Wil Wheaton has posted a great piece in his Geek In Review over on SG about saving our local shops.:

In an increasingly globalized world where vertically-integrated multi-national companies storm into communities, reduce our choices and homogenize our shopping experience, the Friendly Local Shop is an endangered species, and it’s not just comic and book shops that are at risk.

Wil also has more at his personal blog.

I’ve always loved working for and shopping with the Tallahassee local businesses. Before becoming the general manager of Infinite Illusions and before the mail-order end of the business exploded (circa web 1.0 pre-97), our storefront Lofty Pursuits was the bread winner. Greg jokes that he wanted to build a Nintendo killer by selling cool toys that you could actually play with and that did not require batteries. Despite having several big box stores ala Toys R Us, Wal-mart, et al providing a heavy dose of local competition, Lofty Pursuits survives thanks to our customer base fan club.

Previous to my career at II, I had the geek dream job: comic book store employee. Cosmic Cat Books has been in business for, gosh, 20 plus years. It’s as much a fixture of Tallahassee as the Leon Pub and New Leaf Market. The Cosmic Cat is one of the few really great comic stores that still exist today while others throughout the country have been closing their doors for good. Lots and lots of mom and pop comic/book/gaming stores have folded while chasing the Magic/Pokemon/Anime crazes. Ned simply expanded his business model to the online world and continues to grow.

The common theme for both these places is the advent of the Internet. Both places have included online retail as a cornerstone of their franchises because it naturally extends from their models. In fact, the success rate of online businesses with traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts uber-trumps the fly-by-night garage retailers. An equal of content, customer service reigns king in the online world. The primary reason for these successes is the very knowledge and experience that dealing with your fans face to face builds. As Wil puts it:

Of course, you don’t need a Friendly Local for any of these things. If you’re lucky, you have friends who can introduce you to new games and artists, but as you get older and all of your time has more demands placed upon it, the chances for any of you to stumble upon something new to share with each other diminish (I speak from experience) and having a good relationship with a Friendly Local Shop owner can be the difference between discovering something that enriches your life, and just another night in front of the television.

Those relationships can exist face-to-face or email-to-email with your customers. Furthermore, encouraging your customers to connect and communicate with each other builds the fan club and, thus, the business.

Yes times are hard for local businesses feeling the pinch of big chain retailers and their infuriating schemes to bleed money from the town’s economy and people. But the enemy can be beaten by their own size and facelessness. I know it from my own experience, and more importantly, my customers’ (non-homogenized) experiences.