Eureka: Earthquakes Aren't The Only Thing That Breaks Us

If you're a fan of crappy Mexican food and live in Eureka, CA, you probably already know that the Jalisco on 101 is closed.  This comes at a time when the Bayshore Mall announced that four more stores were leaving its overpriced folds: Hallmark, Anchor Blue (thank God), 9 Months Later (I think that is what it is called) and Gold Rush Coffee.  Last but not least, Eureka also lost two KFC restaurants and long-time local hang-out Stanton's (another restaurant).

The economy, as they say, is showing signs of improvement.

Like those parents who videotaped their child, all of 23 months old, smoking pot, the people who think the economy is getting any better here in Humboldt are delusional at best, but are more likely just plain ass stupid.  Perhaps they don't deserve to be in jail like those idiotic parents (for whom jail is far too pleasant, but at least they probably get to see family and friends in there now), but they do need wake-up calls like this to remind them that the yellow brick road is really just a lot of paint and a fancy name.

Too many of Eureka's residents are really like those parents (both figuratively and literally).  They are oblivious to reality, and not only are they oblivious, they revel in their ignorance and display it for all the world to see.  When they are caught, however, it becomes one of those deer-in-the-headlight moments we've all seen on windy country back roads.  "Oh shit, I'm fucked!"

As anyone who has spent five minutes in this county knows, pot fuels our economy.  Luckily, our local growers and dealers are fast and loose with their money for the most part, so the businesses get the benefits of that (not to mention some of those businesses are involved in those operations).  That's not something you want to build an economy on, however.  With legalization being inevitable, which will surely drive prices down, Eureka and Humboldt County has to start looking at other ways to keep itself alive (and all those Humboldt shirts you see people wearing for some stupid reason is not enough to do the trick, either).  So what would turn the Northcoast's economy around?  What do we need to do in order to survive?

Small businesses are nice.  They don't employ many people, but they do create jobs.  Larger businesses create more jobs, but much of the money leaves the county.  The tourism industry is a bust when gas is creeping into the $4.00 a gallon range.  Pot will eventually be legal, and the price will drop ... and the tobacco companies will move in.  Prostitution won't be given the thumbs up any time soon.  Our lumber and fishing industry have been sucked dry.  So where does that leave all of us?  California is in the throes of a financial disaster, and as California goes, so does the country.  But to save a state, you have to start with one county at a time.  Humboldt can't do it alone, but we can watch our own backyard.  All it takes is a little elbow grease, and some great ideas.

As anyone who has read this knows, I'm not a huge fan of the current state of capitalism.  Greed on everyone's part has led to much of the disaster we are in.  I do think a survival instinct will get us out, however, and a great big part of that involves Eureka not turning its nose at anything that reeks of big business.

Blasphemy, I know.

The jobs that Eureka lost with these current closings will be felt throughout a community that is already reeling.  Many of these workers had families.  Mouths to feed.  There aren't enough new jobs or open jobs to absorb this.  And anytime anyone wants to start a new business that would have more than five employees there are so many hoops to jump through and so much knee jerk opposition that any common sense argument is lost in the din.  I don't like Wal-Mart.  I don't like Best Buy.  I don't like Home Depot, and nor do I care about Trader Joe's.  But let's get realistic.  Any one of those businesses will create more jobs than another small coffee shop that may last a year or two, and then those people who are employed there can spend their pay checks at the local small businesses if they so desire.

Big and small businesses have the same end goal as far as I'm concerned -- both want your money.  Small businesses often can't compete on the same level as the big ones can, but they don't have to.  They can offer services that the big businesses can't hope to compete against.  Instead of focusing on that, however, too many of the small businesses here just flatly state that people should support them because they are small businesses.  It's an inefficient argument that does nothing to really sell their cause.

If there's any reason to shop at a small business (besides the money staying in the community, but that means less than you'd think in a global economy), it's for the personalization of services.  The staff at your local small bookstore will know you.  The staff at Borders won't.  That is the real draw of the small business.  People will be willing to spend more for that.  I know I am, as that "your local dollars stay local" line means nothing to me when I have to comparison shop.  I want whatever goods I need at the cheapest price possible, but I'm willing to pay more when a business makes me feel special.

Example: Big Pete's versus Poppa Murphy's.  Big Pete's is better pizza.  No comparison.  It's also more expensive.  Even when I have to be super careful about what I spend, I'll spend it at Big Pete's simply because they know me there and are able to address me by name.  Hell, even if the pizza weren't as good as Poppa Murphy's, I'd go just for that.  Fortunately, the pizza at Big Pete's kicks ass, so no real problem there.  I'm willing to pay more for the personalized experience.  Hell, when I call them there are workers there (hello, Jackie!) who know my voice.  They ask how work is going.  They sit with you at the table and discuss movies.  You won't get that at the chain store where you are nothing but a dollar sign.

Our local businesses need to realize that and push that, and then they need to get on the Internet and sell themselves there, too.  Instead, they whine about how big box retailers will destroy us.  Yes, they will, but only if we let them. 

Right now, Humboldt needs jobs.  Period.  Those jobs can be from small business or big, but realistically speaking they are going to come from the big businesses.  Target employs more people than a group of small businesses combined.  Once we get our economy back on track, we can look at ways of keeping it stable without the use of big businesses.  Until that happens, though, we need their cash infusion if only in the form of jobs.  There are many of us who won't shop at them regardless of cash problems, and plenty who will regardless of the service.  They can co-exist in a community with small businesses and small businesses can actually use them to help bolster their own economy if they are smart about it.  We can be mercenary, too, just like the big box retailers.  Lure them.  Let them create jobs.  Get the economy kick started, and then abandon them where they stand, force them out, and utilize the building for something else.  Unfortunately, that will never happen here, and the reason why is exactly why our economy is struggling so bad in this area.

We have just enough people to keep those big businesses in business, which does eventually hurt the smaller businesses that don't know how to compete (more the pity on them, but regardless -- lost jobs are lost jobs).  On the flip side, we also have a smaller number of people who are even more influential and successful at keeping these big businesses out.  Thus, a large influx of jobs are rarely created, and when they are, we lack the courage of our convictions to boot the businesses out once they've done what we need them to.

If we don't do something soon, this lack of revenue is going to send more businesses under ... and a great many of them, like the past few weeks have shown, will be small businesses.  And then where will we be?  Really stuck, as now even those who refuse to engage with big business will have little reasonable choice, and those who are employed by the smaller businesses will be out of work.  It's not a future that looks good by any stretch of the imagination, but it is happening.  It is real.  And it is the wave of the future.