Editor, the Leader-News:
Reflecting on the article by Penny Hornsby in the Wednesday, Nov. 22 paper concerning the downtown El Campo plan.
The idea of a bustling downtown is awe inspiring and creates visions of old when the downtown streets were full on weekends of people “coming to town” for their shopping, to dine out, see a movie or have a soda pop.
However, in reality that just isn’t so.
The weekends bring a mass exodus of local shoppers heading to Victoria, Richmond or Sugar Land to do our shopping.
Why? Because the mom and pop stores that once were the hub of El Campo are slowly disappearing.
Where would you buy a tailored man’s business suit locally today? R.B. Department Store had them. Zlotnik’s Dept. Store, The New York Store, The Style Shop, Oshman’s Sam Bishkin’s Department Store, all had quality clothing and home goods. ALL of these were in the downtown area, but we lost those businesses when chain stores started moving closer.
Looking back in a 1959 City Directory, there were 23 businesses downtown to serve this and surrounding communities. There was a children’s store, five pharmacies, two hardware stores, a soda fountain, shoe store, sports center, furniture store, three appliance centers, Sears & Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, Ben Franklin’s 5¢ & 10¢ and more. Thank goodness Prairie Rose Emporium moved in downtown!
Today, a good portion of our earned income spent here is online or goes out-of-town.
How can an independent business thrive without local support?
Do these out of town and online businesses pay ad valorem taxes? Do they support or donate to local charities and benefits? Do they pay our sales tax or employ any of our citizens? Do they support our schools and pay our educators, police or fire department?
Have you taken notice of the vehicles in the parking lot at schools and local events? How many are from local dealers?
Now there is a new threat local businesses must face - BUYERS GROUPS.
The buyer pays a designated fee to a “recruiter” for the opportunity to save on ON-LINE SALES and “good deals.”
Not a single penny is returned to El Campo. Not a single penny is added to our sales tax revenues.
The most common comment is “I can get it cheaper at so and so ....” You probably could save money, but in the long run, when there are no more local stores to shop from, will money still be “saved?”
When we are forced to go out of town to buy your clothes, furniture, cars, etc., and El Campo becomes a bedroom community to Houston, will the “good deals” be as good?
When our young generations don’t come back home after college and El Campo becomes a ghost town – will your “Big Savings” be as valuable?
What example have we set for our children?
I truly hope that revitalizing downtown will be the answer to El Campo’s dwindling economy.
But until we’re willing to truly support our local businesses, I don’t hold out much hope.