We punch above our economic weight, here in the Borders.
In our small town (population about 7,000 I think), we have, in addition to a large out of town Sainsbury's, a Lidl and two Co-ops, the usual array of not very exciting high street shops (Boots, Smiths, Dotty Ps), a posh interiors shop, a gentlemen's outfitters (I kid you not), four sparkly tat shops (that may not be how they market themselves), various independent clothes and shoe shops, three bakers, three coffee shops, two florists, two hardware stores, forty-eight (possibly slight exaggeration) fishing tackle shops and two butchers, one ok (but with better haggis) and one great.
Because yesterday, without warning, one of the butcher's shops shut. It was the better one, of course. There's no sign of explanation on the door, it's just closed up, and the man mending the road outside is performing a public service telling sad-faced sausage buyers (the sausages were particularly good and the other butchers doesn't make them at all (presumably having given up in the face of the former competition)) that it's gone.
The details of why and how aren't public yet, if they ever will be, but the rumour in town is that even the staff didn't know until Tuesday night.
And this feels like a tragedy for two reasons.
First, of course, because they really were the best sausages for some distance, and as sausage afficionados we don't know where we're going to get them from now.
And second because although I realise this is happening across the country, and our town has not been immune - the sparkly tat shops come and go, and the two florists we have now are not the same two florists we had when we moved here nearly three years ago - I really didn't see this coming, and unlike the florists or the gift shops, I can't see another butcher coming in to fill the empty space.
I'd like to blame Sainsbury's (which opened about eighteen months ago), but while I'm sure it didn't help, I'm not sure it's as simple as that. Even if former customers have all been defecting to Sainsbury's (or the other smaller supermarkets), this will have been as a result of other pressures (lower incomes, less time) from which Sainsbury's may be reaping the benefits, but can't be said to be the cause. In any event, too, knowing why it has happened doesn't change the reality of the situation: several families will have lost a wage earner, the town has lost a valued and long-standing business and local farmers have one fewer properly-paying outlet for their well-produced, and in many cases already barely profitable, meat.
You could say it's just a shop, but somehow the loss feels greater than that.
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