Five years ago a wonderful little men’s store opened near my office. Finn is a great little boutique that features interesting mens clothing and accessories; hand-picked jackets, slacks, shirts, and ties that would rival anything you would find in New York. While it certainly isn’t a discount store, considering the quality of both the clothing and the sales experience it is also very fairly priced. The two partners that run the store are very knowledgeable, and they know how to cut a suit. Since there is a “house terrier” that keeps watch in the store, they also don’t mind if I bring my dog with me when I go shopping.
When the recession hit, it was obvious that Finn started having trouble. Portland is not really a town where men place much emphasis on their clothes, and when money is tight a new sportscoat is typically not on the shopping list. But the partners at Finn fought the good fight to stay in business, often resorting to constant discounts and sales, but at least staying open and with fresh inventory.
That all ends in a few days. Last night when I stopped in the store one of the owner’s sadly told me that as of Monday Finn would be closing.
I’m sorry to see Finn go from a number of respects. First of all, it was just a unique and wonderful place I will miss, and I think it leaves a hole in the men’s fashion scene in Portland. I have no desire to buy the same mass-produced clothes everyone else in the country is wearing from a multi-national chain. But I am also saddened to see another local business casualty. Finn joins a growing list of wonderful local companies that have been pushed out of business by not only economic issues, but also the promise of “cheaper” from anonymous vendors that do nothing for the local community. Perhaps I could find a shirt or suit cheaper on Gilt.com or one of the other sites, but not a penny of my purchase from these big online vendors benefits my hometown.
A couple months ago I wrote about the importance of shopping locally, and it occurs to me that the failure of companies like Finn are another great example of the lack of support most people demonstrate for their local businesses. Losing Finn not only impacts its customers and the owners, but on a micro scale it kicks in the entire trickle-down theory of economics. Finn no longer needs a local bank. The proprietors and customers will no longer dine at the restaurant next door. Finn will no longer make donations to local charities, or employ seamstresses, cleaning people, and salespeople. they don’t need insurance, or garbage service. The list goes on and on. After my initial facination with doing all my shopping online or through big national chains, I have really come to appreciate the importance of spending money with local companies – even if it costs a bit more, as in the long run I believe I am dollars ahead.
The other disturbing thing about Finn closing was the timing. While the general consensus seemed to be that the economy was over the hump, the recent stock market performance and economic data leads to more dire conclusions. The owner from Finn told me that the last 60 days were the worst in the store’s history – even worse than during the height of the recession. This coincides with a conversation I had with another neighbor that runs a pet store. She told me that the last 60 days were the worst in her ten year history. In my immediate neighborhood three restaurants – all that seemingly were healthy – have closed in the last 90 days. While it’s easy to track the market for some indicator of the economy, it’s often more valuable to look at what is happening to your neighbors.