Fighting Formula Franchise

McCall- Payette lake view accessed 10/8/2013


Typical Wal-Mart accessed 10/8/2013

Big franchise stores serve a specific purpose. They are less expensive, more accessible, and have a huge variety, but lack personality. I’ve spent a lot of time in Home Depot, so I’ll pick on this specific store. It is fine in certain places, but its enormity makes it hard to navigate, and challenging to find people to help out. Huge corporations like Wal-Mart also have a knack of damaging local economies and off shoring jobs.


Local business downtown, example: Opelika, Alabama accessed 10/8/2013

In my hometown of McCall, there are only a few formula businesses. Formula business isn’t limited to franchises, it is a business with a uniform appearance in multiple locations .  The formula restaurants that are in the city limits including Subway, Moxie Java, and Chapalas, but formula restaurants and retail outlets are not dominant. I had always heard there were rules regulating these types of retail stores and restaurants. However I needed clarification so I called the City of McCall . The community development director, Michelle Groenevelt actually picked up! Not only did she pick up, she stopped what she was doing and took the time to answer all my questions (I love Idaho). She explained why we have been able to limit formula business and formula restaurants is partially a lack of population base as well as McCall City code. In 2006 they instituted codes restricting “a retail, service retail, vending service retail, or restaurant business (including fast food and coffee shops) that is required by contractual or other arrangement to maintain standardized services, merchandise, menus, ingredients, food preparation, uniforms, décor, logos, architecture, signs, or similar features.”  There is a similar code applying to other service industries that aren’t restaurants. The formula businesses that are in McCall, were established before the 2006 codes came into effect, thus “grandfathering” them in.

These codes were established to keep the community unique, and avoid becoming “Anytown America”. Although limiting formula retail and restaurants was not the  purpose of the ordinance, restricting formula business does have a positive periphery effect of stimulating local small business. The effects of the efforts to keep the city proper comprised of local recognizable stores impacts more than the 2,991 permanent residents. Making concerted efforts to keep individuality in the business community contributes to community unity, and business loyalty within the region. Keeping McCall unique means keeping McCall economically vibrant. If it loses its identity, countless dollars of tourist revenue would be lost.


Matt Hersel logging near New Meadows, Id accessed 10/8/2013

On the contrary, if McCall or a town like McCall relies primarily on tourism dollars, it is vulnerable to shifts in the economy and becomes susceptible to identity loss. Furthermore large business can spread risk and withstand economic downturns. Healthcare and wages are on all employees priority list and it is expected that corporate business provide an acceptable benefit package; because of their large structure and public visibility. Even though local business often times provide healthcare and better wages. Corporate business also has the advantage of being familiar to visitors. The consistency of large business makes for a place that you know what to expect which can be comforting.

Part of what makes a town like McCall rare is that it has a history that includes logging, ranching, construction , and farming among other things. Even though logging and ranching don’t provide as many jobs as they once did, they still represent an entity that formed the social fabric of the area. The interaction a franchise business has with these jobs, and the people that work them is complex. The full time residents may appreciate the savings that a franchise store can offer. Additionally, stores like Loews offer employment that towns like McCall lack.  However I would point out, the wages paid by franchise stores are meager; especially with a high cost of living.


Town in Cape Cod accessed 10/8/2013

Small towns are not the only environment which benefit from regulating the formula or franchise business. The  Cape Cod region with a population of over 200,000 is doing its best to keep big corporations and franchises off the Cape Cod peninsula. “This month, citizens and planning officials in Cape Cod, Mass., will get a chance to do what almost no one else in the U.S. is allowed to do when deciding whether to approve or reject a big-box retail development: weigh the likely impacts on the region’s economy.” Allowing a city or region to assess the economic impact of a proposed franchise, formula, or corporate store is a invaluable asset.

Whether the market in question is a rural community, a tourist region, or a metropolitan city the pros and cons of  franchise and big box stores should be evaluated in detail. Proponents of Big Box stores suggest that these types of corporate business promote local retailers to compete by lowering prices and maintaining their community involvement ultimately winning market share. In contrast these businesses have been known to deteriorate local economies and damage a town and regions ipseity.