I am positive that we have all, at some point in our lives, been to a chain. You know, we are talking about those places like Five Guys, Olive Garden, Applebees, and even nonfood places like Target and Walmart, that are dotted across the country and no matter which one you go to they are always selling the same thing and look the same way inside. Everything I have learned in my enviro classes have told me that the chain is negative. For one, it doesn’t allow the culture of the area it is located in to really shine through, at all. And there is always the fact that due to the high frequency of people that go to these, there is a constant need for the transporting of products from a large storehouse somewhere in the country to it’s specific chains. SO where does this leave us?
It leaves us with something we might consider unsustainable. Yes it does take a bit away from the culture because they rarely sell local things, but it also takes away from the local boutiques or cafes because the chains are often cheap and fast. The local economy isn’t really supported as much. Bummer.
And do you know where I began to think about all of this? Sitting and dining at a chain. I don’t mean to post this in anyway as a hypocritical stance on chains, but rather to bring a new light to the situation. I went to the new Panera chain down on 13 this past weekend for a bite to eat with a friend. I always grumble when I am down on that end of Ithaca (you know the end with the Walmart, Kmart, Petsmart, other marts) because it just isn’t Ithaca to me. The other end toward State St.? Yeah. That’s Ithaca. But to me this end seemed characterless. But here I was anyway sitting at a chain. The food is good and cheap. Often the issue we run into when deciding to buy local or not.
It was the end of the night and they were closing up shop and we saw them bagging up (in garbage bags mind you) all of their leftover backed goods. I sat in awe and almost disgust at how much I presume they were throwing away. But what about the local shelters and homeless?! I ranted in my head. And just as I went to go up to ask that very question, I ran into a couple who started to reach for the boxes. They were volunteers and they were taking the bagged up baked goods to a local shelter. Well, I’ll be. In all my ranting both inwardly and outwardly about “the chain,” here I sat feeling like a total hypocrite. Though not every chain does this (often for legal and sanitation issues), this chain donates their food every night to a local shelter. Not only is it helping to feed a portion of the homeless population, but the mere fact that they didn’t think twice about donating it made me recognize the Ithaca character in this place.
So in the end, I still feel strongly about the chain and about that portion of Route 13, but in every dark or seemingly negative situation, there is a positive and I’d like to thank a chain for showing me that.