When I moved to the San Fernando Valley with my two daughters 35 years ago, there was hardly an empty store front the entire length of Ventura Boulevard, which extends from Woodland Hills to North Hollywood.
Within blocks of our house there were dozens of great boutiques. A shoe store called The Shoe Connection took up an entire first floor of a building. It had such an extensive inventory, you couldn’t, possibly, walk out empty-handed, as you were sure to find something you couldn’t resist.
There was a designer boutique in Encino which had such great annual sales, people would line up for hours before the doors even opened. One discreet mall had four clothing boutiques, a designer menswear store, a high-end denim shop, a very tony shoe boutique, Chico’s and M. Frederick’s, and my favorite Chinese place, Chin Chin. There was also a famous hair salon, and a few other restaurants. Not a single one of those places is still there.
Those stores were the flowers that bloomed in the rich soil of a free-market economy. I loved shopping at those boutiques. I always found something special and unique that couldn’t be found anywhere else. One boutique had hand-knit and crocheted sweaters. Even the big malls on the boulevard had unique stores and unusual boutiques like ICE. Not anymore. It’s all the same stores in every mall now, all carrying the same merchandise.
Those cute little shops of a bygone era did well from the time I moved to the area, until the early 1990s. They seemed to start disappearing when our government signed on to Agenda 21. Since that fatal time, it has become more and more difficult for small businesses to survive. After all, if your goal is to align America’s economy with that of other countries, if your aim is to “redistribute” America’s wealth and ration American energy, you can’t really allow entrepreneurs to thrive.
There are now dozens of empty store fronts along every Main Street in the country. When I drive down Ventura Boulevard, I see more empty stores every day. Last week I read that sixteen big-name retailers would be closing a third of their stores, all across the country.
Los Angeles is the second largest city in America, you would think we’d have a branch of every imaginable chain store. For example, there used to be a Nine West store in every mall, but I don’t think there is a single one still left in all of Los Angeles County.
I looked up other locations for stores that have closed in my area, and found that one opened up in a small town outside Los Angeles County. Why would a national retailer move to a small town, and out of Los Angeles, which surely has more potential customers?
Even the big department stores in the malls have changed. They carry less merchandise, and offer fewer choices. They look more like secondhand shops than upscale stores. I am always amazed that people will pay $200 for a pair of jeans that look like they were taken off a homeless person. T-shirts that look like something you’d wear to paint the house retail for $100.
I find that I have to go shopping again and again, just to find things that used to be readily available all the time. I notice that stores carry fewer and fewer items in any given line of products. And as for customer service? It’s become a laughable concept.
I feel sorry for grocery stores who are trying to cope with the plastic bag ban. They can’t provide the kind of service they used to. If you forget to bring bags, they cannot offer you one, they are obligated to charge you for it. The cashiers always seem uncomfortable when they have to ask if you’d like to buy a paper bag. The reusable cloth bags are too soft to stay open, so the baggers have to hold them open with one hand, as they fill them with the other. It’s awkward and inefficient. They can’t bag cleaning products separately from the groceries, unless you have brought an extra bag. They can’t double-bag things. They are simply not allowed to offer you the kind of service they used to.
Eighty percent of all American jobs are in small businesses. The economy is not just bad because people have less money to spend. It is bad because small businesses are being squeezed out of existence. Regulations, taxes, and obamacare are the nails in their coffins. Our choices are being limited every step of the way. The beautiful flowers that once lined our streets are dying.