Big-Box Blues

Letter from the President

Last Tuesday, I left the office early to pick up my son from his violin lessons. It normally takes me about an hour to drive the 25 miles to arrive on time. Traffic was light on that particular night, so I arrived about a half hour early.

Since I was a little ahead of schedule, I decided to kill some time by doing some research for America’s Best Companies. I decided to go inside the new mega-mart. The big-box store was so ridiculously large it was like a city within a city.

I immediately began sweating as soon as I walked in the door. The pure size of this place was overwhelming. I think it was bigger than my entire high school, which had about 2,500 students. In fact, it may have even been bigger than the entire campus of Loyola University, my alma mater that had 8,000 students.

Inside, I encountered an entire grocery store that took up only about 3% of the total space. Just past that were a pharmacy and electronics, linens and toy departments. As I scanned my surroundings, I did a complete 360 and could not believe my eyes! There were all the typical departments—clothes from China, electronics from Korea, housewares from Malaysia and auto parts from Mexico—but there were also some things I didn’t recognize.

To my immediate right, there was a sandwich shop. Can you say “$5 foot-longs?” I knew you could. Just beyond that was a hair salon, nail salon, and, get this, a full service pet salon. In addition to all of that was jewelry, eyeglasses, furniture, music, a bakery and nearly every item you would every need for your home. There was also an auto repair shop and DVD rentals. The only thing I couldn’t find was something made in America. I also couldn’t find anyone who could answer a question for me. Not even a simple question like “Will this oil filter work on a GM vehicle?” or, “Is this a standard size light bulb?” The experience made me want to make a Michael Moore type documentary. It was very funny, but, in many ways, it really wasn’t.

After walking the entire perimeter of the store, I needed to rest. I’m not sure if I was tired or just plain depressed. I also looked at my watch and realized that it took me a full 25 minutes to make that walk and that it was time to pick up my son.

As I drove away, I felt sadness bordering on downright depression. That is the honest truth. I couldn’t believe that a box made from concrete, steel and a little dull, blue paint could replace an entire town. I was even more depressed when I noticed the parking lot was completely full.

Later, I realized that this one store is the entire reason behind me starting America’s Best Companies.

Both of my sons play instruments and we buy their musical supplies at a great little store called Hix Music. My younger son takes drum lessons there. I am fearful if they start making a nice profit there, the mega-mart will want to put them out of business too. We may soon see instruments next to the pet salon.

If you own a business I want you to be profitable and proud to be a part of ABC. I promise to fight hard for your business and help you thrive. As we continue to grow, I will work even harder to lobby on your behalf with every political and organizational leader that will listen to what I have to say.

Recently, I met with Jim Purcell. He’s running for the 14th District Congressional seat formerly occupied by Dennis Hastert, long-time Speaker of the House.

When I asked why we should vote for him, he said, “Jim, I’m a small business owner and my name goes on the lower right hand corner of the checks. I’m not a politician; I’m an American entrepreneur trying to keep the American Dream alive. That’s why I’m running.”

That’s change I can believe in.

P.S., if you want to learn more about Jim Purcell, go to

James J. Tracy


America’s Best Companies, Inc.

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