started his business here about 25 years ago?

  • ERC, SamanthaSnacks wrote

    None of us wants our own locally-based national businesses to fail. Raise your hand if you want MusicToday or Crutchfield to close so that local versions of their businesses can prosper.

    Where “local” seems to mean a “local” stereo/TV store somewhere else, like say in Meadowville, Indiana, that has to compete with Crutchfield. If such places still exist.
    Then anonymous disagreed, writing

    I very much want MusicToday to close so that grassroots, local music can prosper. They are the Wal-Mart of the Charlottesville music community; they are engaging in shady business practices, trying to crush all competition, and offering a watered-down product at a higher price.

    Noone I know thinks Crutchfield is shady. They are big, but I get the impression competing with a giant turd joint like BestBuy is tough. The Crutch is quality, with a very open approach to customer service. I have been on internet boards where posters constantly use Crutch documents as the reference when discussing products, rather than the manufacturer’s. Turdish BestBuy has this shiny image though, and I hear people right here in Cville talk about going there first. I fear our innate drone-like characteristics lead us to patronize the newest glistening water hole in the field with all the big lions.

    Then the wheels turn and Walmart stagnates, people start going to Target or ordering from Amazon. Soon enough Walmart will seem as shabby as K-Mart and not an especially good deal, compared to some new internet thing where you order direct online from a North Korean prison labor camp.

    Me I just shop at K-Mart when I need that junk. It’s in the city limits and off the merry-go-round man. Pretty soon though it will be next door to a Whole Foods and I will have to reconsider its cool factor ;)

  • Although the total population figures do not change drasticaly from year to year, the population in central Virginia is in flux. Temporary residents will always gravitate for the most part to stores they know about. Since a lot of locally owned businesses have relatively small advertising budgets, if any, they will always be at a disadvantage in attracting these shoppers. In order for compliations of local businesses to be the most effective, they will have to be up-to-date and out there.

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