INTO HEALDSBURG THIS MORNING for a little last-minute shopping. A book at Levin & Co., a fine local bookshop. Rolls at the Downtown Bakery & Creamery and a conversation with Kathleen. A wedge of good Parmaggiano at The Cheese Shop, as good a cheese shop as anyone needs.
These are all fairly small locally-owned businesses. You can trust them. They give back to the community. And they make me think that perhaps the Next Big Thing that everyone seems to be wondering about on the radio today, perhaps the Next Big Thing will be Small.
Take Café St. Rose, for example, a perfectly wonderful 24-seat restaurant I wrote about the other day. Mark Malicki runs close to a one-man kitchen, far as I can see; and one serving-person takes care of the dining room. Mark can shop, think, prepare, and cook as he likes, and that means locally, among other things.
Joe Stewart runs a similar operation at the Downtown Bakery, fixing breakfast and lunch, cooking the menu he likes. The clientele is mostly locals. Fine.
I've written before, too, about Marius, Kees Elfring's restaurant in Amsterdam. No more than thirty diners. Kees in the kitchen, with a part-time assistant-cum-plongeur.
Levin & Co. is a mother-and-son operation for the most part, and they know what I might want to read next. If they don't have it, they can order it, of course.
Big box stores have their place, I'm beginning to think; it makes sense to buy a case of typing paper (as we used to call it) or a refrigerator or a dozen sacks of cement at one of them; why would you want stuff like that downtown? It should be out by the highway, where the trucks can unload all that stuff.
But Small is Beautiful. Small specialty shops and restaurants can respond to their communities while keeping their owner-workers interested. So I predict we'll see more of this in 2008, and I hope I'm right.
And a Happy New Year to all of us!