THE TIMES ARE NOT good. The nice Greengrocer in the nearby town of Windsor is closing at the end of the month. It was too good to make it, I suppose, in this bedroom community of nearly 30,000 souls, few of whom probably cared enough about what they were eating. The Greengrocer was a locavore's shop: wine, meats, dairy, and produce all came from within 150 miles. It was the only place in Windsor where we could buy local organic milk. We'll still get it, but we'll have to go to Healdsburg, two or three miles farther away. And I don't know where we'll be able to get dependable meat, except at the farm market.
Even worse in a way, Sawyer's News Agency in Santa Rosa is closing. When I was in the sixth grade and spent an occasional day in town, riding in with Dad but spending the day not at his sheet-metal shop but strolling the streets and parks, Sawyer's was one of the first places I'd enter. There I'd gawk at forbidden comic books and mysterious paperbacks and maybe, if I had a quarter, pick up a copy of Model Railroading.
A few years later I was buying New World Writing and Discover and novels by William Faulkner and pop-science books by George Gamow. Sawyer's was, quite literally, my first bookstore. It was so good, and so early, that when I got to Berkeley and saw the openings of Moe's Books and then Cody's Books, neither was much of a surprise to me.
Sawyer's is closing, I read in the local paper, for the same reason that Cody's did: the double whammy of high rent and competition from big-box stores and the Internet. Here's what we need: town and city governments must provide legislation for low-income retail space, analogous to low-income housing. Our civil system depends on an informed citizenry, just as our economy requires frugality; and neither newsstands nor shoe-repair shops can survive landlords concerned only for short-term bottom lines.
And if you think you can console yourself with a decent drink, don't get too complacent about that either: the popular Upper Fourth bar, near Sawyer's, is another recent shut-down. This story seems a little more complicated, though, to judge by some hilarious but also sad and pathetic accounts here. Ah, Internet, how cruel you can be at times.