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If we valued society and not just self, our government could channel money to small businesses instead of big business. If a living wage was a universal requirement and set at a level that people could shop local businesses at prices needed to sustain local businesses, the country would be much more robust, socially and financially. But our twin gods are the myths of rugged individualism and the meritocracy of money.

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When I was young in the 1950's, my mother shopped at the locally owned bakery, the locally owned butcher, the locally owned pharmacy, the locally owned grocer, etc. She knew the owners personally and would chat with them while shopping. We ate at one of the locally owned restaurants. They knew what our meal favorites were. All of this is gone now, everything is a chain store of some mega corporation or Walmart. The employees are too busy to talk much, assuming you know them at all. Customer service is terrible. The revenue flows out of town to some distant company headquarters. Very sad, but we bought this on ourselves by valuing the price we pay for goods over everything else!

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We live in Hanover, across the CT River from Norwich. Dan carries “Crane Crest French Dressing”, not widely available, but a staple in our house. Dan’s sister brings it from MA, where it is produced, when she visits. Last summer, our supply was low and there was none on the shelf at D&W. When I asked Dan, he said they were out. Crisis! Then, about an hour later I received a text from a Norwich friend. Dan found a case in the cellar, but didn’t have my contact info. So he called my friend, and asked her to tell me he found said dressing. I drove right over. Dan is a big supporter of The Haven, a local homeless shelter that does amazing work in our area feeding and caring for those in need. So, I brought a donation with me to give The Haven in Dan’s name. Running out of salad dressing may be a problem for me, but running out of food is a real crisis for others. Dan teaches us all about the value of community, by example. He truly cares. This is why Dan &Whits is the heart of Norwich, VT.

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"social capitalism" found in most of europe, is not socialism. it is capitalism with the adjective of social because this is "capitalism that also includes social welfare programs". the poor are not discarded or ignored, like is some capitalism, but helped with social programs when they need it. the wealthy are still wealthy, but the poor are also taken care of. this is not a perfect answer, but I hope that 'american capitalism' would at least change in more of the direction of 'social capitalism' in the future. I think that 'american capitalism ' was more like 'social capitalism' in the days of FDR etc when 'social security' actually became an american social program. to often today , with fear mongering, the ones that benefit from social programs , are 'they all are called lazy' , hence fear mongering. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_market_economy

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I love this story. Unfortunately, there's hundreds of “Dan & Whit’s” throughout our country that were driven out of business by the likes of “Walmart” who invaded towns, large and small, and promptly put them out of business. The same can be said of CVS and Walgreens who shuttered our local pharmacies as well. Growing up, we’ve all had a go to place where everyone in the community tended to gather, I only wish we would have fought harder to protect them from the insatiable greed of American Capitalism. However, it’s not too late to help save the ones that are left, the example shown here is a perfect solution!

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It's a great idea to keep a business going, if it is possible. I have seen country stores on the edge of closing completely that received a reprieve when they were purchased by locals. A food coop in Leverett, MA was in danger of going out of business, and it was heartening to see it revived. I often make a choice to buy local, and last year bought a share in our local co-op store. It makes a point to buy local produce, organics and locally made items.

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Beautifully and vividly written as always. You bring the reader to an intimate understanding of the life of this multi-generational family-owned business, and to the distinct plight of small towns during a never-ending period of relentless change. Thanks for turning your pen to this cluster of issues.

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What you described in your statement is the true "American Spirit". We have to look harder for it in today's new world. In my town we lost 19 fire fighters due to a horrible wild fire. Hollywood made a movie called “Only the Brave,” starring Josh Brolin. Citizens came together during that tragedy to help each other. Why does it take a tragedy in America for us to see and do good? The hard working middle class continues to go to work each day, paying their bills and feeding their families . The American Spirit is alive and well even though the news (propaganda) focuses on the bad. Thank YOU for all that you are doing. Hugs, from Arizona.

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So, I live in Norwich, VT and Dan and Whit’s is one of my many local main stays. I love local. I decided to stay in this area 48 years ago when I finished school across the river in Hanover, NH. I started my furniture company, Pompanoosuc Mills, in the early 70s and was quickly supported by nearby neighbors. Over the many many years since then, my business has grown from just myself to over 100 teammates (looking for more) and has 9 company retail stores between Burlington, VT and Philadelphia. We have sales teammates in DC and Florida as well. I still consider us “local” and while our designs are not inexpensive, we are still graced with tons of local buyers as well as customers from across the country. We use all North American hardwoods buying from local mills, we are working towards 100% LED certification and have never used fossil fuels for heat during our wonderful northern winters. Furniture making wood waste is our primary source of heat energy. Outsiders used to question my desire to stay so local in our manufacturing, but I am happy with what we have been able to do and continue to do. Goooo local!

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Vote with your dollar

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Oh yes, that’s a wonderful idea. Ever since the pandemic started, my husband and I have been getting takeout from one of our local restaurants twice a week. They love us so much that sometimes they throw in a free dessert without our asking. I’ve wondered whether we could invest in them. And BTW, I know I keep harping on this but I am trying very hard to buy from businesses other than Amazon, which I truly believe is ruining the country. I wonder how difficult it might be to invest in some of these smaller businesses. Anyone know?

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A community's size makes a huge difference. When a business or a school or a community is small enough for people to get to know each other, they can create the kind of thing you describe at Dan. & Whit's. Small size makes institutions personal, and people care about each other, and demonstrate their caring.

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Great article, thanks!

Yes neoliberalism does destroy communities, of all sorts. From wetlands to anthills to forests to towns to countries. And now to planets.

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I live in a small town in Mississippi where I grew up, and our downtown has been struggling for years. It is no longer a place where people walk around and shop. Two or three businesses get local support and the rest barely survive. I worked at one place as the only hostess--The Ritz restaurant. People would come from miles around to have dinner there at night, and locals would have lunch there during the day. The owner also refurbished the old Ritz theater and people could hold special events there, which they continue to do. Now the restaurant is only open for lunch by people who rent out the place and the theater seems to be the owner's main source of income. Without this lovely space, our town would lose part of its appeal. We all say "shop local" and it has resonated with our people. Hopefully buyers will support West Point businesses instead of going to our Walmart for their Christmas gifts or Holiday gifts. We have plenty of Mom and Pop stores and our town is proud of its solidarity. We got a new mayor, the first African-American mayor, who is trying to bring in a new grocery store to compete with Walmart. Our town has seen many changes and I am proud that I am part of it, even though I don't get out much, and I'm not there now. :) I wouldn't choose to live anywhere else in Mississippi. It is the best place to raise a family and the community is special. We hardly ever have any crime (I remember when someone got stabbed at the Huddle House) and our police are there to protect and not to harass or shoot. Racism exists, as in any town, but we are not divided by it. As we go through these troubling times, my hope is that our town survives the next few years and will prosper. There's nothing like a small town and there's nowhere like West Point, Mississippi.

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I admit that I am confused about the best political economy. I think the biggest firms in the nation do not make $$ in a vacuum and that they should pitch in a share in an appropriate proportion without intense lobbying keeping them from pitching in. Greed and poverty. No one should be hungry and homeless.

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I have often mused that we have no sense of community! Of course we don’t! A sense of community has kept our darkest tendencies in check! When I was growing up our neighbors kept us from getting in too much trouble. There were community moral standards. Our children want to shoot their classmates! We no longer have a connection with people except maybe here where we feel a common purpose! The old days still produced crime and perversion and were not at all perfect! I remember when there was a small grocery store in almost every neighborhood. We knew our grocers and butchers and shopkeepers. Nostalgia always leaves out the negative and unpleasant. America broke apart with the advent of big corporations who moved our fathers from their home towns to “better” themselves! My own father always longed for the old hometown and he was lucky enough to be able to move back there much before he retired. He was so disappointed he moved before he died and was buried elsewhere. There was a sense of community in the community graveyard. I have never felt a sense of community in my life except with people of like mind! Small communities just exaggerate differences.

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