Brookline’s commercial areas are made up of 3 basic groups, national chains, franchise and dealer owned operations, and independent businesses. Many affectionately refer to Independent, local stores as “mom and pops”.
Warrant article 29, which will be considered by Town Meeting in May, celebrates the contributions, resiliency, and heart of our local independent businesses. It’s also about encouraging the Town of Brookline to spend more of your hard-earned tax money locally, so your money can stay local.
The Brookline Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB), has cried “no fair” to this proposed resolution.
Warrant Article 29 is fair, to Brookline.
There is nothing wrong in principal with the Chamber and EDAB leaning toward supporting all businesses equally. My business has been a member of the Chamber for many years and I currently sit on its Board of Directors. I support the contributions our Chamber has made to our community. But sometimes equal doesn’t mean fair.
Nationally owned and publically held companies do not spend a large portion of their expenses and profits locally. It makes sense.
If as a Brookline resident, you owned let’s say a business with 25 locations outside of Massachusetts, would you spend your hard earned profits in Brookline where you live or outside of Massachusetts where you don’t? Would you dedicate more or less passion toward local non-profits where you live or those around your company’s other locations where you hardly ever visit?
Brookline’s economy depends on national chains and franchise stores. My iPhone was purchase at the AT&T store in Coolidge Corner. But while AT&T has a store on Beacon Street, it is not a local company. But fear not those who claim by not being considered local in Article 29; they are not being treated fairly. AT&T is doing very well thank you and they have the resources to successfully solicit our town’s business.
Brookline is also blessed to have some dedicated local franchise and dealer owners. Elias Audy of Elias Mobil and locally independent Cypress Automart, has been celebrated more than once in this publication. Elias has done so many things for so many causes and people, including me; it’s impossible to list them all. Hsiu-Lan Chang owns a Fast Frame franchise in Washington Square. She has supported the Brookline Teen Center since it was a twinkle in Paul Epstein’s eye. She is also a dedicated board member of the BTC and has served on many local boards and committees over the years. Hsiu-Lan has not been celebrated enough by this publication but I pledge to change that.
But the Fast Frame corporation has locations in 39 states plus Japan, Brazil, Australia and the Bahamas. Exxon Mobil is well, Exxon Mobil. Those corporate entities have resources, which in theory at least support their franchise owners. While the existence of corporate stores and franchise operations are essential to the makeup of Brookline's commercial areas, it is an undeniable fact that more of our money stays local when it's spent at local independent businesses and a resolution supporting more local spending and a celebration of our mom and pops is in order.
Local independents are everyday people who against the advice of their family and friends, and at the risk of losing their home, credit rating and self esteem; put up their own shingle. They spend more time and money than they can probably afford in many cases on more local causes than they can even count. They can’t afford a team of lawyers, marketing geniuses, and corporate execs to represent their interests. They deserve our support and admiration.
Local independents are also smart. In barely 2 years of existence, Brookline Local First figured out the Town of Brookline's need to spend more of our tax dollars locally and submitted Article 29 to advance that cause. To our knowledge, this is something the Brookline Chamber of Commerce has not done in its many years of existence. BLF's Warrant Article 29 includes language supporting a "Brookline Local Economy Week". After listening to the submitters of Article 29 make their case, the Economic Development Advisory Board submitted a memorandum to the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Board, which included a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen that they declare an annual "Brookline Economy Week", leaving out the word "local". EDAB could learn one major rule of thumb from our Brookline local independent businesses, it's always important to be original.
Our local entrepreneurs aren't looking for a year. Can we give them just 1 week? Are we really going to ask our "mom and pops" to share that week with Sprint, Bank of America and the Gap in the interest of equality?
So be fair to Brookline, support our local independent entrepreneurial neighbors, find the Town Meeting members in the precinct where you live and urge them to vote “Yes" to Warrant Article 29.
R. Harvey Bravman, Publisher