Last night was a fun one downtown. Some of the businesses on Baker Street got together and held an Oktoberfest, and those are always fun. I could hear the band setting up and tuning up while I was prepping for poker night at the apartment. Saturday night is a great night for poker because on our breaks we can step outside and listen to local bands and take in the beautiful autumn night.
There are people who like to dunk on downtown because they haven’t yet figured out that a vibrant, revitalizing downtown area is the seedbed and incubator for fixing what is wrong with the country. That’s saying a lot.
One of the questions I receive the most often is “Bunker, you are an off-grid guru, and lived on a homestead raising your own food and criticizing cities for almost two decades. WHY ARE YOU LIVING DOWNTOWN IN A CITY?”
Well, there are a lot of reasons. I’m always doing research for a new book is one. But, I’ve discovered that small-town resurgence is really the prototype of most of the things I’ve always advocated.
Downtown folk are the ones spearheading the drive to preserve history. It was the downtown people who were principally involved in the attempt to save the historic Harrison House. It’s the downtown people who are ripping out a lot of the ugly facades and bringing back the historic look of the old buildings.
Almost 100% of the businesses making a go at building something successful are locally owned, family-operated shops. That means a lot to me, and it should mean a lot to you too. These small mom-and-pop shops are not only focused on highlighting locally made products but they give opportunities for even smaller local startups (individuals and families) to start their own businesses – so they can “make it” in a world that is increasingly hostile to entrepreneurship and enterprise. The big mega-corps were (and are) into blocking and severely limiting opportunity in this country. They supported lockdowns and onerous decrees that shut down America and tried to get you to order everything online.
But if you visit downtown in a small town like Brownwood, you’ll find businesses who are fighting that trend. Pioneer Taphouse (who sponsored last night’s Oktoberfest) generally only serves Texas beers, and most of them are brewed from within a few hundred miles. Danielle and I go into 10 Mile Productions wine tasting room a few times a week. They also serve locally sourced beers and wines, a lot of those wines they make themselves. They have also helped in incubating and supporting other small businesses. Go have a meal there and you’re likely to be served bread that comes from a block away at Baked Artisan Goods. Grazed and Confused, The Turtle Restaurant, Steves’ Market and Deli, Lucille and Mabel, Over the Rainbow Ice Cream, Matt’s Mantiques, and probably a dozen other local downtown businesses are also cross-pollinating by sourcing as much as they can from local or Texas businesses. Shaw’s Marketplace is the perfect prototype and example of a locally owned enterprise offering a way for small family and individual-owned entrepreneurs to get a foothold in starting their own businesses. Intermission Bookshop has a local author and Texas authors section, and you can find most of my books there.
America is in a moral and economic crisis and a greater reliance on huge (very political) mega-corporations and big box stores is not the solution. In fact, it is the root of the problem.
Danielle and I have spent almost a year doing our Central Texas day trips every week so we can see how other small towns are engaging in successful, fun downtown revitalization. Maybe these small resurgences won’t save America, but it will do a better job of it than our screwed-up political system and top-heavy corporatism is doing.
A great thinker with some loose ties to Brownwood recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal. I don’t know what the real ties are with Jeffrey A. Tucker (the other Jeff Tucker) and Brownwood, but I met him downtown at CJ’s Cigar Lounge a few years ago when I was doing a cigar rolling exhibition during one of the Baker Street festivals. He’s a cool guy and he wears a bow tie. Anyway, he’s a smart dude and Kim over at Intermission Bookshop carries some of his books. His article for the WSJ was about how America’s downtowns are empty and dying. He’s really talking about the big city downtown areas, because here in Central Texas, the small-town historic business districts are doing well, and hopefully their resurgence will continue. Political policies in the big cities have devastated the small businesses that make downtown areas thrive. The antidote to the decline of civilization and the craziness of declining America is exactly what we see happening in downtown Brownwood, Texas. Is everything perfect here? No. But it’s better than what is happening on you TV.
Come downtown and see.
Michael Bunker is a local columnist for BrownwoodNews.com whose columns appear periodically on the website.