(OK. Those who live in larger centres have to humour us a bit here. I live on a tiny island, where the major shopping haven is Wal-Mart. Big box stores generally pass us by, because there just aren't enough people. So the opening of a big box store is a huge deal.)
I have to say, I was fairly quivering with excitement when I pulled into the Home Depot parking lot tonight. I love shopping. I love home improvement stores. I love tools. I love lumber. And ohhh, do I love bargains. Put all of those together, and my testosterone goes right off the charts. I can feel my back hair growing at the mere thought of it all.
So when Home Depot announced its Grand Opening, it was - and here is an understatement - a source of some anticipation Chez Moi.
My reaction, after having gone through the store, aisle by product-laden aisle? Meh.
I was impressed by the selection, for sure. Products that we just haven't seen here on the Island; a great selection of brands; ideas by the thousands.
But if I was expecting to have my doors blown off by the prices ...? Not so much.
And that's the thing about big box stores. They buy in huge quantities, so by all logic, the prices ought to be much (or at least significantly) lower than you could get shopping at your local hardware store.
The prices were ... reasonable, I suppose. But not enough to cause me to abandon some of the places that I've come to love in my conversion from "workshop klutz" to "relatively skilled handyman/carpenter".
I'm a big fan of Home Hardware in the Ellis Bros. Mall. Small store, perhaps, but decent prices, and a staff of skilled, knowledgeable, concerned experts who have been invaluable to me over the years, saving me money, effort, time, and frustration with their advice. Schurman's? Love those folks. And while Sherwood Do-It Centre isn't always my first choice, I've never been disappointed.
Canadian Tire has some of the best specials on power tools I can imagine. I read their flyer religiously (my kids roll their eyes and call it "Dad's Tool Porn") and almost always find something worth making a special trip for.
I know what tools cost. I can tell you the fair price for anything from a double sided Japanese pull saw to a router, to a combo disc/belt sander to a hand planer. I don't own all those tools, but I know what they do, know what they should cost, and if the right bargain came along, I'd be there to slap my money down.
I came out of Home Depot empty handed.
I maintain that a community's interests are best served when folks do what is reasonable to support local merchants over large international chains - and by "reasonable", I mean "expect to pay slightly more in exchange for better service and the warm feeling that comes from supporting your neighbour".
My trip to Home Depot provided me with a couple of ideas for two projects I have on the go - one a simple home handyman, fix-it project, the other some finish cabinetry. I'll take those ideas to smaller, local stores and while I may pay a few pennies more (and may, in fact, get a slightly better price), I'll come away with a better feeling.
When I heard Home Depot was coming to town, I feared for the future of my local stores. If people know how to shop - and don't get sucked in by the admitted convenience of "getting it all in one place" - I think those fears will dissipate.