Growing up in Fayetteville was great. My family moved several times and if you add in college years, I've lived in nearly every area that Fayetteville encompasses. It's a small town, its estimated population in 2003 was around 62k. That number grew significantly since I moved back in the early 80s – I still remember seeing signs that said the population was 36k – and that number is only going to increase with Wal-Mart and their ever expanding empire.
But I digress. Yes, growing up in Fayetteville was great because it was a small town. I could walk, or ride my bike, almost everywhere (and did). I never felt scared, or out of place anywhere. In fact, Fayetteville is one of those towns that wherever you go, you just might run into someone you know (when I'm in town and don't see someone I know everywhere I go, I start to worry).
Yes, Fayetteville rocks. The winters can be kinda cold and dry and the summers are hot and extremely humid, but the charm of the town is second to none. However, one of the biggest complaints growing up there was the lack of big(ger) city things: restaurants, stores, things to do, etc. We didn't have the Gaps, the Olive Gardens, or the Dunkin' Donuts of the modern world – you know, the things that Americans "need."
Every time I head home to Fayetteville (or Hot Springs, or Benton – where my grandparents live) there's something new. Whether it be a restaurant or store, something more mainstream has been inserted into the city. And every time I'm there it never fails that someone mentions:
Did you see the new _______ over by the Mall? Yeah, we're big time now.
What does that mean, exactly? Does the simple addition of a Panera Bread or Fuddruckers mean that Fayetteville, or any other city, is ready to steal citizens away from New York or Los Angeles? That's highly doubtful. I don't know anyone that says, "man, if Fayetteville just had a Red Robin, I'd totally uproot my family to move down there."
No one says that. So what is it? Are families better off now that there are five new franchise restaurants and a Target (which I WAS happy about)? Or is it that the area population is now becoming large enough for these places to go build in Fayetteville?
My guess is the later. And if that is the reason, then where is all the information that says "when population hits x, build these places"? I mean, sure Northwest Arkansas is booming now, but there's still no stores like Pottery Barn, JCrew, or Apple Stores. Does that cause concern among Fayetteville citizens? Probably not, but I'm sure people would love it if those stores would come in there... just like Kansas City is hopeful to get a new Trader Joe's or an ESPN Zone Restaurant downtown. But if we get those two, do we then become "big time?"
It's a vicious cycle. A cycle that is only fueled by people comparing cities and somehow justifying that cities are more equal because they share something in common. New stores or restaurants in your city won't give you new status, I think companies like Forbes, CNN/Money and Sperling are the ones that can officially declare that.
The "big time" talk has become a sort of city "small talk." After you talk about the weather and sports, you move right on into what cities have what places:
"You ever eaten at a Cheesecake Factory?"
"Yeah, we've got two where I'm from."
"Ah, that's cool... I was down at the Williams Sonoma the other day, they have some cool stuff."
"I know, the one downtown in my city is two stories... I think it's a flagship store."
"Hmph. Let's go eat a giant burrito from Chipotle."
"What is that?"
"YES!!!!! My city wins!"
Can't you see what "The Man" is doing to us? They're turning us against each other, all so they can make a buck! Don't fall for it!!! Continue eating at places like Hugo's and Harry's Country Club. Keep drinking coffee at Common Grounds (or the library) or Cup & Saucer. And for heaven's sake, shop anywhere but Wal-Mart.
Oh, and if you're at all interested what the hot franchises are right now, then click here.
+ original post date: January 1, 2005 06:06 PM
+ categories: F-Town