"Historians will tell you that nothing changed the American retail experience in the 20th century more than the shopping mall. Once developers clustered hundreds of stores in a single place (with ample parking), the American Main Street all but disappeared. People stopped seeing each other in the center of town. They felt less connected to their community — certainly less connected to its businesses."
Mitch Albom, Duluth News Tribune 2013-04-08
This quote was in "'Just browsing' may become a memory" also published on his website on 2013-03-31.
His article is on how the shopping on the web is changing our shopping habits as much as or even more than the shopping malls changed our shopping habits.
I grew up walking or taking a street car or bus almost everywhere I went. At one place we lived there were three locally-owned groceries on our block and two store-front chains a bit farther. At another place we lived there were three locally-owned drug stores in walking distance.
Now almost everything is chains. The only locally-owned stores are restaurants, bottle shops, hardware stores, and some gas stations. I really appreciate the few of these places where I can walk in, know the names of the people behind the counter, and be known by them.