Monday, January 6, 2014


Big Box
We hear this term a lot in our culture. Big Box. Big Box stores have popped up everywhere. At times we’re inclined to visit them simply because they hold so much of what we “need.”

Sometimes it’s kind of comical to read posts from friends after they visit Target or Costco. I’ve read facebook posts like: “wow, I got out of Target for under $100” or “why do I go into Target to get one thing, and come out 15?”

My wife and I shop at both of these Big Box stores. I actually enjoy Costco (even though they don’t play music while I shop). I enjoy wandering the aisles, checking out the ever changing samples, and the tasty treats. This summer I stopped in to grab some milk. (I have a 4yr & 1yr old, so we go through those 2 packs pretty quick!) On that particular trip, all I got was milk. As I checked out, the cashier looked at me kinda funny. She smiled and said: “Wow, this might be a first! Wish I could just come in and get only one thing.”
Novel feat, right!

What strikes me about these Big Box stores is our attraction to them. In my head, I associate Big Box with any nationwide chain. But Wikipedia told me this morning the term really is representative of these big stores that have a giant footprint and typically look like – well a big box.

Back in ’05 an Art Student, Julia Christensen, researched the growing trend of empty Big Box stores. You know the ones that sit vacant year after year. The Rensselaer Magazine article about Christensen’s research noted that: “Many of these superstores close because of lack of business or, more often, says Christensen, they move into a bigger and better space across town.”

Why is it if we are so attracted to them (as I believe we are – particularly after visiting Costco before and after the holidays) that they close? Why is it that these giant buildings are left abandoned? Why is it…?
Beyond these questions, I really wonder about these Big Box or nationwide chains and our inability to support the small, local, independent.

I lived in Seattle Washington for five years. While there I loved all the local restaurant choices. When we would have friends visit we’d take them to one of the fantastic local places – often just a short walk away. But this is not the case in most of the country. And unfortunately, having now returned to Southern California, this is not the case here.

If you ask where to meet a friend for lunch– what’s suggested is all too often the “big box” chain. We like the familiar. We like having everything in one place. We like the simplicity of the common.

As I perceive it, we have this same tendency within our culture when looking at churches. We look past the small to see the big. Culturally we gravitate to the all-encompassing, one-stop options where we think all our “needs” will be met.

But what fascinates us about The Standing Room, Catalina Coffee Company, Ocean Diner, Two Guns Espresso, Triangle Hardware, and (the list could go on, but I’ll pause there)  – with their quirky atmosphere, great product, and unique experiences… These stores provide us with something a little more.

In the New Year, I want to challenge you, when we look for places to meet friends, take family, or to just go and be; consider the smaller independent spots before giving in to the gravitational pull of the Big Box.
In the New Year, I want to challenge you, if you’re considering a place to go and worship; consider the small local faith community in your neighborhood.

Sometimes these seemingly smaller places (restaurants, stores, faith communities) actually offer us more. Sometimes these seemingly smaller places actually provide what we really need – a place to be, a place to participate, a place of community.

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