Tuesday, April 11, 2006

News From the Web

Another approach to preserving character and uniqueness:

NANTUCKET, Mass. - Nantucket joined several other historic tourist towns across the country in approving a measure that would ban chain stores from the island's downtown, a move endorsed by more than 480 residents at a town meeting.

The rule would bar any new chains with more than 14 outlets that have standardized menus, trademarks, uniforms or other homogeneous decor from opening downtown. The ban would not affect gas stations, grocery stores, banks and other service providers.

"I'm extremely gratified," said independent book seller Wendy Hudson, who proposed the ban. "I guess it feels validating ... people saw the balance and need to protect our character rather than this amendment just being another new regulation."

The measure passed by a unanimous voice vote Tuesday night, but still needs to be approved by the state Attorney General's office.

Other historic tourist towns have passed similar measures, including Bristol, R.I.; Ogunquit, Maine; and Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif. The driving motive for the bans is to preserve a quaint, small town atmosphere.

Last year, clothier Ralph Lauren paid $6.5 million for a building on Nantucket's Main Street and hung his trademark polo sign outside an upscale boutique. The proposed ban would not affect that store.

Other chains have tried the Nantucket market and closed after a few years, including Crabtree & Evelyn and Talbots. The offseason — when the island's population shrinks to 10,000 from 50,000 in August — is hard for many businesses.

[From YAHOO! News, 4/6/06]

The Sarasota City Manager's Blog currently has a discussion concerning this issue, he asks:

Can local independents generate the foot traffic critical to retailers? Would national retailers take a chance on a center anchored by unknown (to them) independents? Don't we want those nationals that are so popular other places - aren't they popular for a reason? What do you think?

Maybe the question is whether have we gone so far with development that we can no longer be unique? Have we crossed over to the chain side? Why have we given our tax dollars and public property to support the chain restaurants at the expense of our local, unique restaurants?

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