When residents in Brattleboro, Vermont announced they were encouraging their neighbors to stay away from the new Home Depot when it opens sometime next fall, a spokesman for the company called the effort “bizarre…at the least this is most undemocratic.” Home Depot is moving into the shell of a former Ames discount store — the spoils of war after Ames shut down all its New England stores. A consortium of Home Depot, Kohl’s, and Wal-Mart bid on the dead Ames stores in bankruptcy court. Home Depot got the Brattleboro store, and is moving right into the Ames building — something they told town officials in Greenfield, Massachusetts 22 miles away they could not do in the empty Ames there. Because nothing is changing in the exterior except the logo, Home Depot avoiding Vermont’s Act 250 land use law, leaving residents opposed to the plan with little option except to organize an effort not to shop there. Local citizens filed this report: “A group of area citizens have organized themselves to try to do something positive about this unwanted development. Calling themselves “BrattPower: Promoting Our Local Economy”, the group has three purposes: (1) to convince Home Depot not to set up shop in Brattleboro through a vigorous petition and educational campaign; (2) failing that, to encourage the greater community to continue to buy local while boycotting Home Depot; and (3) to be working for changes in the regulations and laws of the town government so as to prevent box store development in the future. At present, the group is formulating an economic impact study; and the Say “No” to Home Depot” campaign began the first of July, with group members, and other concerned citizens, seeking signatures on two petitions: the first for the public, the second meant specifically for builders and contractors. Both conclude with the statement, “We do not need, or want, nor do we intend to support a Home Depot in Brattleboro.” We are also distributing a brochure which outlines why Home Depot will not help the local economy, lower taxes, or be a reliable source of employment. We are making plans that include developing financial support from local businesses, coordinating a vigorous boycott Home Depot/support local business letter writing campaign to the local paper, the Brattleboro Reformer, having signature ads appear in this newspaper, and selling and distributing lawn signs that say “Home Towns, Not Home Depots.”
Home Depot told a Brattleboro reporter that the company rarely encounters opposition as it prepares to open a store in the community. However, in each of the company’s sites near Brattleboro, opponents fought the store in Keene, New Hampshire to the east, Greenfield, Massachusetts to the south, and Rutland, Vermont to the north. Brattleboro, a town with only 12,000 population, will be surrounded by Home Depots. In the July 7th. Financial Times newspaper, Home Depot was quoted as saying such saturation is an intentional strategy to keep competition out. In other words, if Home Depot gets the Ames store, it means Lowe’s won’t. In some areas, one Home Depot store “is cannibalising the sales of another”, the paper said. Spokeman Simley told the Reformer newspaper in Brattleboro: “People ought to have the right to shop and not shop where they choose, and not have someone impose their beliefs on them.” BrattPower would probably agree with that sentiment. They simply want residents not to shop at Home Depot, and plan to collect hundreds of pledges to exercise that freedom. For further information about BrattPower, and its activities, contact Tim Stevenson, 802 869 2141.