What does it mean to be locally owned and operated? I found myself asking this question when I stepped into Tully’s Coffee
the other week and noticed that exact phrase written on one of their gift cards. The card itself caught my attention because it had a beautiful picture of Boise on it (a smart local store marketing tactic). What really got me thinking was their use of ‘locally owned and operated’. I’ve always thought of Tully’s as a chain coffee shop, whereas ‘locally owned and operated’ makes me think of an individual, independently-run store. I'm positive the Tully’s on 8th and Broad in downtown Boise isn’t the only Tully’s coffee shop in the world and I know the company's corporate headquarters aren't located here in Boise. So does my favorite coffee shop (with great tasting lattes) really qualify as local
? The question has been raised by other Balihooers
and undoubtedly brings to mind the arguments of our era's epic battle between the 'big box' businesses and the local ma and pop shops. Though, with the growing trend toward franchise and chain businesses and the continual blurring of the line between local ownership and corporate control, has the meaning of locally owned and operated evolved?
According to my research, there are a variety of opinions on the definition of "locally owned," but most tend to agree that it describes a business owned in majority by local residents who are largely free to make their own local advertising, operational, and legal decisions. On the International Franchise Association
's website, they promote the notion that all franchise companies are ‘local’ and are merely supported by their parent companies to facilitate and accelerate the steps to achieve their own business development goals. In fact, the IFA’s tagline, 'Franchising: Building local businesses, one opportunity at a time' clearly states their intention to foster and support healthy communities.
I would argue that the time has come for a significant shift in what consumers consider to be a ‘local’ business. With today's advanced technology and improved production, distribution, and shipping standards, it makes sense for small business owners to maximize their investments by leveraging resources available through franchise organizations and co-op memberships. In order to help these small business thrive in this new competitive landscape, we as consumers should adjust our 'us versus them' mentality to embrace the new era of national organizations. Sure, to some extent, there will be an inevitable loss of local history and charm as chain brands replace many of the old and cherished business names with which we've grown up. But we cannot deny that market forces will prevail in the end. The concept of economies of scale tells us again and again that pooling resources and knowledge will always create a smarter business model.
To look at it from a more personal perspective, it's only fair to admire and appreciate a local resident with the entrepreneurial spirit and drive to start their own business, employ local workers and sponsor local events. Further, they may be every bit as committed to contributing to the health and future of their community through their local store marketing efforts as the individually owned local store owners whose businesses have survived against the big-box retailers. With that in mind, Tully's Coffee and the other franchise and chain stores with local owners dedicated to serving their customers and investing in their communities are every bit as deserving of the locally owned and operated recognition.