There’s not really a nice way to say this, so out it comes: For a long time, major retailers wouldn’t be caught dead in our neighborhood.

There were plenty of reasons, of course: Poor demographics. Not enough traffic. Not enough household income. Too much crime. Not the right kind of real estate.

But look around us today, and read our feature story this month about the changing face of neighborhood shopping.

All of a sudden, we’ve arrived. We’re on the map. The big guys are coming.

Starbucks. Victoria’s Secret. Albertson’s. Super Target. The Gap. And quite a few more are rumored to be sniffing around, looking for just the right place to set up shop.

Our household incomes are way up. Our real estate suddenly has that “sexy” look. Our diversity is a strength rather than a weakness.

Yes, we’ve arrived. But there’s a somewhat less obvious corollary to our retail renaissance: Most of the growth that sticks in a neighborhood comes from smaller retailers. You know, the guys who live around here and work around here and keep their money around here.

Businesses such as The Accessory Market, a trendy shop owned by a neighborhood couple. Or Pickerings, a landscaping and gift shop owned by some neighbors. Or Picasso’s Pizza & Grill, owned by a neighborhood family. Or people such as Terry the Handyman and the hundreds of other small business men and women who work and live in our neighborhood.

Individually, it takes a whole bunch of these businesses to fill up one Virgin Megastore or one SuperTarget. But collectively, especially when mixed in with the giants, they create a neighborhood shopping experience that is difficult to equal anywhere in Dallas.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m excited about big-time retail, too. I’m all for not always having to cross Central Expressway or LBJ Freeway when I want a variety of choices among clothing, shoes, housewares and the like (although a trip to NorthPark or Highland Park Village or Preston Royal now and again can be fun, too). But I’m also happy to see that our smaller retailers are growing and thriving, and that more neighborhood residents are following their lead every year by trying their hand at retailing.

Too much of a good thing, too many jumbo chain stores owned and operated by companies in Chicago and Atlanta and New York, wouldn’t necessarily be good for a neighborhood that, for better or worse, has become accustomed to fending for itself over the years.

It’s great that retailers who wouldn’t have been caught dead here are finally paying attention. But we don’t want them unintentionally killing off an important part of our neighborhood lifestyle, either.