The Rockford Files

Strictly Business

The other day, driving through North End Commons (a neighborhood a bit north of the Chronicles offices and to the west of our house), I noticed a florist, a friend of mine, out in front of another flower shop, chatting with the owner.  The two businesses have coexisted now for over a year, though they stand barely a block apart.  I suspect that, like me, most of their customers patronize one or the other exclusively, though I doubt that there are many people who would refuse to go to the other shop if their preferred one did not have what they wanted.  Each store has its own look and feel, and, outside of the standard carnations and roses, each carries a distinctive stock.  Their healthy competition has helped revive commerce in a neighborhood that, for many years, has been struggling.

This is the free market at its best: Two shopkeepers, each making a living doing something he enjoys, reinvesting much of his profit in a neighborhood that he cares about, and each able to chat amiably with his competitor—who, because of his shared love for the neighborhood, is also his collaborator.  Granted, there are certain conditions that make this scene between two florists more likely than a similar one between, say, two discount computer resellers or even two grocers—higher margins, stock that has to be turned over very quickly, a distribution area that is limited by the nature of the product, etc. ...

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