Ok… soon has arrived… time to learn that Sheboygan getting an Olive Garden won’t make or break the neighborhood


Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I have been introduced to some great people. One of them is Megs. (If you don’t recall her, Megs is the one that offered up some great thoughts for Chicago when Dad and I headed out that way to journey to Wrigley Field.) One day she posted a link to a letter to the editor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Don’t look for it. It’s been removed from the interne,t dispatched to the archives long ago. It was in the Sheboygan-Press.) For reasons I think are hysterical, I thought the letter was great. (Many of the reasons were in the comments about the letter. For example, after claiming a place needed more restaurants and used a chain restaurant as an example of what to bring in, only to have the local residents point out dozens of local alternatives… I mean… ouch.) But it also points out something fantastic… which is that some people just simply don’t have a clue, and yet it is important that we all at least take a moment to observe and consider what they have to say. (We may ultimately consider it to be pointless and dumb. Still… consider.)

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Linda L. Hartman, and her letter telling Sheboygan to get off their collective butts and get her an Olive Garden is flat out hysterical. Comedy gold.

She’s wrong, of course. As several of the comments to her letter point out, the Olive Garden is likely quite aware about the ability, or inability, to even support a franchise location.

Still, she offers to fly them out… show them land… drive them around. I don’t see her offering to pay the licensing fee and become a franchise owner, but keep in mind that she appears dedicated to doing her part to support such an establishment.

The troubles? Well, they begin when you understand that support it as she might, we don’t see her offering sales guarantees or other notable assurances. I just see her pointing out that apparently, Sheboygan hasn’t made it until they get an Olive Garden. Toss in a couple of new stores… I’m guessing an Old Navy conveniently located in a plaza that also houses a Home Depot and a Starbucks… and the ultimate renaissance story of within Wisconsin will be complete.

One tangent problem is that even though Sheboygan has dozens of dining opportunities, none of the responses to her letter will convince Linda that she is wrong. Ms. Hartman has an idea of what a successful community looks like. And that community has a Red Lobster, a Chili’s, two Lowe’s, and a mall anchored by Sears and Kohl’s. Wal-Marts rise on opposite ends of the town’s main street. Best Buy offers the latest in entertainment.

Now I don’t create that setting to be funny. (Ok, maybe I do. Sort of.) I say it because the reality is that communities are built with different structure for different reasons. A lot of it is function. Consider the market for snow-related equipment in Minnesota… or Sheboygan, for that matter. Then see if you can figure out why a similar inventory at a store in Miami might not sell as strongly. It’s a similar concept as to why we are attracted to moving or living in some locations.

Think of why you bought a specific home or rented a certain apartment. Was the final decision made because of financial situations? Was it the location? Were you looking for a good school system? Did you need a big yard for the dogs… two bathrooms… a full basement that wouldn’t flood so you could convert it to another room? I don’t know… any and all of these reasons could be part of it, and several others likely matter as well, and it was a combination of these things for you. The trick is… what matters to you (let’s say good school system for young kids) might not be the first elements I have in mind to check out (big yard for the dogs and two bathrooms), which is certainly not what Linda would like to see (free refills on breadsticks).

Over time you decide you want to improve things though. Make some changes. Maybe you put on a new roof. Perhaps you do some landscaping. A big deck in the back. Maybe the landlord lets you discount the price of paint from one month’s rent. The trick is… unless there is a huge leak, dripping in even the lightest rain… the improvements are your decision. You want to paint a house? White with burgundy shutters? Awesome… have a ball. But while you are planting a new garden, I’m going to be building a deck. We all approach the decisions differently, and arrive at different results.

Linda’s decision to move to Sheboygan didn’t involve the nearby restaurants. (We can assume this since she is stating that they need an Olive Garden, and yet there she is.) It probably involved some combination of… well, for the sake of giving reasons… big yard and good schools. The Olive Garden part of the equation is the burgundy shutters. Not the reason she moved there, not the reason she’d leave (if she does), but simply her offering as to what it needs to be better.

Try as they might, the people writing these comments are never going to convince her that the breadsticks aren’t appealing. They’ll never show her that when she goes out once a week or so and spends $60 per meal, her business alone won’t keep the Olive Garden open when no one else in the neighborhood visits because they prefer the other available options. And those same people calling her “insane” for heading off to Green Bay, well, she feels they are the nuts for not wanting such a fine establishment closer to their homes.

Hitting a person over the head with a heavy stick accomplishes nothing. And until you learn to understand the source of another person’s viewpoint, you will frequently misunderstand them.

And I say that with the understanding that Linda needs some help here. If she has to have an Olive Garden meal, it’s not her neighbor’s fault that she needs to drive an hour. It’s hers. She picked the place she lives. The surrounding community owes her not a single thing in this regard. Sheboygan does not need to change for her. And yet… Sheboygan… recognize that Linda is at least saying she wants to stay closer to home. I wish she’d listen… maybe look around… but, the decision of what shutters she places on her home will be a part of your neighborhood.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com