Thursday, January 13, 2022

Worries in Wilde Lake


If you live in Wilde Lake, or follow local goings-on via NextDoor or Facebook, you probably know that David’s Natural Market came very close to shutting down its Columbia location recently. It looks as though the community outcry has been helpful to them in deciding to keep the business going, at least for now. It’s also possible that there has been assistance/intervention from the County and or local officials. I don’t know that for a fact; it just seems likely. 

My own experience with David’s is pretty limited. I love their curried chicken salad. And, when my daughters were going to and/or working at Slayton House Camp of the Arts, stopping at David’s (pre-renovation) was pretty much a daily thing. It was our go-to place for a muffin, or cookies, a cold drink, or a place to grab a quick lunch.

As excited as I was to see David's firmly established in the new Shoppes at Wilde Lake plan, somehow the actual execution has never felt as though it supported what is best about David’s. Being as how I don’t live in Wilde Lake nor do I rely on David’s for my daily bread, I never thought my opinion was worth writing about. What mattered most was how the community perceived and responded to the changes.

It was heartwarming to see to public support of David’s when it looked as though it was on death’s door. People recounted happy memories, talked fondly of the management and staff, waxed eloquent over their favorite menu items. We’ve seen this before when much-loved businesses are coming to an end. There was a sense of almost absolute unity around the Wilde Lake David’s location, combined with indignation and outrage against whatever perceived “villains” were responsible.

What I have found interesting to watch is the shift in tone on social media since it was announced that David’s is going to stay in business. (At least for the time being.) It may be subtle, but it’s definitely there. Comments have moved from declarations of love and support to “helpful suggestions” about how David’s should make certain particular changes of the poster’s choosing. 

“If they really want us to shop there, they should…” 

What follows is every bit as revealing as the declarations of love and loyalty. It seems telling that we move so quickly from adulation to - - what is it? - - criticism? “helpful” unsolicited advice? Are we now unwittingly seeing the dark underside of community support? 

“Great, you’re not dead. Now, if you would’ve just taken my advice…”

When I was running for CA Rep in Oakland Mills, there was a contingent that was up in arms about any possible changes to the piece of land called Symphony Woods. At the candidate night I asked a question: how many of you have been in Symphony Woods, enjoyed it as a park, within the last year? Two years? Three years? Five years? Very, very few hands were raised.

“You say you love your mother,” I joked, “but how often do you come and see her?”

You say you love David’s Natural Market. Great. How often have you shopped there in the last year? Two years? (You get my drift.) And if you truly don’t love David’s by shopping there frequently, well, that’s why they are in trouble. They’re a business. Not a museum. We can’t insist they remain operational because it makes us feel good.

If you find yourself making recommendations to a local business that would in some way make them less than or different from who they are, or that fail to take into account the realities of doing business in Columbia/HoCo in 2022: well, maybe it’s not really that business you want.

What do you want?

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