In this essay, I’m recommending a concept. I hope to see some feedback in the blog’s Snippets column, in the next couple of weeks. In a nutshell, I’m suggesting establishing small town Community Cornera — Community-Minded Meeting Places and Event Centers.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer and seek legal advice for all businesses before pursuing anything spelled out below.
As a Redoubter, I am relocating to a small town with little more than a few restaurants, a gas station, and a coffee shop. I noticed a small prime location corner suite available for lease. My mind has gone into over drive with the current events surrounding our currency and economy and restriction of movements, products and services via mandates. “How can I find who is selling items like eggs, honey, bread, beef and maybe there is a need for an item that I can make and trade to add to the community? Furthermore, how do people in the community know about each other’s goods and services?” I am willing to foot the bill for several years to develop this idea.
#1 – How do I become part of the town economy and culture without becoming seen as an outsider? For example if I opened some new age yoga studio California-style in this small mountain town, I likely will be branded a “transplant”. Or if I open a competing business, not filling a need in the economy, but putting “Farmer Bob’s Shop” out of business. I could be exiled. Instead I want to be an extension of Farmer Bob’s Shop.
#2 – How to encourage participation? Mass mailers? Speeches on the importance of small community economies during hard economic times by experts? This could demonstrate how the space can be used and its intended purpose. I want to advertise and show examples of how the space can be used, not my strong point.
#3 – Reaching in and reaching out. Looking for local vendors, services, goods and if none exist then maybe reaching out to the surrounding towns and encourage people that do this sort of businesses to come and use the space. If this stimulates locals bring it back home to locals.
#4 – And foremost is walking the thin line of legality. i.e. If I serve food then I run up against the bureaucracy of restaurant regulation, licensing, and liability. But some places have “Cottage Food Law” and wrapped foods not produced in a kitchen on site could possibly be sold.
The Rabbit Hole
This is the rabbit hole my mind has been in. I would really like to hear ideas. In a down economy — I’m talking Great Depression — it is my humble opinion that the only way to get through it is to depend on our own local economies, skills, goods, services, etc. Whether we use the $USD or precious metals or other goods and services to trade as a medium of exchange, we need community! And a common space to conduct these communications between folks in the community is essential and I am not talking about Fakebook.
Since this is a humble small town, I see communication as the first priority. Whether they come in for some Folger’s coffee, better yet serve coffee provided by a Iocal roaster or coffee shop, or they come by just to chat, have humble tables and chairs that reflect the local attitude. Encourage donations of extra furniture and needed appliances, ideas, etc. to let the community grow the space organically and it give them the feeling that they have a part of their community. I hope this would reassure them that you are not trying to change things like a transplant.
CAUTION: Do not be too openly political as that may divide the community against one against another and you exiled. Dividing people is a Marxist Democrat approach, not ours! Leaders don’t divide.
- Initially, have three large bulletin boards, plenty of thumbtacks and scratch paper. “For Trade” for business cards and products and services for sale such as farmers, seeds, meats, breads, crafts, services. “I Need” Maybe they need food, borrow a tractor, help with some word. “Announcements” for community events and news. Although this could be expanded (as I’ll explain later).
- Like some coffee shops have space to allow local business to display their wares. For example, allow local photographers or painters to hang their pictures on the wall with a price tag. This would serve three purposes:
- Maybe people in the town needs a photographer or didn’t know there was a photographer in town. Maybe the picture speaks to them and they end up purchasing it and the Community Corner takes a 10% commission to help fund itself.
- Set up shelving areas to allow local crafts to be displayed. Candles, Dolls, Clothing, local honey.
- Setup a glass display so local wrapped baked goods could be displayed. Again, wrapped and not produced on site.
- Provide things for people to do there to pass the time, and talk. (People talking strike fear in the heart of tyrants.) Things like Jenga, Puzzles, Games, etc. Especially in the Winter months with Cabin Fever. Cheap hot coffee and a warm place to socialize.
- Events! Maybe community meetings, social groups (*ahem* Tea Party Groups). Maybe an indoor farmer’s market or swap meet / flea market — especially in Winter. Depending on community age and interests folks could use / rent the space for teaching classes on anything they want, within reason, and charge a small fee (this might be free until many folks uptake this area to host events). How to grow a garden. How to can food. How to paint. Dance lessons. Cooking lessons. For this, I would want to first reach into the local community but being so small if none of these kinds of businesses exists locally then reaching outwards to the surrounding medium-sized towns might help to illustrate how to use the space and you can always bring it back local. People in the community may take up photography or painting when they see that there is a place to sell it. Maybe just pop in a DVD on guided Tai Chi for strength and flexibility for the old and young folks and offer a class/event. A movie night (watch those licensing fees). A town dance. Holiday parties.
- For my town, the only places to socialize is the local bar. While our Founding Fathers often did speak and debate in local pubs, this gives folks a place to stimulate discuss and ideas that don’t end in fights and the good ideas are more likely to be remembered when those who discuss them are not in a foggy state of mind.
- A bookshelf (community lending library) for appropriate donated books. I would intend on donating my own of course, like Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. The Road to Serfdom by Fredrick Hayek. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki to stimulate entrepreneurship. Novels by this guy named James Wesley, Rawles. Maybe a PBS DVD Commanding Heights on economic history and theory (Hat tip to Indepence Institute i2i.org for the real economics education.)
The Profit Side: Putting It All Together
The Community Corner would be a Not-For-Profit as I feel any “for profit” business would take away the true intention of the Community Corner. I know I just said this was to be a Not-For-Profit, but I am now going to discuss two different entities in the eyes of the IRS here. Maybe Miss Barbara makes awesome Cinnamon Rolls and you make incredible Breakfast Burritos and there is a local coffee shop / roaster. After all, what is breakfast without coffee? You and Miss Barb bake your goods at home then wrap them for sale, and the local coffee shop / roaster provides coffee for sale at the Community Corner. Miss Barb Cinnamon Rolls business entity, your Breakfast Burritos business entity, and the local coffee shop / roaster all make money on the sale of the foods while the Community Corner “Not-For-Profit” entity takes their 10% commission on the sales.
While the community benefits from a local quick grab breakfast place they are also seeing local candles, clothes, pictures, books, DVDs while they talk, eat, conduct meetings, exercise, learn to paint, celebrate a holiday, etc. This is a “Win-Win-Win”!
And the amazing part: We, The Free People of the United States of America, are stimulating the local economy and becoming part of the community with no central government planning!
JWR Adds: I believe that such a community room would probably be most viable if it were an adjunct to an existing church or business. Your thoughts, folks? Let us know, via e-mail, and I’ll post them in the Wednesday Snippets column.