A city is made up of many parts. Every person, store, school, park, restaurant and small business helps create the personality of a great city.
A great high school teacher, a restaurant with a mouth-watering omelet, a used clothing store with outfits to die for, plus all the thousands of other wonderful people and places are what makes a city a great place to live.
Every fall, our three newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno produce “Best Of” issues that celebrate and put the spotlight on the people and businesses that make living in our communities so much better.
We receive thousands and thousands of votes in hundreds of categories, we count them and then publish the winners. We have receptions for the winners where we provide some food and drink and hand out the awards.
In the last two weeks, I attended our Best Of receptions in all three cities. Every year I try to meet each of the hundreds of people at the reception. I thank them for coming, but more importantly, I thank them for making our communities better. And I mean it. I am thrilled that we can recognize people for making great bagels, or excelling at cleaning cars or doing one of a million everyday things that make a city a better place to live.
Over the last 30 years, I have had thousands of conversations with our Best Of winners. I ask them about their business and what makes them so popular. The winner modestly says, “We have a good staff,” or “I try to provide good service,” or “I had no idea you were even having a contest.”
But then they start talking about what they do, and their passion really comes through. They see their business or vocation as really making a difference in their customers' lives.
While the Best Of winners cover virtually all aspects of our community, the one thing they have in common is their personal connection to the people that they serve. The dentist who takes so much pride in her ability to make a visit fun for little ones. The breakfast cook who is thrilled when he sees people enthusiastically eating his breakfast burritos. Or the boutique owner who delights in making her customers look good for that special evening out.
This personal connection changes the transaction. A shirt selected for you by someone who wants you to look good is a better shirt than one picked out by an algorithm that cares not a bit about you and just wants to manipulate you into spending more. This personal connection, and caring, is a crucial ingredient.
It pains me to see so many of our local retailers hurt by Amazon and other online companies. Cool jobs working at an independent bookstore or a local boutique are being replaced by mind-numbing Amazon warehouse and delivery jobs paying only a little more than the minimum wage. Just as caring becomes part of every item sold locally, I also believe the Amazon employees' resentments become part of every Amazon item.
So take our Best Of issue and explore our great city. You will be doing your part to make it better, one purchase at a time.