As we were driving up the coast of Maine, we wondered at every tiny town– “what do these people do for work?”
because the economy is not visible. There are lots of empty storefronts, closed businesses.
Young asked a young man at one gas station who/what was the largest employer in town. The man named a single employer- one that managed blueberry fields. He said otherwise, sometimes construction jobs, and fishing.
I made a mental catalog of the other jobs I saw as we drove: gas stations, restaurants, general stores, realtors. I figured there must be local doctors and lawyers as well. There would be schools, teachers, and government administrators. I’m sure there are artists and people who work from home.
everything was cheaper too, further north. oceanfrontage land, with 300 feet or so of frontage and a house? that can be bought for a couple hundred thousand. Big houses ‘in-town’ go for $100k. Eating out was about 40% cheaper than portland, for the same or better quality (at least in eastport and bar harbor, the quality was as good as portland).
it all made me think about how people complain about the collapse of independent businesses due to walmart (or some variation on that theme). Because, in a sense, it’s very visible up there. Most of the independent businesses, except for food service and general stores, were missing. And one can easily imagine why. I can sort of picture the micro-economies that once were in these small towns- there was out-of-town trade no doubt, but there was enough local commerce that the town could maintain a central area, a downtown, for a shops and services.
The other aspect about rural america, of course, is the driving. I have a fantasy now about living in a tiny town like eastport. It would mean more driving, however, which is a real deterrent. I can’t imagine choosing to commute at this point in my life. don’t get me wrong, I love having a car, the option to go places. but most days I don’t drive.
(by the way, this reminds me of what a friend said about zipcar and the like: those guys really need to have cars WITHOUT advertising on them. so much cooler and appealing.)