There is a small café in Ann Arbor, Michigan, named Big City Small World Bakery. The name has always intrigued me. The business is operated several blocks from the bustling downtown district, in an older brick building with a lot of character. Inside, the shop is very small, with large display cases of freshly baked treats and breads, a nice selection of coffee, and a smattering of quaint offerings to make any home feel cozy.
Entering the shop, you immediately notice its diminutive size, then quickly realize the vast selection of treats beckoning you to explore their sweet, salty, hearty or melt-in-mouth deliciousness. It’s really quite impressive how this very small neighborhood bakery has managed to offer so much!
The larger “back of house” operation sports a commercial kitchen capable of producing quite a volume of baked goods for sale in the café, as well as for catering events. The ovens, prep counters, refrigerators, freezers, storage shelves, mixers, utensils, pans, cleaning supplies, fire suppression systems, exhaust vents, and myriad other necessities are somewhat hidden from the typical café visitor. Yet, it is these hidden elements that allow the bakers to churn out the goodies customers are drawn to enjoy.
Entering the Big City Small World Bakery is similar to how I often feel when I enter a small town, far from the hustle and bustle of a big city. The main streets in small towns may be just a block or two long, but once I take a moment to look around, I begin to notice the breadth of the offerings. These often range from diners to insurance agencies to hardware stores to small groceries and shops selling the goods and services needed for everyday living. Occasionally, I will come across a still-active downtown movie theater or a local craft store selling unique creations. Combined, these stores and offices create a unique experience in each town I visit.
While each town has its own character, there are some “back of house” operations, often hidden from the average citizen or visitor, which allows the town to function and provide the things a community needs. These are municipal services, including:
Public works, which keep the streets cleaned and repaired, parks maintained, water and sewer services operating, trash hauled and trees trimmed
Public safety, including police and fire services, code enforcement, animal control and traffic controls
Planning and zoning, which create the framework for how the downtown and broader community develop in a manner that is meaningful to the local citizens
Business districts, historic preservation, economic development
Local governance, which provides the structure, rules and processes to ensure citizens and businesses work well together, and a mechanism to ensure public resources are used wisely for the good of the community
These services, and many more can be found in big cities, small towns, and everything in between. And they are found in towns across the world.
Let’s be sure to keep our municipal services working well, operating efficiently and meeting the needs of citizens and business. Proper management, effective decision making tools, and long-range pro-active financial management will go a long way toward ensuring our cities and towns have the resources needed to deliver the behind the scene services we have all rely on!