Thursday, June 28, 2007

When I first moved to Eureka Springs in 1976, it was the kind of small town America that most Americans had lost years before. From my $45.00 a month basement apartment, I could walk downtown to shop. In fact everything could be done on foot while my faithful dog Allie waited outside each stop. On a single trip through downtown Eureka, I could check my mail at the post office, buy groceries at the health food store and Clark's Market. I could pay my gas bill, electric bill and rent, buy auto parts at Otasco, jeans, shirts and shoes at Walker Bros. and hardware and lumber at Perkins Mill. A single trip through downtown Eureka Springs was also a social engagement. There were always friends on the same journey, and Mama Slick's very hippie coffee store was always inviting for stimulating conversation as well as coffee and breakfast.

Over the next few years, the essential service businesses moved to the highway. Clarks, Otasco, Perkins and Walker Bros. went out of business, abondoning the downtown to a few small galleries and a huge number of T-shirt and tourist gift shops.

In the meantime, Walmart in Berryville went through a series of expansions, completely outgrowing two locations and building a new "Supercenter" in a third. We have gone from an easy walk-about to the near necessity of modern transportation, and we have gone from shopping locally to the point at which literally nothing, no products or services commonly provided within a community are available in the historic downtown of Eureka Springs.

I'm not going to claim that all this hasn't been without economic benefit to our community and local business. I relate this story to point out that there have been dramatic changes in our relationship to localism that need to be explored. The photo above is of the Flat Iron Building. This is the third one erected on the site in the last 100 years, and this one was built after I moved to Eureka Springs.

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