Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Jeff and I decided to wear our Rycenga Building Center shirts on a small family remodeling project recently. Maybe it was our quiet way of "taking on the giant" Home Depot which opens in Grand Haven this week. It just seems that we are slightly opposed to the entire mega-whatever these days.

Whether it's the mega-lumber yard, the mega-bookstore, the mega-grocery store, or the mega-church, we just hope that the independent and smaller businesses/organizations continue to thrive in spite of the competition.

If I walk into Rycenga Building Center, these guys know my name. Maybe it's because my dad worked alongside brothers Charles and Louis Rycenga four decades ago when trains delivered lumber to the yards and people like Mart Timmerman hand wrote your next order. Anyway, I still enjoy my trips into "the lumber yard" these days--especially when Rich Koetje tells me stories about my dad. This family-owned business has found a niche of catering to the special needs of homeowners and builders. Got any more of those RBC shirts for my students?

Our friend Karen DeCan recently told me about the wonderful fellowship at Nortonville Gospel Chapel, a small congregation in Spring Lake Township that doesn't necessarily consider expansion or property procurement as the cure for problems. Some studies show that small churches grow relative to large ones because they are healthier. In fact, some quality factors like assimilation into small groups and ministry roles rate much higher among small churches. Members of the mega-church seem to have a more consumer attitude toward their church than do members of smaller congregations. How come every time I drive by a sprawling church campus I get this "franchise feeling" of sorts?

I do frequent Barnes & Noble bookstores on occasion, but I really believe that the competition from these national efforts has not overshadowed the "mom and pop" stores. If they are careful, stores like the Bookman can create an identity unique from the chains. As for the Starbucks coffee, I'd much rather enjoy the house blend at River Stop Café in Newaygo. The one hundred year old building seems to be one of those places "where everyone knows your name."

Reaching down into the local markets and culture is what small business does well. They are able to hand pick their employees and offer exemplary customer service. In contrast, the revolving door staff of large merchants and even large churches seems to clash with local culture. I guess I will always enjoy walking into a place where the boss occasionally waits on me. Oh, did I mention that I really enjoyed Pastor Russ Carlson playing piano on Easter Sunday?


At 12:44 AM, Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that churches compete.


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