To the Editor:

I was talking with the owner of a store in Darien recently and learned just how hard it is to keep a small retail business alive here.

While we all appreciate our town and are familiar with our independently-owned stores, how much do we actually shop here? Darien has many family-run stores, including newsagents, a toy store, jewelry stores, a carpet store, a record store, a drug store, homeware/gift stores, clothes stores and florists.

It is these stores that help set us apart from other towns filled with chain stores that have made those towns indistinguishable and impersonal. Yet our local stores are increasingly at risk.

It is too easy to run to Staples, Walmart and other big box stores, or to order anything we want online. But do we stop to consider what we are doing to our town in the process? Do we really need to save a few dollars here and there at the expense of the character and personality of our town? Efforts of Amex and others to encourage us to “shop small” and occasional tax-fee days are helpful sporadic motivations but are not enough unless we, as consumers, make more effort.

Without the retailers who have invested in our community, we will become another a soulless town offering only big name stores and service providers like banks, salons, gyms and dry cleaners. With more awareness and sensitivity to what Darien offers and a concerted effort to consider our independent stores in our shopping habits, we might truly participate in preserving the Darien we know and value.

Juliet Cain