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Blind services snack bar greeted distastefully

A cardinal rule of successful marketing is to put your business nearsimilar businesses. The theory is that buyers like to have a choice and will not go to a area where there's only one place to buy. (The failure of Moscow's monolithic GUM department store proves the point.) Just look around. When one car dealership goes in, competitors spring up around it like mushrooms after a summer rain. And you never see a shopping mall with just one dress shop, much less a food court with just one fast-food franchise.

That's why it's hard to figure why a couple of downtown diners are

objecting so vehemently to the arrival of an innocuous snack bar to the third floor of the courthouse.

You would think they would realize that the more choices downtown workers have for lunchtime eating, the less likely they are to "brown bag" it or to get in their cars and drive somewhere on the outskirts of town to eat.

More disturbing is their claim that the cards are stacked in favor of the courthouse snack bar. True, the token rent and free utilities may give its operator a slight edge, but the diner operators have a distinct advantage over the new kid on the block - they have eyesight.

Edgar Culbertson, the 64-year-old man who will operate the courthouse stand, is legally blind.

In a state where the vast majority of blind people are unemployed and dependent upon taxpayer subsidies, you would think everyone would give all-out support to a man struggling to be independent. Instead, some are grumbling that he might take away a few customers.

Anyone who has stood in line waiting for a table outside downtown eating establishments or whiling away time waiting for a busy delivery service to bring a meal also probably will wonder why all the hoopla.

It's not as though there aren't enough people to keep an additional half-dozen places perking.

Instead of organizing protests, the diner owners could spend their time sprucing up their own menus, offering items not available at the competitor's stand and making sure to greet each customer with a smile and maybe even lowering their prices.

It could be that the downtown diners are vastly overestimating the impact of the Division of Blind Services' new snack stand. It is a needed convenience and primarily will attract those in a hurry - people waiting to testify in court, to go before the County Commission, perhaps to serve as jury members - and it probably will do a landslide business in breakfast foods.

As disappointing as the diner owners' objections is the fact that they could gather 160 signatures on a petition to keep out the blind services snack stand.

How much better it would have been if they could have gathered 160

signatures welcoming the new stand operator and wishing him luck.

As it is, their distasteful behavior only gives everyone around a bad case of indigestion.