I'm not one of those people who hates Wal-Mart. I usually include them in my price checks on groceries and other items, and they frequently win. Sometimes it's a pain dealing with the drooling zombie masses, but it's also entertaining to shop in the middle of the night and see what people buy at 3 in the morning. Dead of winter, and you have to wonder about the three apples, garden hose, Barbie doll and some hair dye. I freqent Lowe's and Home Depot, but I also shop my local hardware store too.
We have a gun and fishing store around here called Green Top, that has been in business in the same location for at least 40 years. In the past few years, a Gander Mountain and a Bass Pro Shop have opened up within a 2 mile triangle of Green Top. When they opened, many predicted the death of the local business, but just the oposite has happened. Gander Mountain is usually deserted. Bass Pro is usually overflowing with "destination" shoppers. Green Top is busier than ever, and there is usually a line three deep at the gun counter. But what about prices? A few years ago, I had a couple hundred dollars of Christmas money that I wanted to spend on black powder, smokeless powder, primers, and brass. Gander Mountain was cheaper than Bass Pro, but Green Top came in far below them both. I got nearly twice as much as I would have if I bought at the big places.
Sometimes, prices don't mean as much as customer service. I've had bad luck here at Bass Pro lately. If I need a shirt or something that I can get at any department store, then all I need is a check out at the register and Bass Pro works fine. If I need more, they have not measured up. Today was typical. I went to the gun counter, and there were no other customers. I found where they Ruger .22 pistols were, but didn't see the model I wanted. I asked if they had it or could get it. "No" was the only answer I got. No "sorry," no "let me see if I can order it," no "this other one has similar features." Just a flat "no." I made my way to Gander Mountain... same search and question. They did better. I got a "Sorry, no we don't have it. I could order it but don't know how long it might take to get in." I made my way the half mile to Green Top and wound my way through the throngs at the gun counter, and sure enough, they had the gun I was looking for in stock. The nice counterman pulled it out and let me take a look at it. They also had it for a cheaper price than the other two had on the standard Ruger .22 models. I still have one more local place to check, but if they don't have it, Green Top will continue to get my business.
I wouldn't ask folks to buy local and small just for the sake of saying you buy local and small. But at least give them a chance, and compare prices and customer service before making your purchases. Most towns have their long standing gun shops, and they don't stay in business for decades just "because."