Grand Rapids Bringing in Big Business: Good for the City or Detrimental?
For the past couple of months, rumors have been flying about the possibility of certain companies setting up shop in the Grand Rapids area. The stores that are being talked about at the moment are, H&M, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes. It is up in the air whether these stores are still coming to Grand Rapids, although this Mlive article says H&M has confirmed its location in Woodland Mall.
The question that has recently begun circulating is whether or not the move of these retail and food industries is good for the city. Grand Rapids is growing, and in many different ways. The new downtown farmer's market was recently finished and has opened it's outdoor market for the summer. The area of Grand Rapids called Eastown is continually growing and expanding, introducing a wide variety of shops and restaurants. All of these, and many more, innovations coming to Grand Rapids show what this city is all about, and big business isn't one of them.
While Grand Rapids is just like any other city that has its fill of big businesses, they're not what makes Grand Rapids the city it is. Grand Rapids is a city made up of a community filled with creative and innovative people who want to make a difference. This is shown through the myriad of small businesses, outreach programs, and community events, like ArtPrize, that the city is so well known for. From what I've seen in the four years that I have lived here, it is a city that thrives off of giving back to the community and building itself up from the roots.
I'm not one of those people that hates big business or thinks it's the devil, but I am one of those people that is wary of them. One of the reasons I've wanted to stay in Grand Rapids is because I love the eclectic and innovative atmosphere of places like Eastown or Heartside. Bringing in new businesses isn't necessarily going to change that, but it could. While reading the comments on an article I read about the recent possibility of a Whole Foods and Trader Joes, one in particular stood out to me. The commenter mentioned how having these companies come will only hurt local farmers which will then in turn hurt the small businesses that support them. Grand Rapids, in my opinion, is known for the small local restaurants and stores that it offers. If these places go out of business, then what will be special about Grand Rapids?
I don't know anything about economics or how businesses are run, so I have no idea if this is true, but it does seem like a possibility. If people have a place like Trader Joes or Whole Foods, will they keep going to places like the new downtown market or the local grocery stores? Most likely, Trader Joes and Whole Foods will be cheaper than these places, and this will probably appeal to most people; we like cheap. This also brings up the question of H&M. It's well known for its fashion forward and well priced clothing, but anytime clothing is well-priced, you have to ask yourself, why is it well priced? If we really think about it, most of the time, the reason something is well priced or cheap is because it was made in a third world country in a factory with horrible working conditions.
Now, I have nothing against the three stores that I've mentioned in this article. I've shopped at H&M before, one of my favorite dresses came from there, and my family shops at Trader Joes all the time and I'm not going to stop shopping there, unless I find out about a business practice that I'm against that makes me stop. However, I don't want to see what we have here, in Grand Rapids, change and if that means not having these stores, I'm fine with that. I also believe that this is a personal issue. We all need to be more wary when we're shopping, and actually think about where we're shopping and why. If Grand Rapids already has local grocery stores with organic and fresh food, why do we need a Trader Joes and a Whole Foods store?
We also need to think before we buy. Oftentimes, we buy clothes without really thinking about whether we actually need it. I'm guilty of this a lot, especially when it comes to sales or clearance. I'm a huge bargain shopper; I like getting things cheap. However, this can just add to a vicious cycle. We think it's okay to buy something because it's cheap, but we don't think about where it came from or how it was made, or if we even need it. Maybe if we did start buying the more expensive things that we know were made locally, and are actually going to the people who made it, we would become more aware of the effect our money and buying choices have and would be less inclined to buy something we don't need. In the end, we're the ones that are always demanding things to be cheap, instead of demanding for things to be a good quality.
This is an issue that I am only recently aware of thanks to having a sister who is very conscientious about these kinds of things. So, I'm curious what other people think about this subject. Are you excited for the new stores or are you against them?