I was introduced to the Small-Mart concept a while back. The idea is that we should shop more at local markets and less at the big box stores. West Newsmagazine, a community newspaper, just started a program called Shop H.E.R.E. (Help Energize the Region's Economy) to promote the same thing.
The problem is that my area has more chain stores than independents. It's hard to justify the extra time and gas it takes to drive farther to shop. However, today I changed that when I shopped at an independent hardware store.
The store was right in the path of my other errands, so it didn't take any extra time or gas. When I walked into the store, I didn't have to look for an associate to answer questions; someone greeted me right when I came in and asked what I was looking for, and since the store was small I didn't feel like I was getting my workout for the day walking around in it. The cashier was friendly, and my purchase didn't cost a whole lot more it would have at the big box store, either.
I think I'll be back there.