It was disheartening to read in the Democrat about the upcoming closings of the two Bing’s grocery stores in Sedalia. Any time a local merchant closes, we lose more than a store.
That certainly is the case with Bing’s, which has been a valuable part of the local economy for decades. Upon hearing the news, my reaction was, “Who will provide the away game meals for Smith-Cotton football?” For a couple of years I drove to freshmen and JV road games, my back seat loaded with coolers stuffed with Bing’s sandwiches for the boys’ postgame meals.
Cruising through the comments on the Democrat’s Facebook post of the story, I saw a note from one of my former students bemoaning that he would have to look for another job. There are expectations that another grocer will fill the Bing’s space at State Fair Shopping Center, but it seems less likely that another grocer will open on the east side due to the proximity of Wood’s.
In 2009, my first year as editor of the Democrat, we launched the “Spend $25 on the 25th” initiative. Devised by then-Publisher Dave Phillips, the plan was simple: Provide incentives and special sales to get residents to spend at least $25 at locally owned businesses on July 25. The goal was to increase revenue and awareness for Sedalia’s mom-and-pop stores.
The American Independent Business Alliance (amiba.net) shares data from a study by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which states that “each $100 spent at local independents generated $45 of secondary local spending, compared to $14 for a big-box chain.” When dollars are spent at independent local stores, the theory goes, that money is reused in the local economy through the purchase of other local goods and services while mass retailers push those profits to cover operating costs and to their shareholders.
But AMIBA also cautions: “Businesses in smaller cities and towns typically have less ability to source many goods and services locally.” In other words, we have the ability to “shop local” for many things, but for others the only option is a larger, national retailer.
In the wake of the Bing’s news, many local residents pounded their neighbors with criticism and cited them buying groceries at Walmart, Aldi or Bolivar-based Wood’s for the demise of the hometown grocer. That is simply unfair and ignores the realities of local economies. Those “chain” grocers and other national retailers provide jobs for local residents – losing those jobs would have an adverse impact here just as much as losing the Bing’s stores.
A couple of years ago, a public official here complained about the influx of fast-food outlets and the jobs they provide. But the wages those employees earn are meaningful – just ask any of the workers. The manufacturing job pool has declined in Sedalia over the years, but that is the same situation in most every community across the country. The companies that have set up shop here are reinvesting in Sedalia regularly.
The closing of the Bing’s stores is a loss for our community. For years, Bing’s and its employees have been great backers for local causes and that support will be missed. Still, it is a reality that competition can be heartless and some are forced to fall out of the race. That does not mean we have to heap scorn on those who finish at the front of the pack.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.