Signal Wave


Just a small piece of good news today, surprisingly heartening to me.

This is Leonard's Furniture:


They started it in the 70s, before Reagan and neoconservatism took hold of our nation. Being inside always seems like stepping back in time (I don't think any music played in there dates from later than 1981). Everything down to the way the salesmen interact with you (something I never thought I'd prize, much less miss) reminds me of the way things were when I was a kid, or at least an adolescent.

Both my mom and I have bought chairs for our living rooms from Leonard's. That's probably why, last week, my mom got a letter from Leonard's widow. Leonard had died, and the widow said it was just too hard to run the business without him. They were having a big sale. My mom and I assumed it was a going-out-of-business sale. So many local businesses have gone out of business over the past few years. My mom knew I was looking for a couch, so we went down there, though I was really quite upset at the loss of one more local institution.

I think the left has, to some extent, really mishandled the concept of small business in this country. Our traditional critiques of capitalism and our allegiance to the worker, both good things IMO, have resulted in this slight but important miscalculation: lumping the small business owner in with the ownership class at the precise time that the small local owner was being thrown out of that class. Problem is, in a capitalist society, the small, local business owner is one of the main forces that keeps local control in the hands of the locals. (In a republic, local government is also one of those forces, but a much more fragile one, given that representative government and capitalism don't play well together). Further, it serves, and has always served the interests of capitalism to lump the small business owner together with the big business owner, because capitalism loves to pretend it's something it's not. Paramount among the lies it tells is that critics of capitalism are trying to prevent Farmer Brown from selling his wife's jam at his farmstand, or that capitalism protects the freedom of Jane Smith to create and run her own diner. Of course, that's all bullshit: capitalism is precisely against local control of anything, unless by "local control" you mean Mr. Potter:

Even Mr. Potter is likely, at some point, to get swallowed up by a larger spider, until there are only a few Mr. Potters in the world, who run things.

Anyway, we went down to Leonard's. I walked in, and said to the salesman who approached me, "It's sad." He replied, "It's just a clearance sale." About fifteen minutes later, as we walked around looking at couches, it came out that it was far from certain that Leonard's was going out of business. It was just that Leonard, something of a pack rat, had four warehouses full of stuff; they needed to clear some of it out. That made me feel so much better because, as always, I had found myself frustrated that I never know about these things happening in my town until it's too late to try to help.

Look, I know what's wrong with the Leonard's version of capitalism. I know it excludes, quite unfairly, a whole class of people who don't have the money to buy things (certainly not things as expensive as furniture). That's the truth that impelled me to my first critiques of capitalism--since I never believed in all that "meritocracy" bullshit. I'm not saying that even George Bailey's form of capitalism really works.

But buying a piece of furniture from a local business, owned by a family that lives in my town, felt like the relief of pain. It was an interaction that allowed me to remain human. It was an interaction that did not feel like I was being maneuvered into it. Various forms of compulsion do, in fact, reside even in these kinds of capitalist exchange, but Jesus! I hadn't known how much it really hurts to be embroiled constantly in all these forms of semi-compulsory fake choice, run by a handful of people, most of whose names I will never know, who have been taking steps for years to ruin most, if not all, of the towns like mine.

It's a far lesser pain than the pain of having nowhere to live or nothing to eat or no medical care. I have no illusions about that. But I think perhaps these lesser forms of pain also need to be voiced. Otherwise too much of reality goes unremarked.

What do you all think?

14 users have voted.


QMS's picture

The national branch of the chamber of commerce has a definition of small business which is ridiculous. Something like less than 1000 employees?

Anyway, I run a small business and hire help as needed, but have no regular employees. I would like to bring workers in, but state rules require so many payouts - taxes and insurance - that it is difficult to
justify the additional cost to my customers. If I pay a varnisher a living wage - say $25/hr and add on the state requirements, then that worker costs me $50/hr (as an example) which doubles the cost of the job - passed on to the customer. This is not right. We work around it by using subcontractor status to be reasonably priced. A project done at a fair price.

If health insurance, unemployment insurance, FICA, etc. were paid by the state, then people in business like myself could hire more workers. There is plenty of work, but the system is not manageable as it is.

Hope you found a good couch!

9 users have voted.

Long Live Leonard's. Local stores thriving are signs of hope in our economy.

Another hopeful sign of sanity this morning:

Not running for Governor. Possibly running for something else? We will see.

4 users have voted.


Lookout's picture

Started very the 20's. Trade day was sparse but it was nice to catch up with a few buddies and watch the cars from higher up the mountain arrive with 6+ inches on their tops and hoods. We had flurries where I live but nothing stuck here...suits me really.

I'm lucky in my little nearby town of Menlo. Lots of mom and pop stores. Hardware, grocery, feed and seed all owned by neighbors. They greet you by name when you come in. Not many places like that left me thinks. Mostly in the little towns. And even here there is a Dollar General, the small town Wal-Mart.

Now Trade Day is a trip in and of itself. Even though today was a dud, in nice weather it still draws a crowd. Vendors vary from those who cleaned out their garage to regular traveling carnies. Over the last 30 years or so it seems a vanishing way to buy and sell goods, as old folks die off and young folks order from Amazon and such. Sure has been a slice of life that I've valued over my years here.

Well congrats on the new couch and the old surviving business. Y'all have a good one!

9 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I agree it is nice to be able to use local and family owned businesses. At this very moment have some local plumbers working on my plumbing situation and this afternoon a local electrician will connect my hot water heater up.

Recently went into the local hardware store to buy some plumbing glue when I was attempting to take care of my plumbing needs. Could not get the glue open and went back to store to see if they could help. Lady behind counter tried to open and first customer that walked in she called by name and asked if he could open it. Said for me to wait a minute until he finished putting in his order and he would get a pair of pliers to help. Before he could finish his business, another employee brought out a pair of pliers and opened it. The employee and customer then gave me their best advice for what I was attempting and all the cautions of not spilling it on the way home..

Would have to say these locally owned businesses are one of the nice things about this small town.

10 users have voted.

Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

enhydra lutris's picture

Leonard's survives and you get a new sofa. One thing I discovered about the true small businesses it that they can be disguised. We, for example have 2 hardware stores in town, a True Value and an Ace. Both are long standing town fixtures; family owned and run small businesses that are also franchises.

OTOH, try as we might to only patronize small businesses and local businesses, I must confess that for some things the siren song of Costco is irresistible, especially for things we use relatively large quantities of. Besides that, all of our local stationers hae gone out of business, making office depot/max the only option unless you wish to travel relatively great distances to locales with no parking to buy such products.

be well and have a good one

7 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

Granma's picture

Things like losing small businesses. When they go, we all lose. The small local, often family owned businesses used to be the heart of the country. They matter. And talking about them matters. I don't know anyone, regardless of political persuasion who wants to be left with only the Walmarts and Amazons to choose from. I think the small local businesses represent the bits of power left to us for meeting our needs. It isn't just larger items like furniture.

I'm glad you still have Leonard's and happy you got a new sofa from them.

7 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

A furniture store I have shopped at since I first moved out was closing their store because the whole block is being converted to fast food joints that are a dime a dozen everywhere. I stopped in to see what deals they had and found a beautiful comforter and tons of pillows and a nightstand, but it’s going to be sad to drive by there and not see their name on the store. Great news tho the pillows look great in my trailer and are huge and comfortable. I think taking pillows off every night and putting them back on in the morning is such a waste of time. Sadly I can only use it in the winter because it’s so heavy and warm.

We’re were told to shop American and local which I did as long as they were there. But then Walmart and Best Buy and other big box stores came in and put them out of business anyway. Glad you’re store is still going to be there. There are other locations for mine too.

4 users have voted.

It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

I'm sorry I wasn't here to respond to your comments. Yesterday, I had spasms of my throat and jaw that just wouldn't stop. I finally had to take a Xanax--NOT my usual MO!--to make it stop. Acupuncture yesterday helped too.

So thank you all so much for dropping by. Seems like we all agree about small, local business-though enhydra lutris is also right that some mom and pop's are actually franchises, and even the ones who aren't are usually embroiled in relationships with the bigger businesses. Still and all, it's becoming clear to me in my late middle age that commerce is not capitalism--just one more lie.

I've never seen a system so persistent in pretending to be things it isn't. Every system does, but it's usually limited to one or two things. Capitalism, a colonizing force, seems to need to take every basic aspect of human life and put its brand on it.

2 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver