Does Charlottesville Hate Chains?

Chains -

Does Charlottesville hate chains? I got that question the other day, and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it.

My working response: C’Ville dislikes chains lacking personality. The second part of my answer is, “it depends.” It depends on what kind of chain, what the local impact is, whether they offer something I can’t get on Amazon, and whether they create a great place.

(in researching this post a bit, I found that I wrote about this almost exactly four years ago – Buying Local – The Race to Homogeneity, and in 2008 and in 2006!)

Me? I love my local bike shops – they provide immense knowledge and community connectivity and advocacy. I shun Starbucks in favor of Mudhouse, Grit, Greenhouse Coffee, or any of the many other local coffee shops.

I drink local beer – Devils Backbone, Champion, Blue Mountain, Three Notch’d among them – and that’s something that I think transcends the “chain” pejorative. Starr Hill surely hasn’t suffered through their relationship with Anheuser-Busch, many in Crozet wanted a shot at a brewery (and a vocal minority didn’t).

We have tons of Charlottesville bakeries, and only one of them is a chain.

So, naturally, I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook (all of those who answered, I actually know), and got some fantastic answers and insight. — answers embedded after the break.

@JimDuncan And this is in flux with more people coming in who are used to the NoVa, Short Pump life.


Rebecca I think we like that Charlottesville has an identity all it’s own. We don’t want to be Fairfax , or Arlington, or any other of a number of American cities that become more and more identical as each chain comes in. We love our locals because they *feel* local. They are part of our community, and they give back to our community by adding personality (and revenue). I think we all still visit the chains from time to time, but we get concerned when all new development seems to only have room for chains, or when the chains start creeping onto the downtown mall. Once a chain appears, it is almost never replaced by a local business… And that real estate is lost forever to something you could see/experience in Anytown, USA. I didn’t move to Anytown… I moved to Charlottesville.


Charlottesville isn’t Anytown, but it’s becoming that in many ways.

Jeannine I think Charlottesville dislikes chains in places where they are used to seeing small businesses.

Chains are fine for the highway, which will always look like other highways.
As our highways grow (29 North, Stonefield, 5th Street), so do the stores.


Jennifer I think Jeannine is right. Certainly a certain segment of Charlottesville dislikes chains and actively avoids them. Is that a greater proportion in this area versus any other area? I don’t think so. Also, I think you have to define your terms, what do you mean by Charlottesville? People who have choices? Or a geographical area. And chains? Mud house/Greenberrys have several stores, are they a chain? Whatever we purport to be, the real test is the bottom line of the so-called chains, they appear to be booming (at least along the highways).
And –
Keith Honestly, for me, it is all about what the place is. I hate… hate.. hate… chain restaurants. But I’m happy to buy things off Amazon every other day. Where the offerings can be differentiated (food, wine, furniture, home builders) I want local flair, flavor, and ownership… but if you are selling a commodity, bring on Amazon and Wegmans… I love the convenience of Martin’s over Lowe’s, but the selection at Lowe’s sometimes is well worth the trip.

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