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The Appalachian

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New chain businesses threaten small-town feel

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The Appalachian Online

IHOP, Chipotle, Waffle House, Bubbles car wash, Hampton Inn and Zaxby’s are all businesses that have established or are going to establish themselves in our beloved small town of Boone.

With 17,186 permanent residents and even more Appalachian State University students, we know Boone isn’t a big place. Visitors often flock to Boone for its wild charm and small-town feel. In 2012, Boone was voted one of the top 10 places in the United States to retire.

The High Country offers many attractions in close proximity to the town. The Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain remain top points of interest.

For a closer destination, the 50-year-old Dan’l Boone Inn, one of Boone’s most famous restaurants, has possibly the best-tasting food the town has to offer.

So how is the recent expansion of Boone affecting its small town feel? Does commercialization threaten what Boone really is, or will its spirit be forever present despite an increase in incoming traffic and new chain restaurants?

Since the rumors of its arrival in Boone, IHOP has gained a lot of attention. When rumors began surfacing about the arrival of the famous breakfast chain, students could not contain their enthusiasm. The excitement of the new breakfast restaurant quickly became evident on social media.

As was to be expected, IHOP saw an overwhelming number of breakfast lovers on opening day – even Rep. Virginia Foxx made an appearance in the resaurant Oct. 28.

On the other hand, some students are not so ecstatic about the new expansions in their small town. They enjoyed the idea of moving to Boone because of its environment. With local bars and restaurants that Appalachian families have been visiting for generations, they do not see the need for so many new chain stores.

“I came to Boone because I loved its quaintness,” said senior middle grades education major Kelsey Fear. Fear enjoys the small town feel, but believes it is threatened more and more by large franchises.

New stores create competition for long-loved local favorites. Mattress Firm may prove to hold its own against locally-owned BlackBerry Mattress Company, just because of its advertised name. Chipotle can be paired against the popular Black Cat Burrito. IHOP and Waffle House are tag-teaming the beloved Boone Bagelry.

Fear said her favorite places to eat in Boone include Cobo and Boone Bagelry.

“I would hate to come back and visit years from now and see that they are gone,” Fear said. “That would break my heart.”

Wal-Mart is this town’s fourth-largest employer, but for a town incorporated in 1872, that cannot have always been the case. It is certainly interesting to think of the local businesses that might still exist if Wal-Mart had never come to town.

In 2012, Boone was named the fourth-fastest-growing small town by Forbes.com. Todd Cherry, director of economic research at Appalachian, blames the increase in retirees and students for its growth.

Increase in population doesn’t have to correlate with an increase in commercialization. Boone doesn’t need businesses like IHOP to survive. What makes it attractive is the preservation of its local orientation.

The increasing population of Boone is looking for that small-town feel, and soon may not be able to find it.

Boone residents need to be aware that the welcoming of these popular businesses can have a negative effect on their long-loved local favorites. As small-towners, they should recognize the effect big businesses may have and hold tight to the local favorites that are still here.

Brittney Miles, an undeclared major from Rock Hill, SC, is an opinion writer.

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