In today’s Wall Street Journal, there is a piece by Joseph Epstein called “In Praise of Shopkeepers“. It compares the shopping districts of Evanston, Illinois and the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville.
Evanston, according to the writer, now caters to “the transient class”, featuring Starbucks, Burger King, and The Gap. Andersonville, on the other hand, has an independent bookstore, an excellent shoe store, and “an elegant bakery”. The author views the former district as uninteresting and the latter district as full of experiences of “delightful surprise”.
Whether or not you agree with Epstein’s characterizations and evaluations, you have to admire his appreciation for shopkeepers. He notes that it takes “courage and perseverance” to start and run a shop. He recognizes that it’s only getting harder with expensive real estate, high taxes, and national competition.
He claims that running a good shop is a greater service to the community than being a social worker, psychotherapist, poet, or member of Congress. I see no need to single out particular professions for comparison, although I am surprised he didn’t mention lawyers, but I do share his appreciation for those creative, resourceful, and stubborn entrepreneurs who come to work every morning for another day of swimming against the mighty currents.