Bercu, chief executive officer of BookPeople, started the "Declaration of Independents" campaign to persuade Austinites to shop locally owned businesses instead of the mega-malls of the world. With an ad in the Chronicle designed by GSD&M Advertising Agency, Bercu is "attempting to preserve what is unique about Austin." An initial membership of 20 area companies formed the Independent Business Alliance to educate the public on the customer service value of owner-operated businesses. By this fall the coalition hopes to grow to 100 members, plus have a Web site and directory of local businesses. One common thread that runs through the list of independent businesses, ranging from coffeehouses to print shops, is that the owner is usually on-site to solve problems. Instead of rows of cashiers ready to take a shopper's money there is someone behind the counter of the locally owned business who has a relationship with the product and an interest in pleasing the customer.
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