Michigan — May 26, 2011 at 7:08 pm

How not to build community – Dexter Bakery is doin’ it wrong


I live in a small village outside of Ann Arbor called Dexter. It’s a quaint little place with a downtown area only a few blocks long and wide. My wife and I often call it “Stars Hollow” after the town in the Gilmore Girls. Like Stars Hollow, Dexter business owners form a community. They have a Chamber of Commerce that promotes the village businesses and, in general, they all cooperate to make Dexter a destination for shoppers and theater-goers. It’s an arrangement that is replicated in small towns and villages across the country.

The past few years have been tough on Dexter. When the economy took a nosedive, business at the local galleries and shops suffered. Still, most of them hung on, many probably not making much, if any, profit. But they still worked together to weather the storm and keep promoting Dexter as a destination. It has been a formula that works to everyone’s benefit.

Apparently that approach has now come to an end for at least one Dexter business — The Dexter Bakery.

A local online news site, the Dexter Patch, ran an article today titled “Dexter Bakery Shirt is a Hot Commodity Among Customers”.

Here are the shirts:

If these shirts look familiar, it’s no surprise. Life is Good stores are popular, locally-owned and staffed businesses all across the country. While the Dexter Patch’s article presents the sale of these shirts as some sort of fun thing for Dexter, they apparently failed to look literally right across the street where Lisa Prebenda Zahra’s Life is Good store sits.

Here are some Life is Good shirts:

Familiar, eh? Same artistic style. Same vibe. Same damn FONT!

Lisa’s store has been hanging on for dear life and she has thought more than once of throwing in the towel. But she hasn’t. She’s hung on because her store means a lot to her and she loves the Village of Dexter. She’s been a business owner here for nearly a decade.

She told me, “I contribute to a lot of things to Dexter, miscellaneous small things/events through the years. But mostly I pride myself on just day to day goodness. Taking care of each person that walks thru that door, in whatever it may be. Honestly, it’s more about that than anything else…it’s in the Hugs I get on a daily basis, who get’s that??”

In addition to bringing in shoppers to Dexter from out of town, Lisa supports the Huron Valley Humane Society, the summer Music Series in downtown Dexter, and other local causes. Not a surprise; that’s what locally-owned business owners do when they care about their town.

Unfortunately, instead of contributing to that group effort, Dexter Bakery decided to reach out and poke Lisa in the eye; to compete head on with her very livelihood, ripping off the Life is Good brand blatantly and, frankly, probably illegally.

When small towns face economic hardship like Dexter has faced, they generally pull together and work with each other to promote themselves as a group. What they don’t do is what Dexter Bakery has done: stab their fellow merchants in the heart.