Editorial: When convenience gets in the way of connections, suddenly they’re gone

In our newspapers we make it a point to encourage our readers to “shop local.”

We often run advertisements focusing on that theme.

We participate in the annual Small Business Saturday, which is held the day after Black Friday, each November. It started gaining ground in 2010 when American Express encouraged shoppers to help locally owned businesses.

It can be a little challenging to shop local. We live in an instant-gratification world in which we can watch a movie or live sports event on the phone in our hand – or order that whatever-it-happens-to-be that we just decided we wanted. It will be delivered within a day or two.

Pretty hard to beat.

Of course, the experience is nearly entirely sterile. It’s just us and the computer screen, along with a few pop-up ads from Google reminding us of everything, seemingly, we’ve ever wanted.

And it really may not save us as much money as we’d like to think.

Convenience sans comradery.  Commerce without community.

But is that really a good thing? How important are relationships?

We were sadly reminded of those questions earlier this month as we watched the doors close at Mega Foods (see page 1), one of the four major grocery stores in Lebanon.

MEGA FOODS’ Mellisa Picard distributes candy – lots of it – at last year’s Strawberry Festival Grand Parade. File photo

Megafoods wasn’t a boutique place. It was kind of spartan, really, with a little bit of a big-box feel to it. It certainly wasn’t Market of Choice – or Roths (the last grocery store to leave town). But it had affordable prices and stuff other stores didn’t carry.

But as our story recounts, it also was a real member of the Lebanon community. Mega Foods was involved in a lot of things, handing out discounts on groceries to worthy causes, showing up big-time (with candy) in the Strawberry Festival Parade, stepping up as a Cornerstone Partner for the Chamber.

Its employees were locals, people who are members of our community. You got the feeling they weren’t just there for the money.

Well, the store is empty now and those friendly employees are gone – some getting a new opportunity across the street at Safeway.

We don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to know why Mega Foods is gone. We don’t really have to hear that it was due to “big change in the community’s shopping patterns and increasing competition in the Albany area,”  as the company put it.

We didn’t shop local. We went to stores that were glitzier, a little cheaper, newer – and staffed by people we probably didn’t know very well, if at all.

In our world of self-gratification, a lot of us are always looking for the best deal – whatever. Well, the “whatever” this time is the loss of a business that contributed to the community in a big way. The cost this time will be paid by the Boys & Girls Club, the school district, the Christmas toy run – and a lot of kids who won’t be getting that candy this June.

Because empty buildings and lost relationships are pretty much what happens when we don’t shop local.