I moved to the little town of Bastrop, Texas in May of 2000. Back then, it was just a sleepy little town with a straight shot to the “new” Austin Airport. There weren’t really many chain stores even, except for the rural Texas staples: HEB, Walmart, Walgreens, Tractor Supply, McCoy’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Dairy Queen.
Now, 18 years later, we have all the fashionable chains of every other place in the country. We have both a Home Depot and it’s corresponding Lowe’s. We have a Starbucks, but only one. We have a Best Buy, Staples, Hobby Lobby, Office Depot, Academy and a Spec’s (Texas liquor store supreme). We have Chili’s and Panda Express, a
Carl’s Jr(it closed yeah!), two Jack In the Box’s, two Walgreens, a CVS, and no less than three auto parts stores. Oh, and banks. We have more banks per capita than anywhere else in the world, I bet.
I’m torn about all this growth. I moved here to get away from people and the crowds, but they followed me. It’s made my life more convenient, because I don’t have to drive 40 minutes into Austin for much anymore, unlike the days when we first moved here, and we had to take weekly trips in.
But still, I struggle with the growth and the acceptance of growth in the community, while even I was drawn to the area from afar. Clearly, what I sought out is what my fellow 40,000 plus neighbors sought out as well. We have a natural tendency to want to shut and lock the door behind us as we enter a new area and of course, we hate change, especially change that hits too close to home. Nothing hits closer to home than a growing, changing community.
What destroys me the most, though, isn’t the pure growth, it’s the loss of the look and feel of the small town I moved to. With each new chain store, branding itself so strongly that they fight the city council for “variances” to allow their gaudy branded neon trademarked signs to be displayed, I feel we lose our identity as a small town in Texas. I’d move, but for fear that I would drag with me whatever drew all these people here in the first place, ruining some other such bucolic, pristine town. I just can’t be part of that again.
Maybe it’s that part of me that laments what the country used to look like before the superstores and giant retailers. I miss the mom and pop stores of old. I miss the old neighborhood hardware stores of my youth.
Possibly, it’s my kindred spirit with Victor Hugo in my feeling that “Nothing oppresses the heart like symmetry.” All these cookie-cutter shopping centers rob an area of its uniqueness. I could drop you in any state on a clear day, and you wouldn’t be able to tell where you were without looking at the license plates of the cars. I find that sad and depressing. It robs me of the desire to travel to experience new things when I look around and see exactly the same things as I see at home.
It’s also very likely it’s just my nature as I get older to become more and more crotchety and irritable – the “Get off my lawn” syndrome of aging.
Either way, I miss my little town and I know it’s gone forever.
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