We truly are living in a time of transition. Looking at the changing makeup of the businesses on the Avenue we can see that we are living in the middle of a giant experiment.

On one hand, we have us, the residents of Chestnut Hill and our interest to purchase at the best price and select from the biggest possible variety. On the other, we have the businesses on the Avenue. Thirdly, we have the constant access to the Internet.

The obvious trend one can observe is that the downtown district has a growing number of restaurants, real estate offices, chain stores and several vacancies. Sometimes it appears that a reduction in retail space might be a necessary move in order to keep the remaining businesses healthy.

“Go local” seems to be a good motto. The farm movement has shown us that farmers’ markets and farm-to-table restaurants are successful through increased local production by small producers.

From our point of view, the same can be said for “go local” businesses. Buildings that are owned by the retail merchants or service providers very often are the most enduring and successful. For example, we can still find barber shops, breakfast places, hardware shops, restaurants, etc. that have been here as long as we can remember.

They are the remnant of the old neighborhood fabric of our community, and many of us still remember and long for the way they were many years ago – and there are still some left! By patronizing them and giving them a break (taxes, fees, rent, etc.) we can help to ensure that they will stick around. This way we will be able to still go there in the future and see our neighbors and friends.

By inviting national chain stores, however we will end up with stores and businesses that are not loyal to our community and which will leave our Avenue if they are not profitable enough.

Local stores and restaurants are the cement of our community, and the places where we can meet. We have the choice to help keep them here and alive.

Florian Schleiff, Barbara Baumbach and Stanley Woodward

The George Woodward Co.