By GREG JORDAON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
If you don’t use it, you lose it. That thought came to mind Tuesday as the latest meeting of the Bluefield City Board of Directors was wrapping up. Mayor Linda Whalen was telling the audience that she keeps hearing people complain that there are no places to eat in Bluefield while there are actually places downtown, on Cumberland Road and on Bluefield Avenue.
This is a theme I’ve been hearing ever since I first came to live in Mercer County, especially from young people. They lament one way or another that “There’s nothing to do around here.”
My translation has been “There’s not a hundred different places to party and drink yourself blind.” Well, I’m sure there are plenty of places to do that, but my diabetes and common sense put those places off limits.
However, there are things to do in this region if you just look for them. Every week we publicize concerts, plays, festivals and other events in the Daily Telegraph, and I know our Medley publication is full of events. Even the local city councils announce upcoming events at the end of their meetings.
In Bluefield, East River Arts has an Open Mic Night every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Gary Bowling’s House of Art has a “First Fridays” the first Friday of every month from 7 to 10 p.m. The local 4 Pals Productions theater troupe is presenting “Hitsville,USA April 12 to 15 and April 18 to 20 in downtown Bluefield. “A Night of a Thousand Stars,” the Bluefield Beautification Committee Spring Gala, is April 21.
And, naturally enough, the 33rd Annual Better Living Show will be on April 27 and 28 at the Brushfork Armory.
There is plenty to do in and around Princeton, too. I know the Chuck Mathena Center always has upcoming shows on the calendar. The Riff Raff Art Collective has concerts and other activities, and even the Princeton Public Library and the Craft Memorial Library in Bluefield have activities scheduled most of the time. Just look in the newspaper.
Another lament I keep hearing is the fact that the local shops keep closing. Well, if you don’t use local shops, they’re not going to stay open. I’m guilty of occasionally buying items online like everyone else, but I try to limit this to items I can’t find or order locally.
For instance, I collect knives. Local stores have provided antique blades and modern ones for my collection. I also collect books, and local books stores and flea markets have suited my tastes just fine.
I’ll admit that I like looking through catalogs both in paper and on the Internet, but I’m often leery about ordering. I know the makers of those catalogs and online presentations try to make their products look as appealing as possible. You don’t get to hold that knife and see how it feels in your hand, and you get to see firsthand if it’s as cool looking in person as it was in that catalog or website. The same goes for books. Yes, you can get reviews and excerpts online, but you don’t get the privilege of actually flipping through the pages and getting the feel about whether you really want to add it to your bookshelf.
Finally, there’s the issue of paying the shipping fee. More than once, I’ve done the simple math and realized that I really wouldn’t be saving that much money. The shipping cost has killed more than one bargain in my eyes.
Another reason for shopping in local stores is simply to keep the local economy going. Small stores close because they don’t get enough customers through the doors to stay open, and big stores close for the same reason. They do the math and close if that’s the action the numbers indicate.
I know money’s tight right now, and a new bill seems to appear every time you turn around. I’ve come to the conclusion that an empty mailbox is not a bad thing. Yes, there are no letter and cards from loved ones, but it also means no bills or junk mail.
When you think of the price of gasoline, doing more local shopping and seeking local entertainment makes more sense than taking long drives to Charleston or to Roanoke, Va. Going local saves money as well as stimulates the local economy.
There are things to do around here and things to buy. You just have to be willing to seek them out instead of waiting for them to come to you and kick down your door. I don’t get out too much since my job in some ways becomes my social life, but I have enjoyed the local events with my friends. Just be willing to give local events and local stores and restaurants a try.
Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org