Yes- I should have done this sooner. Better late than never~
This is a rebuttal to the editorial in the Washburn Leader-News newspaper in July. ( I said it was overdue!) and gives random thoughts section by section.
(the True to Washburn editorial is at the bottom of this post in its entirety. )
“True to Washburn” – Not so much
As with any community the world over, they begin and then they change. Whether that change is good, bad or otherwise, there is an ebb and flow to every community. They evolve over time. New people and new businesses take the place of those that left or closed. Attitudes, economics and options dictate that change.
To say that Washburn could become “a mere memory” is is mis-statement. If that were truly the case, then Washburn is already a mere memory of what it was.
“Opportunities, community and safety- these are some of the reasons make a home in Washburn….” So are progressiveness and growth. Without these the others don’t exist.
“WE came here…” We who exactly? My guess would be that a door to door survey would reveal that nearly half or more have moved to Washburn for proximity to employment.
“Where is our money best spent and our priorities located?“…So say the very folks that shop in other larger towns. There is no law that says any of us owes a living to any shop owner anywhere. That is freedom of choice. The same as the shop owner is free to choose whether to be pleasant or rude, open or closed. While I agree that ‘shopping local’ means those businesses will be there for the long haul, it is perfectly OK to spend money ‘in town’ as well. Besides- if a shopkeeper is going be rude, we’d just as soon go to town and be treated rudely anonymously and have more selection while it’s happening!
(And I quote a young employee from the grocery store in Washburn… “If you’re going to shop here, you should expect to lower your expectations” )
“Not competition from a nation wide chain” …. Then why has Family Dollar been accepted so readily? The upshot is that competition is healthy, drives customer services, innovation, better products and more people stopping in town. If a national chain is what it takes to drive the 50,000+/- tourists to Washburn yearly downtown, then so be it.
“…additions to the community must be done thoughtfully and over time.” It would seem the time is now.
“A sense of belonging-” That IS a powerful reason to stay. But to achieve that, then don’t you think on the whole the ‘locals’ should treat newcomers like neighbors? Belonging can be a powerful word. Act like it.
“We can promote what we have”…We can clean and freshen…” It’s been years since there was a serious effort in these departments. Thankfully there is some new leadership that is working hard at making a difference for ALL and not just some.
“We want to nurture that environment, not snuff it out.” Enhance it, is more like it. And again.. we who exactly?
…”Becoming a different version of Bismarck or Garrison” No matter how hard anyone tries, or what new people or businesses come into Washburn, it will always be Washburn.
“Let’s think carefully as we add new things, as not to push out the old” Again- ENHANCE…. Nobody is ‘pushing out the old’…
“Locals are resistant to change.” TRUE. But remember- Always in NOT Forever! It’s a given, change is hard to accept. All things change. Once upon a time we shopped our towns exclusively. Now we are an extremely mobile society. Running to Bismarck or Minot or anywhere else is a breeze. That is change. New stores open. That is change. Are you going to begrudge AgPro because they are new? (that would just be plain silly!) Would you refrain from driving over the bridge because it replaced the ferry? (That would be plain silly too!) That is change. The way we eat has changed. Many folks want a really quick, or a really fresh choice- without getting out of the car and without having to fix it themselves. That is change.
Mostly though, it would seem the most resistance to change involves the human element.
Leader News Editorial-
Opportunities, community, safety-these are some of the reasons people come from out of the city and decide to make a home in Washburn. We moved here because we would know our neighbors, our teachers, our business owners. We came because we weren’t just one in hundreds of thousands here, but someone who could make a big a difference. We moved here, not because of a single feature, building or business, but because we fell in love with what the community represented. And as plans are drawn up and ideas pour out, we can only hope we don’t see the city we chose become a mere memory. Let’s grow, but let’s not lose touch with our roots. So, as we think of what we can add, let’s remember what we need. Where is our money best spent and our priorities located?Maybe we need new signs and benches around town, and maybe our residents need help paying off special assessments that shook most the city. Some would enjoy more fast food options in the city, but maybe we can bridge the gap by supporting and growing our already established local eateries. Our local businesses need employees to fill shifts and involvement from the community, not competition from a nation wide chain. Maybe new attractions would give residents more places to go, but additions to the community must be done thoughtfully and over time. Maybe we need to push less to have more, and push more to improve what we already have. Because there is a reason so many decide to make this place their home, and that sense of belonging is not something to overlook. This city has brought people from around the state, around the country, around the world. It is strong, independent and booming with history. And while we only hope to bring more neighbors to the city, we also know no city is the right fit for every person. Itis a place that people choose because of exactly what it is. Washburn, like any other city, has room to improve. We can fill gaps that leave residents wanting more or visitors quickly passing through. We can promote our recreation and try new things at attractions we already have. We can clean and freshen up our community, without losing a sense of what makes it special. Because Washburn brings people who fall in love with the feeling of it, we want to nurture that environment, not snuff it out. As we push for new features, and new marketing to promote them, we hope the focus doesn’t lay so heavily on becoming just another version of Bismarck , Garrison or another city Washburn should never become. There is a saying around town that many of the locals are resistant to change, which is probably true. Because who would want to risk seeing a city they love change into something else? Maybe instead, we should strive to simply improve, to grow,to flourish. Let’s embrace what sets this city apart, and keep that message in the forefront of our minds. Let’s think carefully as we add new things, as to not push out the old. Let’s strive for better without losing sight of who we are. One hundred and thirty five years ago, this city was founded. And since then, generations have made a life here, because the city felt like home. Let’s not make the mistake of forgetting what a beautiful home it is. -The Leader News editorial board consists of Alyssa Meier, Don Winter and Hayley Anderson
We all talk about ‘Small Town’ customer service, and the ways it is supposed to help us in business. It’s great to know everybody. But what about the ones you don’t know? How are you really treating them?
Let’s talk about the ways Small Town customer service doesn’t help. I have been blessed to have both lived and traveled all across this great nation of ours, so I speak from experience. Hear me out.
I know plenty of small town people who will NOT talk to outsiders and are either openly hostile or blatantly rude to unknowns. .
~ When YOU act like WE don’t matter *by ‘WE’ I mean anyone Not included in the best names in town. I also mean travelers and passersby and people generally not from your town. We take our money elsewhere.
In a town not too far from us there is a Rexall. The ladies that run it can actually go through an entire transaction without ever uttering a word to you. Not so much as a “Hello”, or a “Drop dead”. Really. But you let someone else of so called social standing come through the door, and they will fawn all over them and chat up a storm. I can name a dozen people off the top who go an extra 26 miles to the next town over because they are friendly at the Rexall there. I can name even more who take their money to ‘the city’.
Pay attention: Our $$$$$ is just as green as theirs!
~When you don’t give us the time of day We remember. We have memories like elephants. We came to your communities for a better life. Or maybe family brought us here. Or jobs. Whatever the reason, we are among you. Many of us are here to stay whether you like it or not.
When we come into your cafes, stores, gas stations etc- give us the same courtesies you give everyone else. Come around and check on us while we’re dining. Don’t just leave us
to sit there while we watch you schmooze the five coffee drinkers you already know. Say “Hello” or “How you doin'” when we pop in for gas or grub.
By ignoring us, you hurt yourself in more ways than you can imagine.
We will take our money elsewhere
When you say something stupid we remember. And we will probably take it to social media, or blog about it. And word will get around.
I was at the market in a town near us just yesterday. I only needed some milk, but noticed there was a sale, so I stocked up on a few things. Upon checking out, the cashier bellowed (yes! bellowed in his outdoor voice) “Gawd! I hope you’re not doing this for W.I.C, and just stocking up instead. I hate WIC”” The shame of it!! (btw- cash) Nothing quite like having all eyes on you. In no way should it have mattered if it is WIC, cash, check, charge or food stamps. That is NOT your concern to shout it to the world.
Your job as owner is to make it as pleasant of an shopping experience as it can be. And you employees need to made to understand that THEY ARE YOUR REPRESENTITIVES and had better well act like it.
When things like this happen, and not just to me, we take our money elsewhere.
If we’re going to be treated like that, we’d just as soon go the city where at least we can get some variety while being treated like crud.
~ Do you want to know how this hurts you? It hurts your pocketbook. Trust me, a small business can’t last forever on the income from a handful of preferred customers. When you are wondering WHY you are not making a decent living or where your customers are, remember this: WE took our money to anther business.
It hurts your groups that rely on volunteers. When you treat us like we don’t matter, or that you could care less, we have zero desire to volunteer for great causes because of it. I can name plenty of towns that cry they can’t get help with anything, but persist in treating everyone outside their group like crud.
We don’t donate our hard earned money to your causes. They may be really worthy events or local charities. But we won’t budge a dime when you have the gall to hold your hand out after not even speaking to us ever at the gas station.
We Leave. Pretty simple. And we take our $$$$ with us. Our disposable incomes that we could have spent with you, and our kids out the schools, and our property tax, and so on.
The reoccurring theme here is simple. Be nice to one and all. Not just some. And you will reap the rewards of repeat businsess and new people as well because we WILL tell our friends “Hey! Did you know So and so is the best around???”
I personally, planned all of my road trips from Denver to California around a stop over in Austin, Nevada. For 20 years! Why? Every business in this little bitty town on Hwy 50 has Customer Service down to a “T” ! There was never a time when I was not made to feel welcome.