The Sopris Sun

The slippery slope of ordering online

Before the whole Village at Crystal River / Crystal River Marketplace debate, it never even occurred to me that Carbondale’s grocery store was inadequate.

I’d grown up with Circle Soopers occupying half of the current space, and had bemoaned the loss of Ben Franklin to the expansion. Sure, there were some pillars in the middle of aisles, but anything I couldn’t get there I didn’t know I was missing. (Later, there was also Theresa’s and Clark’s, then Dandelion Market and now Mana Foods.)

I couldn’t imagine shopping in another town where I didn’t stop and talk to every other customer and the clerks wouldn’t spot me if I forgot my wallet. It turns out a lot of folks were doing just that, and I suspect those prodigal shoppers continue to do so even after we get a new store.

Now, I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have a salad bar or a bulk aisle or every Ben and Jerry’s flavor (surely the current space could accommodate that if we didn’t demand a dozen brands of toilet paper or shampoo) but I’d much rather keep Dayle and Mary and Steve and all the rest.

Which is why I’m honestly a bit distressed at the rise of Blue Apron, Clicklist and the like.

I get that food waste is an issue, and it’s hard to fault a mother who’d rather not shop with a cranky baby or the elderly person with difficulty getting around and only one mouth to feed. But when a certain locally-minded 30-something within spitting distance of the store is opting for the online option…

I’d like to say live and let live, except that the web has a track record of trampling brick-and-mortar. While Carbondale certainly boasts more restaurants and offices than when I was growing up, it’s missing some key landmarks like Sounds Easy and the Novel Tea Shop (though each closed for its own reasons, industry trends were likely relevant).

Seeing that trend, I canceled my Amazon Prime account a few years ago and made it a personal goal to shop local as much as possible. It may have been too little too late.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to go to Glenwood for socks or underclothes (Family Dollar has a decent selection). We even have a dedicated shop for used outdoor gear, which I think says a lot about this place. Still, its inventory is far from comprehensive. Good luck tracking down an SD card for your camera or an old fashioned wooden toboggan (I ended up ordering mine through the local Ace, which I admit was kinda cheating).

And that trend is likely to continue, making that vote-with-your-wallet mantra ever harder to live up to. What if that fair-trade, organic cotton t-shirt is only available online while the local shop stocks brands that use sweatshops? Or what if the same thing is available both places, but prohibitively expensive close to home?

It’s a real conundrum, and not one I can answer for others.

I can tell you that it comes up less often than I’d expect, and that Dollar Shave Club has nothing on how much I save using an old-fashioned safety razor. I’d also invite the sentimental and practical alike to consider what Carbondale would look like if we ordered everything online. Could what’s left sustain us both socially and financially (City Market is, after all, our largest source of municipal taxes)?

Just food for thought.