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Room for everyone?

It’s never a good thing when communities like Cochrane lose one of its local businesses.

It’s never a good thing when communities like Cochrane lose one of its local businesses.

News that one of Cochrane’s independent coffee shops, Java Jamboree, was closing its doors because of what the establishment’s owner, Jessica Johnston, said was an ‘inability to continue operating the business in a sustainable way’ with high rental costs and an influx of big-box stores to the community was disheartening for some.

Though Wal-Mart, The Source and Dollarama are not direct competitors of a coffee shop like Java, they do, like Johnston has pointed out, have an influence on foot traffic in the shop’s area, a location she said was once the highest traffic area in Cochrane when Java first opened 13 years ago.

And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that there are now three Tim Hortons locations in Cochrane (a year ago there was only one), in addition to two Starbucks (5th Ave. and Safeway), low-cost coffee spots, like McDonald’s and A&W and a handful of independents, like Coffee Traders, Legacy Guitar and Coffee House and Guy’s Café and Bakery.

Life is tough in the business world, particularly when that business does not have the franchise tag, which provides X amount of guaranteed business and fairly deep pockets for marketing.

Local shops like Java really depend on a certain type of resident…one who truly cares about supporting local businesses and is willing to pay a bit more for that support.

Places like Cochrane (and even more so, Banff and Canmore) can sustain independent businesses, at least for a while it can, because many of those who live in the community do care about helping local businesses and, even more importantly, have the income to do so.

It may seem petty or strange to some, to say a person needs to make a decent income to afford an extra $1 for their morning coffee, but it’s true. In most cases, people will suss out the best deal they can find, and that includes making the choice between a $1.80 and a $2.80 coffee.

This natural human instinct to find the best deal is often what leads to the demise of small businesses…that and the introduction of chains, franchises and big-box stores that offer similar products for cheaper.

People, however, need to be provided with options, and if there is a highly successful big-box or franchise business that wants to open a location in a community like Cochrane, more often than not, that business will be welcomed by the majority of residents.

It is always interesting to see the results of the Eagle’s Best Of Cochrane survey, which we will be doing for the third year in a row in 2015. Last year’s winner for best place to get a coffee was Coffee Traders, Tim Hortons was second and Java Jamboree came in third.

It’s interesting (and unfortunate) that a place like Java can be supported by so many and is still unable to make a reasonable enough profit to warrant staying open.

Big-box stores are not immune to failure.

Just look at the recent Target announcement.

The difference is that franchise locations do not close because they can’t afford the rent, don’t have the means to advertise, or are unknown to too many potential customers – they have to work really hard at screwing up.

The other major difference is that big-box stores don’t bring a community the same kind of thing that a local, independent business can, and it’s sad when a place like Cochrane loses a little piece of that.