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Business competition may be beneficial for Vashon residents, visitors | Letter to the Editor
Island Lumber’s move to sell liquor has raised questions not just about access to intoxicants, but also about “harmful” competition. Competition, like it or not, is part of our capitalist society, and it doesn’t mean the big guys always win. If island businesses compete strictly for the island dollar, Island Lumber is well-positioned to take business away from our small liquor store, our boutique pet shop, even our sporting and gift shops.
So, one survival strategy for Vashon’s small, neighborhood stores is to attract business from off-island — a potentially costly promotional effort if shops undertake it alone. However, a less costly strategy is to join forces and “package” the unique character of Vashon Island as it is exemplified in our small shops, unique restaurants, art galleries, musical and theatrical venues, boutique farms, parks, seaside and wooded vacation rentals, compact and accessible outdoor adventure activities and more.
It is by attracting off-islanders — and their money — to our unique character that we level the competitive business playing field on the island. Visitors who know what Vashon offers don’t come here to get the “big box” shopping they can get on the mainland. They come here to experience our rural, artistic and independent spirit; they come to interact with friendly shopkeepers who are genuinely happy to see them. And when they need the services our “big box” establishments offer, they can get them right here. In this scenario, rather than draining business from island entrepreneurs, the Island Lumber types stand in support of the community’s economic diversity. When our small businesses thrive, we all do.
— Susan McCabe