Mega merchants strive to be everything to everybody by addressing every possible want or need of the buying public. This approach works for a broad spectrum of Americans who flock to big box stores to load up on what TV advertisers tell them they need to be happy. Lured by low prices, Americans are eager to part with their hard-earned paychecks to load up on cheaply made products and lots of them. The more they can buy for their dollars the happier they are.
While there is certainly a place in our culture for merchants who can maximize our spending power, there is also a place for those for whom less is more.
Sandusky is home to a number of business people who have sought and found niches, filled them and are thriving.
Erik Anderson of Erik's Clothing for Men on Water Street is one example. His shop is not large. There are no blue-light specials. You can't buy a new shirt, a flashlight and a box of Tums in one stop. What you can buy is quality workmanship, classic clothing and personal attention. His approach harkens back to a day when the customer was important and attention to detail was the rule rather than the exception.
Wendy Kromer Confections, City Bakery, the Occasional Cookie and Tre Sorrelle Cioccolato have all found their niches with impressive results.
European Yummies, and a host of new locally owned restaurants slated to open soon in Sandusky will up the pleasure quotient of living or vacationing here.
Shooz, with its daring and colorful styles, beckons to urban shoe lovers.
Benny B's Barbershop is thriving in a downtown location that serves as both shop and home to the young barber. Like longtime Sandusky hair magician, Kevin Smith, he is realizing his potential and gathering a throng of loyal customers and friends. Proprietor Ben Byington was the recipient of a Funcoast Readers Choice award in his first year of business.
In a city which has three major home improvement stores, a pair of entrepreneurs have acted on instincts that tell them small and personal is sometimes better and have opened Sandusky Hardware.
All of these business people have followed their dreams, taken chances and are working hard to make those dreams come true. The American middle class was built, in part, by small merchants offering good service at reasonable (not blue-light special) prices. If we want a middle class again, we need to remember how it was built the first time. We can help by buying locally when we shop.