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Community Building

That’s what our businesses are doing. Are we?

     You sailors and wayfarers of Chesapeake Country know what I mean. You’ve traveled long and far, and your journey, if it happens to be for pleasure, is about to cross over into discontent when — in the middle of nowhere — you bump into just the inn, tavern or gas station you’ve been longing for. 
     I’ve found such places on all my travels — elsewise I suppose I wouldn’t have continued them. Many I’ve preserved in stories, so that long after I traveled that byway or waterway — possibly long after the place I visited with relief has passed into history — I can go there again, in the voyages of memory. One such old story I just chanced on: Pie Day, July Day, written for Illinois Times, in a summer of gas shortages when one way-out-of-the-way place blessed me with two fill-ups, fuel for the car and my choice of a dozen country woman-made pies. I picked gooseberry.
     Such places are the oases the castaway crawled toward in cartoons I’ve enjoyed ever since I stole peeks into my father’s Esquire magazine. Except for luckier us, they are not mirages.
     They are real, because another person trusted us to come along. So that entrepreneur put down stakes and put up a shingle, believing that If you build it, they will come. 
     That act of faith may well be the end of wayfaring for its makers. As I know firsthand, we small business people are like oysters. We’re planted in place, building — if we thrive — a reef that attracts and nourishes a community of more-or-less mobile partners: complimentary businesses, staff, customers, even competitors hoping one good idea will support more than one business.
     That’s the contribution Bay Weekly recognizes in this week’s Local Business Guide, our annual salute to the businesses that make Chesapeake Country a place so many of us are happy to live. This particular set of Chesapeake Country businesses are Bay Weekly’s particular reef, for their partnership as our advertisers brings this paper to you for free. 
     This issue is more than a salute. It’s an introduction, taking you behind the scenes of the businesses to meet the people who provide us the services we all depend on: They’re our shop- and market-keepers, doctors and acupuncturists, clothiers and chefs, tavern and restaurant proprietors, artisans and hair stylists, builders, sellers and excavators, home helpers and auto up-keepers. One and all, they’re people we’d hate to do without because all together they create our very liveable community.
     You know what they do, we figure, but not so many of us know who they are. So we’ve developed person-to-person introductions, working from their answers to a few questions: What got you started? What do you like most about your business? What keeps you going on a tough day? Are you celebrating any milestones or planning any changes? And, my favorite: Share a story or memory.
     I hope reading about the people we all depend on for just what we need, just when we need it, strengthens your sense of the community we share. As you see more clearly how they make our community, perhaps you’ll ask yourself — as I am — how we play our role as citizens.
 
Join in Shaping Anne Arundel’s Communities
     That’s a timely question as Anne Arundel County begins updating the General Development Plan that’s supposed to guide our future. We citizens are invited by County Executive Steve Schuh to “public comment sessions that will provide a significant opportunity to have their voice heard.”
     Significant is a big word for what’s upcoming: eight regional two-hour “listening” sessions, meeting once monthly through February. The next session is at Broadneck High School on October 17, 6 to 8pm (www.aacounty.org/Plan2040).
     It’s not much compared to the massive community involvement of Anne Arundel County’s Small Area Planning begun back in 1997. Citizens in 16 Small Areas labored for months to reach consensus on their future as communities within the larger county. How — and whether — the county every integrated it all remains a mystery.
     This time around, I don’t expect we’ll have that grand opportunity. But if we don’t show up to listen and talk, the future will go on without us.