Local shops are disappearing from small towns throughout America. Whether taking a relaxing drive through the rural communities across the Midwestern plains or visiting a quaint mountain town out west, the towns that used to thrive with stores and activity now bear a striking resemblance to ghost towns from long ago. Either storefront windows of local shops are empty with an eerily dark, vacant backdrop or they are completely boarded up altogether.
America's Main Street: Small Towns Disappearing?
RVing through many rural communities, we've noticed small towns disappearing from America's Main Street. Boarded up businesses and store fronts everywhere you look...
Disappearing Business Store Fronts Hits Home For Us Personally
My husband grew up in a tiny town in central Illinois, population 400. His family owned a truck stop back then and the little community had everything a person would need - a post office, grocery store, churches, school, gas station. Everything was within walking distance, including the homes of extended family members.
Driving back to visit these days is heartbreaking. Everything is boarded up and the locals remaining need to drive to the bigger city to get their needs met. There are still people inhabiting the town, but the "heart" of the community has stopped beating.
My Husband's Family Owned This Truck Stop Back In The Day
The Old Truck Stop
If You Grew Up In A Small Town, Are Many Of The Old Local Shops Gone?
So Are Many Small Towns Dying In The USA?
We have seen many small communities as we rv full time. From Idaho and Montana to the Dakotas, Illinois and Kentucky, it is beginning to look the same. Whether you are walking down America's actual Main Street or trekking the outskirts of the town, the local shops centered in the heart of town are closed. Remnants of an old gas station or grocery store sit abandoned on large corner lots, with grass pushing up through the cracked and worn asphalt. Driving by, you can't help but picture a time where cars flooded these businesses - when the people of the town were grateful to have everything they needed within walking distance.
The absence of local businesses does not mean that there is no population inhabiting these small cities. There are still signs of life all around. You can still see a mother pushing a baby stroller down Main Street. There are still smiling townsfolk dotting the sidewalks, appearing to be catching up on local news or sharing a good joke. Children still play out in the front yard and teenagers gather together to just "hang out." But there are few places to actually go to and on a rainy day, these small towns do have an abandoned look to them.
So why have the small stores disappeared? There are many theories - but the underlying theme in all of them comes down to money. Some towns have lost the large population needed to support local business owners, with families having to move to more urban areas to secure better paying jobs. Some stores have closed their doors because hard economic times have made it impossible for the owners to stay in business. One of the largest impacts, however, is the rise of major chain stores that have dotted the landscape across the country.
Stores like Walmart, large chain gas stations on the outskirts of town - all of these businesses have dealt a fatal blow to stores that used to thrive. The tough economic climate of today has forced even the most loyal community members to choose going to stores where they can stretch their dollars further instead of putting the money into area businesses and supporting their town's members. Small shops just cannot compete with the low prices offered by major store chains.
Local Shops In Small Towns Dying, But Other Businesses Thriving
While Some Move Out, Others Move In And Profit From The Community
There are some local small town shops that still appear to thrive on Main Street, however. Most small communities have a diner or coffee shop, where friends and neighbors can still gather to chat and catch up over a cup of coffee in the morning.
Another store that offers residents a convenience that can't be beat are hardware stores. People would rather not drive thirty miles just to grab a small item they need in an emergency. Of course, the local VFW, Eagles, Elks, etc. also have a lot going on for the community on weekend nights.
An interesting phenomenon has appeared as these local businesses are on their way out - some bigger businesses are on their way in. Almost every small town now has a chain gas station that not only offers gas, it also carries many groceries, household items, pet food and even take out meals such as pizza.
Also, dollar stores (in the midwest, Dollar General Stores are everywhere) have started popping up in these towns, frequently carrying groceries, while providing a quick and affordable place to purchase electronics, gifts, clothing, household goods and much more.
These new businesses moving in, however, are on the outskirts - there to catch the eye of those just passing through. Main Street still looks like a ghost town.
When we rv sometimes we walk through the heart of the city, and an eerie chill comes through us. You can just hear and picture the activity that once danced upon these streets - now just broken and abandoned sidewalks our feet carefully walk on.