Mark D. Sanders: No big box

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As a part-time resident of Steamboat Springs, I would like to offer an opinion on the big-box controversy: Keep them out.

There is no better way to lose the lovely local flavor of a place such as Steamboat than by allowing faceless discount retailers in, retailers who will give you a few dollars off the price of an object while taking away service, personality, local color and the unique experience in today's world that Steamboat's retailers offer.

The same thing is happening at other destination locations across the country, where big retailers see an influx of visitors with money, come in and build their boxes, and start chipping away at the local retail base. On my last visit to Destin, Fla., which was once a quaint fishing village, I saw a Home Depot, a Super Wal-Mart, a new mall with the Gap and Old Navy. All this on the road into town.

Meanwhile, the small local retail shops in town had been decimated. There were plenty of stores for rent, because the boxes had taken all the customer traffic away from the town. Residents who once worked for local owners in stores with local personality now have employee numbers with the national chains. And a town that once held the allure of something different is now just like everywhere else.

Steamboat doesn't need that. What you have right now is a treasure, though I'm sure it's hard to see from close up, when you have to pay a few dollars more for that jacket or those skis or that fly rod.

Stores such as Ski Haus, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Straightline and All That Jazz easily could be supplanted by a Gart Sports and a Borders. But Steamboat would be much the poorer for it, and once the boxes are built there is no turning back. So please, let's not build them here.

Mark D. Sanders

Nashville, Tenn.

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