Small Town

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Mt Pleasant: To change or not to change, that is the question.

Through the years, Mt. Pleasant has seen growth at a rather even pace. With the completion of the new highway (Avenue of the Saints) many Mt. Pleasant citizens wonder if the addition to the town will bring unwelcome change. This unforeseen change, while unwelcome to some, brings promise and hope to others. Mt. Pleasant is a small town that takes pride in local entrepreneurs, community activities, and is composed of several different ethnic groups. Mt. Pleasant has a distinguished history and is also considered to be the melting pot of the elderly and the young.

The definition of a "small Town" can be interpreted as nucleated settlement with between 5,000 and 20,000 inhabitants (Hardoy and Satterthwaite, 1986). The current population of Mt. Pleasant is estimated at 8257 (2000 est.) and fits into this definition of a small town.

However, more can be added to this definition than just numbers. The analogy can be that of a familiar place with constant surroundings. As most famously quoted in a 1980's NBC television sitcom called "Cheers", the theme song states "You wanna go where everybody knows your name." Although this show was based on neighborhood bar in Boston Massachusetts, the theme is based upon that of a small town atmosphere within a huge city. This most definitely emphasizes the impression of Mt. Pleasant: a place where not too many things change and not too many citizens want things to change.

In addition to this small town definition, an almost overwhelming sense of reluctance to accept change has been an ongoing issue in Mt. Pleasant. For several years in the late 1980's and early 1990's, Mt. Pleasant had two separate Hardee's restaurants less than a mile of the city square. Many citizens assumed that one of the restaurants only served breakfast and the other only served lunch and dinner. Several other citizens were wiser to the issue and were completely baffled at such a monopoly of fast food in one town. The lack of acceptance to competition is inevitable even with retail stores. The Wal-Mart distribution center is located in Mt. Pleasant, yet the smallest Wal-Mart store in Southeast Iowa is located right in front of this distribution center. The fear of competition has impacted the city's acceptance of change and the unwillingness to accept challenges.

Moreover, with the city's unwillingness to support competition in retail, many citizens of Mt. Pleasant continue to shop for limited items throughout the Henry County Area. Many citizens are forced, due to the lack of options and variety of consumer goods, to shop elsewhere through Southeast Iowa. In a recent survey published Dec. 12th 2000, the Mount Pleasant newspaper reported that the average Mt. Pleasant citizen travels an average of 52 to 74 more miles weekly commuting to nearby cities to purchase goods that should be readily available in Mt. Pleasant. Due to the lack of competition and limited variety of goods, consumers are forced to look and purchase elsewhere.

Although the exact impact of the new highway to Mt. Pleasant is still unknown, the direction of growth for Mt. Pleasant is dependent upon the willingness of the citizens, both young and old, to accept change for the better. This burden also lies with the city itself by understanding that competition in retail is futile if your consumers continue to shop elsewhere. The lack of choices and variety is not dictated completely by the size of the city or town, but by the opportunity of seizing onto what you have and holding on to the challenge.