Caring for small businesses makes ours ‘A Wonderful Life’

Here are some great local examples of George Bailey’s Savings and Loan.

At Christmas, millions watch the 1946 movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” While it is labeled “fantasy drama”, the show gives us a glimpse of reality and reminds us of the importance of caring local business owners.

The setting is mythical Bedford Falls, NY, on Christmas Eve. George Bailey, a family man with a wife and four children, was dogged by a greedy banker, Henry Potter, who wanted to shut Bailey Building and Loan Association down. (George inherited the struggling business started by his father).

The people of Bedford Falls trusted Bailey, but feared the ruthless Potter. Potter wanted to foreclose on families who fell behind on their mortgages whereas Bailey would work tirelessly to keep them in their homes.

When the movie was filmed, it was a time when people actually did business in the towns they lived in. They shopped at stores along Main Street rather than ordering on-line. If shoppers ordered from the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogue, the packages were shipped to the local post office.

Savings and Loans Associations (S&L)—also known as building and loans—-were a strong community force assisting people with home mortgages, passbook savings accounts and certificates of deposits.

Borrowers would sit down face-to-face with S&L managers like Bailey who were their friends and neighbors. There were no “loans by phones”. The transactions were in a downtown building, not by a remote connection to financial institution in a distant city.

Thankfully, many communities across America still have people like George Bailey who are their backbones, but staying in business for them is much more challenging today.

Their nemesis isn’t Henry Potter, it is modern on-line giants which undercut them on price and convenience. Unfortunately, those remote behemoths without store fronts in local communities generally are not the sponsors of little league teams, high school bands or community festivals. Local businesses are.

Every community has George Baileys. Many own family businesses. Here are few Washington examples.

The Rants family—-Ron, father, and Pat, son—own a long-time Thurston County property management and development business. From the beginning, the Rants have been deeply involved in community projects. One of the most notable was establishing Boys and Girls Clubs. In addition for the last 40 years, Ron volunteered for humanitarian missions to Vietnam and Mexico.

Olympia nursery owners Bruce and Doris Briggs specialized in developing various hybrids of rhododendrons—-many of which were donated to local parks. When they finally sold their business, they donated the nursery site to build a badly needed new YMCA.

In Grays Harbor County along the Pacific Coast, the Quiggs build their business constructing piers and wharves. When Aberdeen and Hoquiam needed a new YMCA, the Quiggs led the effort to build it.

Orchardists Ralph and Cheryl Broetje grow traditional and new apple varieties on their property along the Snake River just east of Pasco. They built a town with affordable housing, a school, church, store, recreation and community center, and daycare for people who worked in their orchards and processing plants. They spend winters working on humanitarian projects in Mexico.

Finally, in the 1950s when fast-food restaurants became the fad, Dick Spady started Dick’s Drive-ins which today are Seattle’s hamburger dynasty. The Spady family pays workers well, provides benefits and education scholarships, and amassed millions for local charities.

There are immeasurable examples of men, women and families in businesses across America, who if they had not existed, would leave a gaping hole in our communities. Their absence would impact America like a Bedford Falls without George Bailey.

Every Christmas we are reminded they give us a wonderful life.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Business

Coronavirus has brought the country together | Don Brunell

Even intrinsic political enemies are working together for the good of all.

COVID-19 gathering restriction delays funerals

For one funeral home owner, the confusion came to a head after a recent service.

Boeing plants in Puget Sound area to close; infected Everett worker dies

To the relief of anxious employees, the company said it will shut down factory operations for two weeks.

Customers buying high volume of products at cannabis shops

Retail establishments get the green light to remain open during COVID-19 pandemic.

A flight takes off at SeaTac International Airport. Photo courtesy Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle, airlines respond to COVID-19 with new health measures

Changes at Sea-Tac Airport include more hand sanitizer, training for biohazard cleaning.

With Mount Baker and Jetty Island in the distance, a container ship approaches the Port of Everett. (Port of Everett photo)
Senate Dems: $5 million to help businesses disrupted by coronavirus

Overseas port closures hurt WA companies that depend on international shipping.

Colorado River water problems worsening | Don Brunell

Warmer temperatures, growing population numbers, and an over-appropriation of water will cause big issues soon.

Local entrepreneur gives tips on successful crowdfunding

Enumclaw Councilman Beau Chevassus has learned from his Kickstarter flops, and now has had several successful money-making ventures.

Healthy healthcare workers are key to fighting diseases | Don Brunell

Coronavirus may seem like big news, but the flu is still more deadly.

Enumclaw Chamber installs new board, hears optimistic outlook

The Chamber hopes to convince the state to keep Cayuse Pass open year-round, citing economic impacts for Enumclaw.