Globalization of Great Falls

Article excerpt

A side effect of globalization is descending on my hometown. Nestled gently between the manicured magnificence of McLean and the imminently overdeveloped Route 7 corridor rests the bucolic village of Great Falls, where, unlike Washington, there are an equal number of horses and horses' arses - until last week. Then, the latter increased by one without benefit of being accompanied by the former. Enter the new landlord of our village shopping center, who has refused to renew the lease to Buddy and Beth Harris' coffee shop - Gilette's.

The gentle villagers of Great Falls are developing ungentle feelings toward the intruding new landlord. Thus arises my little hometown's own microcosm of the darker side of economics without borders.

The out-of-state landlord wants to put in a Starbucks outlet for reasons exogenous to the community. To do so, he must first put Buddy and Beth's local shop out of business.

But Buddy and Beth aren't just in business, they are in the community. For as long as anyone can remember, they have been sponsoring local little league and soccer teams. They keep open Halloween night to give cookies to the kids. They are vital participants in the numerous civic projects that small towns across America (and around the world) need to keep their little communities whole and healthy. They have turned their coffee shop into the crossroads of the community. In the Humphrey Bogart movie, "Casablanca," everybody goes to Rick's (the original title of the film). In Great Falls, everybody goes to Gilette's.

Of course, no letters of transit or exit visas are being traded there. Quite the opposite. The community is busy passing petitions around to stop the forced exit of Beth and Buddy from the community they have done so much to form and strengthen. So fierce is the loyalty of the community to Beth and Buddy, that boycotts of the entire shopping center are already being organized.

That loyalty has been earned, both by their community participation and their product. The pastries are baked fresh each morning. The coffee beans are roasted in the store - not at some factory in Seattle. The milk is frothed fresh for each drink, not processed in bulk and left to flatten in large steel canisters. It's the best coffee in town at a price that beats Starbucks.

There is, presumably, nothing illegal about the real estate managing firm developing national or international business deals with the latte behemoth, Starbucks (although one never knows what future litigation may reveal). But Americans, as well as others around the world, will increasingly resent the grinding down of their communities by large, alien economic interests. …