Every street in the centre of villages and towns were strewn with shop fronts a hundred years ago...
Although people didn't sit outside their shop front, it harks back to a time when food shopping took all morning and the main high street was at the heart of the community.
This was an era when every shopfront had a window display. Nowadays, how many window displays do you see when walking down your high street?
In English villages, charity shops dominate their little high streets that used to have rows of busy shopfronts manned by neighbours and everyone knew eachother.
Our modern world is so fragmented that many people don't even know their next door neighbour and shopping is done in souless hypermarkets where nobody even talks to eachother.
The shop front used to be the place where everybody met up to chat, gossip and cement friendships. Who has time for that now as we run a million miles an hour towards our deathbeds? No time to stand and stare, or to pass the time of day with a local shop owner.
These shop fronts were the lifeblood of the villages and towns around the world. In my village, there were people right up to the 1960s that had never been the 5 miles into the city of Bristol because they had everything they ever needed right there in the village.
Not just butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, but absolutely everything, whatever people needed within a mile radius someone would be able to supply it. When new things were needed new shop front doors opened to supply that demand.
In seaside towns new shop fronts opened to serve the tourists and the local community benefitted from this influx of people rather than the big chain stores.
Conditions improved for everyone, electricity came to many homes and, with it, new bookstore shopfronts and increased leisure time meant more time with friends and family. The pace of life was slower, no one was running to keep up with themselves unless they wanted to.
Even the old Dickensian style of shop front survived as there was increased population and increased demand for new gadgets and homewares. Many more people had extra money in their pockets and could do more than just feed themselves.
But then, everything began to change...
The big homeware stores began opening up other branches as did other successful merchants and the chain store was born. At first the impact was small, as every new shop front still needed to open up on a busy high street.
The smaller competitors were still able to compete and there was often choice in the marketplace.
But then things got even worse...
The rise of the Mall was the first nail in the small shop's coffin as it made the whole shopping experience easier and more pleasurable for the customer and protected them from the elements. The first Malls were in town and many other nearby shops benefitted. But then, because of parking and space issues, many new shopping malls were set up out of town and the heart of the city caved in.
The traditional shopfront struggled to survive and went downhill until the shop front doors finally closed for good.
Shops were knocked together to make room for chain stores with their characterless buildings and faceless staff. Smaller shops were taken over by people with dreams in their heart, only to fail in the first year. The footsteps dwindled on the high street and were replaced by the sounds of fast food rubbish cartwheeling like tumbleweed down the street.
But some still survive...
The glamourous shopfronts built in the art deco period still have as much appeal today as 100 years ago.
As do the Gaudi inspired shopfronts of Barcelona, and he too was inspired by the Art Nouveau movement that swept Europe in the early 1900s. The art scene brought some beautiful architecture into the shops and arcades of European towns.
The shopfronts of the World can be reborn again and we can refind ourselves in the heart of our own communities. We just need to make time to visit and support independent shopkeepers and not just walk past their shop fronts. They in turn will invest in their own community - YOUR community! and you will all be richer for it. And I am not just talking about money.
Do you see those big chain stores investing in your community? I didn't think so. Most of them have such an immoral view of tricking the tax system they don't even pay taxes in your country - it all gets syphoned off to tax havens - making not just your community, but your whole country poorer.
Please shop locally and invest in your community before it too disappears.
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