I just finished eating a great lunch at a locally owned restaurant in a prominent and popular area of the city.
When I walked through the door of Geeks Seafood, Salad and Subs, I was promptly greeted by the man behind the counter with a friendly "hello.” I waved a greeting and looked up at the menu which consisted of dozens of options including sandwiches, salads and even fresh seafood.
I was having a bit of trouble deciding what to get when the man asked if I had been in before. I let him know it was my first time and he was quick to walk me through the menu, make suggestions and let me know the specials of the day. I decided to go for a shrimp sub. He took my payment and headed back to the kitchen to prepare my food. I took a seat and got to reading some It
on my Kindle.
About five minutes later he walked out and sat a huge sub in front of me full of shrimp, cheese, lettuce, mushrooms, peppers, onions and other veggie toppings. It was still warm and the bread had a nice crunch to it. I filled up a free cup of water and dug in. The meal, which cost me $8, was too much for me to even finish — and it was freaking delicious. Not the be-all-end-all of meals, but a good, quality lunch.
While I was eating, he came over to make sure I was enjoying the meal. I let him know it was wonderful. When I left he thanked me and said he hoped I would come back soon. I told him I would for sure.
And I will.
As I walked through the door I felt a wave of sadness wash over me, because the entire time I was enjoying my time at this meal, I was the only person in the restaurant.
At noon, in Broad Ripple, on a weekday.
I looked next door at the chain Mexican restaurant, and it was packed.
I walked down to the chain coffee shop, and it was packed.
I drove by the other chain Mexican joint — which has had terrible press for the past two years — and it was packed.
The chain noodle spot on the corner had a full parking lot.
And yet, I had just had a great, inexpensive meal at a place that is new and locally-owned by — I’m guessing — the guy who helped me, cooked for me, served me and thanked me.
Why does this happen? I see a local person doing all of the right things: being friendly, cooking fresh food, giving customers discounts if they come in in their Halloween costumes, offering lunch specials, letting customers know he is happy to have them in his establishment. And yet people crowd into these places that are owned by huge corporations that see nothing but dollar signs and numbers.
Sure, the place I went to today maybe took a but longer than the average meal. But, that’s fine when the finished product is tasty. I just can’t begin to understand why this happens. Why we, as consumers, choose to go to places that don’t care about us at all. Why we support places time and time again that are of lower quality.
Here is my question: When are we going to start truly supporting local and sticking to local and making Indianapolis a place where chains no longer want to open?
Applebee's in Broad Ripple closed earlier this month. I am hopeful the space will soon be occupied by something worthwhile and local. So, I guess we’ve started, but it needs to happen quicker before we lose quality local establishments.