By Pinar Kaymak
If the riots showed us anything positive, it was that local communities came together to support one another. From sweeping the streets, helping people who lost their homes to helping small businesses get back on their feet, most people recognised the importance of the ‘local’.
It is very difficult to distinguish the local from the global. The term glocalization and the phrase ‘think globally act locally’ has become a winning combination for economists and big corporate companies in the last decade. However, turning local concepts into big business destroys the very locality it has borrowed from. Can McDonalds ever become your local chippie? Or Wetherspoons your local pub?
For the ‘local’ to survive against globalisation, communities must be able to invest in their own communities. One of the main characteristics of your local community (whether it is where you work or where you live) is the small local businesses you regularly visit. They may not have big ads in the media, big brand names you are familiar with or big corner shop units you see from miles away, but they know who you are, make a special effort for you and care about the area they operate in.
It is a tragedy that some local businesses who have traded for years have to close down because bigger companies overshadow their line of work. Supermarkets now sell clothes, insurance, glasses, medicine, photos, books, cards and mobile phones as well as groceries. Now supermarkets sell sandwiches, small ready made lunches and some even deliver to offices. Where does this leave everybody else? Once the foundations of local businesses are destroyed, there will only be a Tesco, Starbucks and Wetherspoons where your local grocers, butchers, bakers, café and pub used to be. We are seeing many cafés close down in many parts of London due to the simple fact that they are unable to compete with the bigger franchises. As a new small business owner, this worries me. How can I compete against the advertising of Costa or Starbucks, or even Marks and Spencers, let alone their huge shop units?
I know how. I have a real cook, I make real food, my sandwiches are fresh and don’t come in a plastic packet. But it’s seems to not be enough, and slowly, I see local shops closing around me. I must ask myself, will my café be next?
So I urge you, next time you want to get your coffee and sandwich from a standard franchise, why not try a small local café instead. You may find the service more personal, the coffee better and the food freshly made. I write this as a local resident of London. I write this as a small business owner in Fitzrovia. I write this because I can see the sense of locality slowly becoming lost in a global market.
Pinar Kaymak works at The Bay Leaf Café, 19 Tottenham Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 2AN