Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Spirit Of Manhattan

A few weeks ago I spent a few days trolling through the streets of Manhattan, New York. It was my first experience in the big city, and I caught most of the tourist traps, Rockefeller Plaza, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, United Nations, Times Square, etc.
As I traveled through the city, (especially areas like Chelsea, Little Italy, China Town, etc.) I felt a certain energy about the city that I couldn’t really put my finger on—an energy I don’t feel out in the St. Louis suburbs.
On one of our tours, one sentence from the tour operator cleared it up for me. She said: “Wal-Mart couldn’t survive in these communities. We’ve been shopping at these small businesses for generations. They’ve built our communities, and they have been here for generations. We’d never turn our backs on them.”
That was it. The sense of community that exists in the area is inspiring. With all the talk about outsourcing and big, box retail giants kicking aside small businesses, New York City was refreshing. These businesses have been in the community for generations, serving generations. In fact, many of these firms were built by first generation immigrants, some of them couldn't even speak the language when they started. When they first tasted freedom, they latched onto the American dream of owning your own business and controlling your own destiny.
It’s a great small business success story. Over the years, these businesses get to know their clientele and a life-long bond builds.
My wife and I had pizza one night at a tiny pizza place in Little Italy, a business that has been in New York City for close to 100 years. It's inspiring to see these small businesses continue to thrive year after year. New York wouldn't be New York without them.

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