Silent majority

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 18, 2002


DEAR EDITOR: I read the recent letter concerning Super Wal-Marts and how mom-and-pop businesses survive around them, plus the huge stores seem to draw an abundance of business.

These small towns the writer speaks of generally have no other stores around for 30 miles. LaPlace is not that far from more metro populated areas. St. John does not have the population needed to support a Super Wal-Mart and would not draw enough from surrounding areas such as Boutte, Gonzales and Hammond or Kenner, which have Super-sized stores.

Notably, Wal-Marts are not just grocery stores. As they have been bringing in more and more non-American-made merchandise, some which infringes on the sales ability of the local mom-and-pop stores and local crafsmen to compete and eke out a living, while putting those in foreign countries to work making their manufactured goods.

The American flags tagged “made in China,” is a sore spot of notice to American-made, American-proud. Not at all what Jim Walton, the original founder, had in mind for his stores. I would not be at all surprised to learn the Super Wal-Marts had now gone into selling antiques which would put a huge dent in Hammond’s antique row of shops. When we had a local crafts store right across the road, our local Wal-Mart suddenly expanded its crafts department goods. When local persons made Cajun gift baskets, don’t you know Cajun gift baskets became Wal-Mart fare?

When they brought in rosaries to their jewelry department, 35 inches long, no less, I had to wonder how long these overly cumbersome items would sit there with their bargain price? There was a flood of wood items, notably normally made by local craftsmen, a good portion of which unfinished were, upon a good look, uneven, glued and not with screws – very cheaply made.

When the local craft store closed down, the Wal-Mart craft section shrank. Do the mom-and-pop stores compete with area discount department stores, as well as local artisans, compete with them? In a word, yes, to some degree, a large portion of them do, as the Wal-Marts and Kmarts buying huge bulk discounts on their wholesale merchandise, sell cheap and still earn huge profits.

What’s keeping major businesses out of St. John Parish? Permits, or the high cost of land along the Belle Terre and new Highway 51 strips? Maybe both, but one thing is certainly a deterrent. They will not put out the huge expense to move into and build huge facilities where the population is not buying locally.

Are we a good location between New Orleans and Baton Rouge? Yes, of course, and tourists shop here and enjoy our quaint mom-and-pop stores, the laid-back manner of our citizens and the warm personalized service they do not receive in big, metropolitan areas. They love the andouille, swamp tours, abundant wildlife, area fishing, plantations and savor the local dishes.

St. John the Baptist has tons of creative and talented residents whose skills are not being fully utilized in the tourist draw. Sales tax dollars are what pays for improvements and services for area citizens, in addition to property mill taxes. If you spend your dollars for goods ouside the parish, you help improve services to that locale’s citizens, while delaying your own improvements.

What businesses we need are ones that carry things not currently available instead of duplicating what already is here, which only waters down the market and too many of the same type businesses can come to put each other out of business, none earning what they need to stay open and profitable.

First rule of business: Find a need and fill it!