Both local and national retailers contribute to unique culture of C-U

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Urbana-based Black Dog is opening up its second location in downtown Champaign, and Yahoo is expanding its presence at Research Park. So, what do these two establishments have in common? 

Both Black Dog and Yahoo were given tax incentives by the city to expand their businesses in the area. Black Dog was offered rebates on sales and food-and-beverage taxes, while Yahoo was incentivized with $3 per square foot and $1,000 for each new employee, according to The News-Gazette.

With the number of buildings rising in Champaign on Green Street and elsewhere, the number of businesses will also grow. Some of them, we hope, will be local businesses while others will be national retailers or chains. The trick through all of this development will be to establish a good balance of local flavor and national color. 

It would be easy for the big-box stores to sweep in and push out local businesses, but they haven’t yet. Not to mention, students like the mix of local and national, the new and the familiar, the small and the big. Champaign has a healthy mix of the best of both, all of which contribute to a uniquely-Champaign culture.  

As such, we want to see the city working to give local businesses such as Black Dog the opportunities to thrive and grow, just as much as we hope to see an expansion of stores, such as Gander Mountain, which will occupy an empty storefront in northwest Champaign.

The number of non-chain Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian restaurants on or near Green Street stand as a testament of the kind of local businesses students like to frequent. It’s no secret, though, that Campustown has a number of Asian restaurants, so a recent Black Sheep cover story satirically expressed its confusion about the construction of Panda Express (the headline read “Panda Express Brings Much Needed Asian Cuisine to Campus”). 

Sometimes students will choose to be patrons of larger chain establishments because they’re recognizable and have a reputation. Other times, students will choose local businesses when they’re looking to experiment with something new or unique to the area. Because this diversity of opinion exists, a diversity of businesses needs to be sustained. 

Big businesses do crowd out smaller ones because the smaller can’t slash prices like the big guys. But a responsible government can curb that problem with appropriate tax incentives and breaks. 

Going forward, we hope that Champaign continues to provide a good mix of local business and national retailers to the area. Unquestionably, our campus and the C-U area are going through a transformation. And while we’re glad to grab the attention of national businesses, we hope that local businesses have a similar opportunity to thrive, whether through tax incentives or another mechanism.