(The Fairy Godmother Delivers Cinderella's Coach)
(The Baffled Prince Holding The Slipper After The Ball)
(The Slipper Fits The Lady)
When I turned on the television in our Chicago hotel room Friday morning, a local station was doing a story on the Marshall Field's Department Store holiday windows. The eleven windows of the State Street store develop a fantastical story every holiday season, complete with elaborate design and animated figures.
The exquisite detail and charm of the windows would warrant a news story each year entirely of their own accord. The interviewer spoke with the chief designer, and showed us the storage space housing decades of costumes and sets -- all interesting stuff. But the story has a different twist this year, since Field's has been bought by Macy's and the future of the windows is uncertain. People are unhappy about the acquisition of a local landmark store by a national retailer -- as we were out and about later in the day, I overheard one young woman telling the story to a companion and planning her own boycott of Macy's.
Why do these things matter so much? What difference does it make whether we shop at Macy's or Field's, at a Home Depot or a local hardware store, at a Walmart or a neighborhood retailer? What's good for business is good for America, right?
Oops -- that speaker was discredited over 70 years ago. Good business is good for America, and the world -- but what is good business?
We've obviously had a chance to reflect upon that over the past week or so in AOL Journal Land. And I think we all know that one of the things good business does is build community, or create a climate in which community builds itself. Certainly some of the apprehension felt by Field's customers has to do with their fears concerning the destruction of community.
The folks at Marshall Field's never had to create those display windows on State Street. They didn't have to continue thetradition decade after decade. People would still do their holiday shopping there, even if the windows were full of nothing more imaginative than plasma television screens and the latest in X-Box technology.
But the windows became a gift to Chicago, a gift that built community. Whether they are "consistent with Field's objectives" remains unstated -- but my guess is that they are. Community, good feelings, loyalty -- they are all precious business commodities as well as personal treasures. They are created by a business that cares enough about its customers to welcome them to its premises, year after year after year, and to treat them like royalty once they arrive.