WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Small businesses struggle to compete against online shopping. One small business owner tells her story of how she has seen activity in Burkburnett's downtown decline over the years.
Susan Mitchell owns Joe & Joe & Grandaughter Barber Shop. It has been in her family since the 1938. She grew up in a time where Downtown Burkburnett was buzzing with activity long into the night. Mitchell said, "this downtown would just be covered in people and um my grandfather used to cut hair until midnight."
A couple of weeks ago Hayes General Store – another long time Burkburnett business –suddenly closed. Mitchell grew up frequenting their store. For her, it closing feels like a great loss. She and other longtime residents feel the downtown has become like a ghost town. She also feels that the many businesses that have closed are victims of the internet shopping.
She said, "little mom and pop shops have all dwindled because they cannot compete with Walmart, and what Walmart didn't take from us Amazon and online shopping has taken."
Burkburnett City Manager Jack Browne and the director of the city's development corporation, Richard L. Gordon, have taken notice. They say that not long ago one UPS driver serviced their entire town. Now three do. Both directors encourage those long time local businesses that are left to adapt to the social media age –holding classes on how to advertise online.
Both however have an otherwise positive outlook for the city, because they are receiving calls from large companies that want to build there.
Gordon said, "we're fortunate that we have quite a few people calling on us for these opportunities and so we have a pretty heavy engagement level."
Upcoming projects include chain restaurants, car dealerships and other government run facilities They have looked at the plans other cities have had to revamp their downtowns and hope to follow suit. He said, "seeing Wichita Falls' new plan that has a focus of kind of looking at the downtown area for redevelopment, expansion, and improvement – it looks to me like it's a good and proven model."
But, Mitchell wants the downtown to be the focus sooner rather than later, "every time a shop closes down here, it affects us. Anytime the traffic decreases downtown we lose the walking traffic. Let's get our downtown back to where it's a thriving little town."
She feels lucky that her customers have been so loyal and prefer more old-fashioned customer experience.
One customer said, "I consider this pace better than Walmart's because one, people here are much more friendly."
Mitchell said, "We love our little town and we love the history that goes with it. So as long as we can – as long as they don't figure out how to get haircuts at home – I'm going to be here."