Saturday, December 9, 2006

OUR GROWTH, YOUR GROWTH

The subject of growth and change often comes up in conversations with tourists. They will almost always nod their head knowingly, and say; "It's happening where I come from, too."

Well, no. Not at the pace that Bend has seen. While growth and change are happening throughout America, very few places have gone through what Bend has gone through.

Yesterday, I had a young family come in and say, "We asked all over town, where are you located! We asked five different people on Wall Street, and none of them knew!"

How can that be? How could a store, which has been in the same location for 25 years, become lost? It's not like downtown Bend is Siberia, and our store is located almost smack dab in the middle of all the new development.

When we first purchased the store, we were fairly unknown. 10 years later, after a sport card boom, and a comic boom, it seemed as though everyone in town knew who we were. I couldn't walk down the street without someone yelling, "PEGASUS!" That was followed by hordes of customers buying beanie babies, magic, pogs, etc.

Yet 10 years after that
it seems like no one knows where we are again.

The Bulletin published a statistic that sort of explains it; 75% of all residents of Bend have been here less than 5 years. And since that was published a few years ago, that percentage has probably gone up.

At what point is it the responsibility of a newcomer, to acquaint themselves with their chosen hometown? I've taken to pulling out the phone book and saying in a folksy voice, "Hey, they have this newfangled invention called the Yellow Pages where you can actually look up businesses! And if that is too retro for you, they have this magical thing called Google!"

Sometimes I sort of test the customer: Do you know where the Pine Tavern is? Have you ever been to Dandy's resturant? Have you been to the top of Pilot Butte? Do you know the streets, Greenwood, Franklin, Division, Newport? I'm fascinated by the lack of knowledge. Why do they bother to live here? Is it like when I lived in Eugene for a few years after college, but never read the newspaper because I knew I wasn't going to stay? Are these newcomers actually a transient population, how deep are they going to plant their roots?

Now some could say, it is YOUR responsibility, through advertising, or marketing, or promotions, to let people know you are here, and I wouldn't argue. (Though I have my doubts about the effectiveness of advertising, especially for niche businesses.)

But at some point, I think a civic duty on the part of any resident to try to get to know their town.

Don't you think?

2 comments:

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

That's one reason why I blog -- hoping that people will learn a little more about this town. It's not the only reason but it's one of them.

My parents are travellers. They lived in Allentown, PA for 8 years but other than that, nowhere for more than 5. My mom is greatly skilled in learning about a new place quickly. They have a house in Sisters now (to be close to the grandkids) which they visit about 4 months out of the year -- and they know more about where to buy what in Sisters, Redmond & Bend than I do, and I've lived here 4 years & I married a local. So, my point is, not everyone will remain ignorant of this place. A certain kind of person will pride him/herself on how quickly he/she can pass for local.

dunc said...

My wife says that people move here and then get busy working, raising a family, and they no longer have time to explore.

So, ironically, it's the tourists who find us first.

I suppose it is another drawback to Bend getting bigger. Easy to find shops when they only exist in downtown and a couple of malls. Not so easy, anymore...