Downtown merchant seeks coalition of the willing. Apply within.


As I write, there is a merchant mixer meeting at Preston’s, intended to discuss Harvest Homecoming. All week, I kept saying I’d go, but as the time drew near to pedal downtown, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it.

The chat will be polite, bullet points will be constructive – and nothing lasting will come of it.

I simply don’t have time for that any more. It seems that in this age, Americans will scream with furious passion about issues far away from them, but when it comes to taking action and organizing at the grassroots, right here in New Albany, they’ll eternally refrain from principle out of the mistaken notion that standing for something genuinely meaningful might offend someone.

This isn’t about personalities. It’s about ideas and principles. We need to quit fretting over the individual’s meek acceptance of traditional strategies that do not work, and begin examining classes of ideas that help us all.

As one doing business downtown, I continue to believe that merchants must be unified and seek to sell the notion of downtown as well as their own operations. I believe they must parlay unity into strength, and strength into lobbying for what can help downtown grow and prosper. A vigorous buy local movement might well offend Wal-Mart; nothing whatever is wrong with that. It might keep a few consumer dollars away from Amazon. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. More of money spent locally stays here, locally. It’s a fact.

So: Why the hell does nothing seem to happen?

I can wait no longer for Develop New Albany, the Main Street organization, to take the lead. Action isn’t going to come from that direction, and that’s regrettable, as I was a part of it for so long, but so be it. What good are 3,000 e-mail addresses if they’re so seldom used? That weight needs to be brought to bear on things that matter, not just notifications of networking functions.

Polite chat over tea and crumpets likewise is unlikely to lead to concrete results. I actually respect the motives behind such gatherings, but when action is merited, more elbow grease is needed. Worst yet is the Caesar Syndrome, whereby we are urged to look to One Southern Indiana as the savior. It took 1Si itself to put paid to this errant thought through its candidate endorsements. Can anyone still objectively read 1Si’s policy goals, and observe within them anything that pertains to improving the lot of downtown New Albany businesses?

There’s no reason why a movement cannot coalesce around a coalition of the willing, however small in the beginning. We need just a few businesses, perhaps a dozen, to get this started. Work is being done already. We must market what each of us as businesses does best, how a grouping of quality in a compact downtown offers quality and variety to consumers, and that we are proud and capable not just as stand-alone businesses, but as consortium of downtown New Albany entities.

Downtown business old-think is poison. It is obsolete, so let’s begin new-think. Let me know if you’re interested in the preliminaries. Remember, this is guerrilla marketing undertaken by a coalition of the willing, those of us who seek to rupture a few discredited paradigms and make a wee bit of revolution in the process. It is not about political labels, but workable strategies to succeed.

Can we please get started? Pretty please?