Big Corporation Seeks Small-Town Cachet

Reagarding your editorial, "Smal-Mart" (March 31), on Wal-Mart's experiment with small local stores: This is good news indeed. I have three giant supermarkets within a mile of home in my small town, and I dread going to any one of them. They are too big, overwhelming, and give too much choice. I long for a local, friendly, low-key, soft-sell market that isn't a convenience store but that would offer a limited choice and reasonable range of foods and household supplies. I assure you I am not alone. Small is indeed beautiful.

Melissa Perot

Doylestown, Pa.

I am disgusted to see the Monitor promote a business by name on its editorial page.

The public may long for the old "mom-and -pop" stores, but no megacorporation is going to give it to them. There is no substitute for real, home-owned businesses. I live in a town where Bud 'n' Millie's hardware and Elaine's stationery are still in business. As long-time members of the community, their proprietors' friendliness is real. Sometimes they use customers' names, but more often it's a cheerful "hi" and real conversation.

This is in contrast to our outlet of a large supermarket chain, where "service" is aggressive and every customer is thanked by name, in tape-recorder fashion. I duck through the store trying to avoid the canned "can I help you" speech from every employee.

Considering Wal-Mart's long-term policy of seeking smaller towns as locations, it's amazing that there are hundreds of mom-and-pops left for them to put out of business. Save your praise for the hard-working, real mom-and-pop stores. I hate to lose them.

Edie Koenig

Burns, Ore.

In our small town, courtesy is not yet a memory. The librarian knows each borrower by name. The movie-house owner chats with customers as he punches tickets. The elementary-school principal spanks naughty children, and the vice-president of our regional bank, who has worked here 51 years, knows every customer's parent, grandparent, son, and daughter.

Wal-Mart's experiment confirms what we already know: Small-town values, once ridiculed as hokey, are becoming population magnets.

David Horn

Bremen, Ind.

Deadline pressure on N. Ireland

It is important to be hopeful about peace in Ireland (Editorial, "One Step From Peace," April 1) but even more important to be realistic.

In the rush to meet the British government's deadline, the only definitive idea taking shape is a referendum in both parts of Ireland that would either approve or disapprove of changes in the Irish Constitution and give recognition of a new elected body to govern the six counties now known as Northern Ireland. This alone is a recipe for disaster!

There is nothing the loyalists would like more than to get a vote of the Irish people democratically ratifying the sectarian garrison set up by force of arms nearly 80 years ago. Why do we feel this way? The core issues, such as the rule of law, the corruption of security forces, and the release of prisoners have been set aside to be addressed by an "independent" commission.

The history of such political devices in Ireland as a means of change or to achieve justice is an unhappy one. Irish Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw once remarked, "In the eyes of the British, the successful solutions to their Irish problem are the ones that fail."

Andrew Somers

Washington National President

Irish-American Unity Conference.

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