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by Ron
Let�s Go to Town

It happened often this summer. Normally this driver concentrates on the road ahead and doesn�t engage in a lot of conversation. It was different when wheeling along the uneventful grazing land of Wyoming and the Dakotas. My partner, always ready to start a conversation, usually gets it going with a thought provoking question. 

We had just passed through a partially boarded up small  town and we both commiserated on the demise of many small town business districts. It wasn�t long before Barb started on a positive note and asked me if I recalled any real impressive central business districts in our ten years of travels. In other words, "Has Wal-Mart really taken over the country?"  That started it. We both had fun searching our memory and reliving the excitement of discovering and exploring some our nation�s commercial jewels.

Some of these vibrant centers even had a Wal-Mart in the outskirts. In his autobiography, Sam Walton (Wal-Mart's founder), said that he really couldn�t compete with a well stocked local hardware because he couldn�t stock what they do or provide the personal service. Maybe that's why Barb likes local hardware stores (the ones with wooden floors). They are loaded with unique treasures that include items that we thought no longer existed. 

So what attracts us to these downtown areas besides hardware stores. The list is extensive and includes specialty shops of all kinds. Dress shops like Crazy Mary's in Cody, Wyoming attract Barb. To her, independent shops like this offer the style of dresses that she likes. I call them "hippy dresses." They are long, lose fitting with string ties and come in earth tone colors. You won�t find them at Dillards. You won�t find 9 ½ narrow womens shoes at Dillards either, but she found them at a local shoe store in Lewiston, Idaho. 

We have enjoyed and visited coffee shops, unique restaurants, family owned pizza places, homemade ice cream parlors, art galleries, computer stores that give personalized service, and old fashioned dime stores (more wooden floors).  You might even find street sculptures (Grand Junction, Colorado) or beautiful flower gardens and planters along a curved brick sidewalk.

In a future article I will describe some of our favorite business districts at the risk of overlooking many. Thank goodness they haven�t all disappeared. We will do our part and continue to patronize them. If you would like to share your favorite business district, tell us about it and we will help keep it alive by acquainting our readers with it (free advertising). 

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