Local, independent merchants are an endangered species, even in the Heights

It’s getting harder and harder to think globally and shop locally. Armed with my laptop and debit card, I made a stop at my locally-owned and operated pharmacy this morning only to find that a CVS in a neighboring city had swallowed it up. I say “my” pharmacy because I always had a chat with whoever was working behind the counter, I never had to wait long for a prescription, and I usually ran into someone I knew. All that was no more.

My intent this summer Saturday morning was to work on another story, but sadness about the loss of my local pharmacy overtook me and compelled an investigatigation.

Some of the best things about living in the Heights are the walkability of the city and supporting its independent merchants. Economic realities and Medicare legislation contributed to the demise of my pharmacy. I’m not a politician and I don’t pretend to understand how the economy works. But I am a concerned citizen who loves Cleveland Heights and tries to spend most of her money on goods and services within its borders.

Today, I had no recourse but to give my money to CVS. Does anyone really know what CVS stands for anyway?* I’m sure I can cultivate a relationship with the folks who work there. Experience has taught me that even the most indifferent clerk is human, and I like to talk to strangers, so there is some hope.

Although it will take some time to get used to the hyper bright fluorescents and the annoyingly chipper pop music wafting through the overly air conditioned aisles, I can make the adjustment. I already have.

I don’t have anything against CVS (except perhaps its aesthetics and room temperature) but I prefer to support local merchants instead of large corporations. And I’m concerned. There is no other independent pharmacy in Cleveland Heights that accepts insurance. Now to fill prescriptions, I will have to drive instead of walk or bike. And a domino effect happens so easily. Instead of working at my locally owed and operated coffee shop, it was easier to go to the one next to CVS. These are real dollars leaving Cleveland Heights. And not by choice.

As engaged citizens and elected officials, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to help ensure that local, independent merchants stay local and independent. This isn’t about being smug and self-righteously politically correct. This is about the future of Cleveland Heights and all unique communities that have not yet succumbed to the cookie cutter suburb.

Christine McBurney is Theatre Arts Department Chair at Shaker Heights High School, performer, freelance writer, and proud Heights High soccer mom.

*Editor's note: According to Wikipedia: The initials CVS once stood for "Consumer Value Stores," but CEO Tom Ryan has said he now considers it to stand for "Customer, Value, and Service."

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Volume 1, Issue 5, Posted 1:23 PM, 07.12.2008