About this time of year, the volume of direct mail advertising increases noticeably.
While we get plenty of mail order catalogs, we also get tons of mail from "local" businesses.
At my house, we got ads from the following businesses:
With the significant exception of the Cherokee Station mailer that is full of independent businesses, this selection of mailers targeted to the 63118 ZIP code is skewed toward low-end retail, and fast food. Notice how many fried chicken places, pizza places, rent-to-own stores and discount grocery stores are represented.
Of course, I guess I can't really complain - I shop at many of these places, or similar chains. I probably spend more, unfortunately, at dollar stores than I do at independently-owned local businesses.
These ads reflect the perceived buying power of my neighborhood's demographics - as opposed to, say, the Arch City Chronicle's target market.
I like to think I'm a "bridge" between -- both highly educated, and lower-income! I guess that's the trouble with being in grad school - or, for that matter, being a low-level bureaucrat. You get champagne schooling, but still get Busch beer money. Or, in my case, sparkling apple cider tastes, but root beer money. ;-)
According to 2000 Census data for the City of St. Louis, in Benton Park West:
So, there certainly are opportunities for independent businesses like those on Cherokee to take advantage of the community's buying power. That's why places like the South Side Outlet and Black Bear Bakery are great. Admittedly, the first comes from a more institutional point-of-view, a social entreprenership initiative of nearby SSDN; while the latter comes from the anarchist view promoted at other nearby places like CAMP and StL-IMC. It's a fascinating contrast. Combine those with mainstays like the two Globe Drug locations, the Casa Loma Ballroom, and Southside TV & Video; plus the array of Hispanic-owned businesses, and Cherokee Station is really a fascinating microcosm of the diversity of today's South St. Louis. One new biz is Tension Head, a punk/metal music store.
The next step is to try to gradually replace some of the check-cashing places and rent-to-own stores with independent businesses, or maybe even a few more mainstream franchises. While permanent shifts in retail mean that JCPenney, Woolworth's, Walgreens, etc will never return to Cherokee Station, they can be replaced by local businesses instead.
Although, as noted by Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, there may need to be some attitude adjustments for things to happen faster.
Benton Park West businesses have a bright future! I'm sure of it.