When our little community an hour south of Ottawa first heard that a big-box department store would be coming to town, there was a bit of an uproar. Residents worried that the store, located along the highway at the edge of town, would draw business away from the smaller retail shops in the downtown core. There was a petition, a public meeting and more than one ominous article in the newspaper.
The big-box store came anyway.
One morning, I was on my way to work and I passed the site where the new store would be just the first in a sprawling development. Kemptville would be like many other communities of a similar size across the country, with a cookie-cutter commercial park on the outskirts of town.
The forest had been felled and the trees pulled into heaps for removal. On the hillside, I kid you not, a family of deer stood and surveyed what used to be their kingdom.
In the end, that development blossomed and thrived. Many of the businesses located within the town limits pulled up their roots and moved out to the new site. People complained that they could no longer walk to the bank or the liquor store. There were growing pains.
The new complex brought jobs to the community and it attracted visitors, many of whom were likely passing by on their way to the nation’s capital along the highway. Maybe they wouldn’t have been enticed to stop in our little town if we didn’t have this new development. And now that they have, perhaps some have Googled “Kemptville” and learned more about the town and its many shops and services.
A new sign was erected along the highway, directing shoppers to something else most small communities have – our old town core. One can only hope the new development will prove to be a boon for everyone in town – not just those planted along the main route passing by.
This year, we have a new addition to the highway shopping centre: a big chain coffee shop. I have to admit, when I first saw the announcement I worried for the other small cafes in town. But after some thought, I came up with this analogy and I posted it on Facebook for discussion:
“Coffee shops are like hairstylists. Once you find one you like, you aren’t likely to jump ship just because a flashy new one has opened its doors. You may try the new flavour but if you really prefer what they’re doing at your original shop, you’re likely to remain loyal.”
My hairstylist saw this post and commented, “Unless we’re talking hairstylists.”
Uh oh. I quickly tapped out a private message to the disgruntled coiffeur.
“I saw your comment. Do we need to talk?!” (Once a loyal client, I had been sampling other salons in recent years.)
“Not if you’re going to keep skipping salons,” he responded.
Hmm. The tension was thick. I wondered for a moment if he had already cracked open the end-of-day bottle of wine.
“Well, to be honest I stopped going to you because I wasn’t pleased with the results the last few times …” I began.
“You should have told me. You talk to your hairstylist. You stay loyal.”
But I did talk to him. He didn’t listen.
He’s a funny, interesting and exciting person to be around, full of great stories and anecdotes that keep you entertained while in the chair. But he’s like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets when he gets going, scissors snapping and hair flying in all directions. He doesn’t listen. He takes a good look at your head and then he does what he wants to do.
He posted a meme on Facebook once: “If I see you in the grocery store I will come up and touch your hair, because it is mine.”
I’m sad that I can no longer go back to him, even for a special occasion blowout or a root touchup, because he has set fire to this particular bridge.
It’s a small town but it’s one of the fastest-growing communities in eastern Ontario so I think it’s probably wiser to let people try the coffee. All the coffee. If they really like yours, they will be loyal.
But you should probably keep your hurt feelings to yourself. After all, who wants to sit in the chair of an angry man with scissors?
Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.
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