The Luggage Center, Burlingame, CA
There's nothing like going to a specialty shop that has a rich assortment of quality products, that takes risks on new brands and models, and really knows their stuff. I was lucky enough to go into two such places, both for luggage, in the last two weeks.
The first was The Luggage Center in the sweet little shopping district of Burlingame, CA. I took photos of two of the more colorful offerings in the shop because I knew they'd pop in this blog. I was delighted to see The Luggage Center carrying a laptop bag from a Grommet supplier, Cocoon.
And I had to smile at this colorful rolling case from Heys (Britto Collection). You'd never confuse it with someone else's. Unless it gets wildly popular, which it could. It's surprisingly lightweight and was well-constructed.
When I got home from my trip to California, I decided to finally do something about my damaged Tumi bag. The zipper on an exterior pocket has been broken for years. I got in touch with the company, who pointed me to a local dealer to handle the repair. I absolutely love to fix and refurbish broken stuff: shoes, luggage, and I enjoy making repairs on just about anything in my house except 1) aftershocks of teenage wasteland/carelessness and 2) socks. About ten years ago I decided I had "made it" when I stopped darning socks (and had too many sons to keep up.)
Anyway, it was great to show up at the shop and have the woman behind the counter efficiently take my bag and details and tell me they would have it fixed in about a week. Yay! I loved that she was recording repair orders by hand so I asked if I could take a picture. You can see her suspicion in her eyes, but she let me take it nonetheless.
I believe in supporting these businesses. Specialty retailers are the lifeblood of innovative products, they create texture and fabric in our towns and cities, and they create jobs for people who have a passion for their specialty. And they are steadily getting killed.
A friend of mine owns one of the finest kitchen gear stores in his city. It enjoys both a great location and a terrific reputation. However, he tells me his second-generation business that used to support his family has dwindled to a trickle of last-minute-purchase low-ticket gadgets. He said, "People used to buy the whole range of cooking gear from us. I can't remember the last time I sold a set of All-Clad pans. People come in to check them out but then they go price shop to buy online."
I've written about the cost of discount culture before. Bottom line: if we think low prices on everything are our birthright, then we should be prepared to inherit the rest: a landscape of soulless chain stories and Wal-Marts. What can we do? We can make a huge difference if we move even just 10% of our purchases off-line, and away from the big box, to these little-guy shops. They need us very badly. It might cost slightly more but the cost of not supporting these businesses is even higher to each of us.