In the 1920s and ‘30s, a robust citizen movement to protect local economies from the impacts of chain stores swept across the nation. One ardent spokesperson, writing in a 1929 issue of Harper’s magazine, argued that “chain stores represent a sort of absentee landlordism. On our Main Street, and on thousands of other Main Streets, there is a situation where policies are dictated and standards are set by men who have possibly never seen our town.”
Despite strong and widespread opposition, these early chain stores won out over the proposed regulations and statutes that sought local authority over corporate behavior.
Since that time, the rise of chain stores has rapidly continued, with big box stores dotting the landscape as successful independent businesses disappear. Today, identical stores offer identical selections from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, and with this new level of homogenization, concerns about local economic and community health have been renewed.