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Mom and Pop Shop Locator

Share and find the best of mom and pop stores in your area
  [vote for,

Local mom and pop hardware and lumber stores are almost always better than Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart, or any other big box store. Patronize these stores, they could probably use it. So what would help patronage? A referal and locator service. No, Yellow Pages and advertisements aren't what I mean. Angie's List is for finding contractors. Just have something where you input your zip code and up come categories you can browse through. It is pretty much a wiki with google maps to localize searches.

The reason I think this is needed is that until I got really familiar with stores in the area by literally driving around and looking for them, I really didn't know where to go to get hardware, weird plumbing parts, soil, etc (without going to Home Depot). Calling people in the yellow pages usually had me reaching wholesalers or commercial places. And sometimes those places are appropriate for the consumer, but for what, is the question.

Below is a detailed background of the problem. If there is already a site that does all this well, I'd like to know about it.

Here is why local stores are better:

1. Most people who work there are knowledgeable. The job of the mom and pop employee (often an owner) is to get the right product into your hands. People there can handily help out with planning your project, if needed. This contrasts to most people at a big box store. Those people are there to stock shelves and take your money.

2. When you walk into a mom and pop shop, they find you, you don't even have to think about finding them. A typical experience within the first 30 seconds you set foot into the store consists of a friendly "hi! Can I help you find something?" This query might easily end t by seeing the person walk with you to find the thing you're looking for. You might get a door greeting by a person at the big box store, but that individual sure won't take you to find that gizmo that connects to that widget. They have to man the door. Besides, it's likely they don't even know what a widget is.

3. Mom and pop stores are smaller so it takes less time to get from side to the other. Incidentally, this does not mean that they aren't carrying what you need. On the contrary it is more likely you'll find what you need here by virtue of my first two points.

Downsides to mom and pop stores:

1. They carry a more focused product line, so you may have to go to more than one store for your product. For example, you might have to go to a gardening store and a lumber store if you want to build a raised garden box.

2. They aren't open at night, nor on Sunday. Or is this an upside?

So I ask you, when is the last time you spoke with the owner of Home Depot? haha, trick question since you might be a shareholder through your 401k. Patronize mom and pop.

bammin, Apr 25 2010

Yelp.com http://www.yelp.com/la
This is a sample of the home page for Yelp.com in Los Angeles. You can see for yourself the types of businesses they review and the neighborhood browsing feature. In addition to Los Angeles they service a large number of other cities and are growing rapidly. I noticed that they are currently reviewing businesses in 36 US States and are beginning to expand internationally. [jurist, Apr 25 2010]


       While I'm not sure if they qualify as "Mom and Pop", independent record stores often stock releases that are all but ignored by large chain stores. Of course, record stores in general are becoming increasingly rare in the modern age, and regardless of their size, they're struggling and would probably benefit from more patronization.
DrWorm, Apr 25 2010

       @21_Quest: Well, I didn't make any moral claims, and I agree with almost everything you said. I think capitalism operates much better unfettered from false constraints imposed by government or nannies of any sort. I certainly don't advocate propping up a business model that sucks while punishing success. I think boycotts are usually foolish, and never suggested doing so. I've spent $60k to remodel my house, much of it at the big box stores. For certain things I wouldn't try anywhere but Walmart first; take socks: they've got the product, it's pretty easy to find, and they are cheap as dirt. Great! I have no problem when the store fits those criteria.   

       If there is any valid critique of my claims from a free market standpoint, it is that a weakness of mom and pops business model is marketing: crappy locations, and little effective advertising and lack of branding puts them in a bad spot. In pure market terms they should go under if they don't take care of those things. But this really is the implied premise that I've held all along and is the impetus for the proposed remedy.   

       Mom and pop have service going for them, and that counts tremendously. Especially when it comes to buying something you know little about, good advice goes a long way. I rarely find that at the big boys. Radio Shack (how do they stay in business?) and Best Buy (certain departments) are exceptions to this rule.   

       Finally, what is wrong with advocacy?   

       I tried milo.com and while it kind of purports to do what I proposed, as of now there aren't any mom and pops on the lists, at least in my area. I guess they're just starting in with the mom and pops based on that news article.   

       But you see, milo.com doesn't help those who don't know what they don't know and that is where a more generalized service would help. I won't want to know where a 1.5" tubular drain fitting can be found because I won't know that is what I really need. Generalized categories are all most people need to get them to the right store.   

       However, this idea is so obvious that it must have been tried somewhere before so I'm willing to accept any prior art.
bammin, Apr 25 2010

       I don't think that Yelp.com was set up specifically to tout the advantages of Mom and Pop businesses, but it does provide user reviews by real people just like you and me of the experience to be had in various types of businesses...many, if not most, of which would be Mom & Pops...in nearly two dozen business categories by neighborhood. In Los Angeles, for example, the categories for which they accept reviews include: Restaurants 4687; Shopping 2796; Food 2087; Beauty and Spas 979; Health and Medical 900; Automotive 877; Arts & Entertainment 781; Nightlife 767; Local Services 714; Event Planning & Services 644; Home Services 564; Active Life 470; Hotels & Travel 389; Education 278; Professional Services 274; Pets 228; Real Estate 210; Public Services &… 202; Financial Services 145; Local Flavor 136; Mass Media 84; Religious Organizations 71. The number following each category indicates the number of local businesses in that category which have received user reviews. Each category may be further filtered by particular geographic neighborhood within the metropolis. This might take your idea that extra step by not only identifying local businesses, but giving you an idea of what people who have shopped there thought of the experience. <link>   

       Just for kicks, to find the local harware stores in your area, go to the "Shopping" Category, select "Hardware Stores", and you will pull up a list and map of hundreds scattered across greater Los Angeles. Input "West Hollywood" for the neighborhood, and the top selection will be "Koontz Hardware". Take a look at what people had to say about shopping at Koontz, which is admittedly one of the best independently owned old-fashioned hardware stores in all of Los Angeles...but by no means the only one. It's probably the kind of place you would like to shop.
jurist, Apr 25 2010

       I always get a better deal buying things like hardware at the local mom and pop stores than at Home Depot.   

       And for that matter, I always try to support the local industry first, when I can, over a corporate store.   

       But this is close to an m-f-d for advocacy, which can be found under the help file on the left.
RayfordSteele, Apr 25 2010

       @RayfordSteele: ah, yes it is close to advocacy as described in the help doc. But I certainly have recommended a solution to the problem, the only question that remains is is it a new solution. I'll remove the rhetoric from the original post, if that makes people feel better.   

       yelp.com is awfully close to what I'm thinking of. (In my area it caught from zero to about 80% of the mom and pops, depending on the industry. About 30% were false positives.) I'm thinking more of a user built thing, more wikilike I guess, with the ability to tag the store with categories of products sold.
bammin, Apr 26 2010


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