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My Turn: Is online access actually leading to less access?

By Barry Robertson

It’s 8:15 p.m. and your child reminds you that you were supposed to pick up more ink for the computer printer so he/she could print the final version of that class assignment that is due tomorrow. No problem, you think. You’ll just run out to the local (and, for most things, the last remaining) office supply store in town before it closes for the night. You pull up to the store to an eerie sight — no lights inside. Did you forget to “fall back” your clock? The dashboard clock says no, so you pull to the front of the store and your fears are confirmed: The store has reduced its hours. Where else can one go at this hour for the “hard to find” printer ink? There’s nowhere in Salisbury.

Remember the nice, fluffy snow a few weeks ago? Nothing beats the thrill of kids sledding in the winter. But I forgot to pick up a sled at the super store. A call there confirms there’s none left. In years past, you could generally run downtown to Bernhardt’s or Rufty’s hardwareright up to the day before snow and get one of the many sleds that had been kept in storage for just such a rare event. Where else can one go to buy a high demand item that’s only in demand once or twice a year? There’s nowhere in Salisbury.

Or maybe you’re not really a sports fan, but when a once-in-a-lifetime event happens, such as Coach Dean Smith’s recent passing, you decide to pick up that commemorative magazine issue in case you can use the money in your twilight years. You check the grocery stores but keep hearing “we sold out of those in a day or two.” In years past, you could generally rely upon the bookstore at the mall or even State Smoke Shop on South Main Street to meet your need. Where does on go now? There’s nowhere in Salisbury.

And finally, you realize you forgot to pick up a “Sweetest Day” (yes, it still exists) card for that special someone in your life. There weren’t any left in the two slots allocated for them at the super store, and the drug store said they’re just not getting many of the “unique” cards anymore. No problem. You can always count on the card store at the mall. Oops, we haven’t had that store in years. Never fear! There’s another off East Innes. Guess again. As of March 1, there’s no longer one in Salisbury.

Don’t get me wrong. The Internet has certainly made things more convenient for most folk. You can order things you’d never find in our fair city, but there are many who don’t have Internet access. (That’s a thorny problem, as our school system has learned.) Even if everyone had access, you still can’t use the Web for one hour or even next-day deliverry. (Those proposed “delivery” drones present even thornier problems, as our federal/state/local government has found.)

Salisbury/Rowan has many wonderful shops, locally owned businesses and the like. They each have their niche markets and serve them well. But each years, and sometimes each month, we feel the negative effects when chain stores attempt to squeeze out every last penny by eliminating excess stock, reducing hours and/or closing “underperforming” stores.

On the other hand, there is a bright side. You can usually find what you’re looking for in one of the big cities within an hour’s drive. Just plan on making it a day trip and be prepared to drive all over town to find what you need.

Barry Robertson lives in Salisbury.




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