• Businesses line Front Street in Ballston Spa. The Saratoga County village's downtown offers plenty of opportunity for shopping, museum-going or just plain pleasure strolls. (Chris Churchill / Times Union)

Ballston Spa

This pretty little village dodged a big fat bullet.

Late last year, Walmart announced it was abandoning its controversial proposal to build a store a mile to the south, even though the plan had already been approved by the town of Ballston.

But that isn’t really the bullet.

The bigger threat to the village of Ballston Spa was the Walmart proposed for the same site back in 2004, when big-box stores had real economic power and were wiping out downtowns all across America. That plan stalled when the town rejected the plan and issued a building moratorium.

Say it with me: Phew.

By 2015, when Walmart finally got the OK for its Ballston store, big-box retail was already on the wane, which is likely why the company scuttled the plan. Amazon, the online retailer that announced on Friday that it would gobble up Whole Foods stores, had arrived.

So here’s where the retail world seems headed: The malls and the big-box stores are in trouble, because they can’t compete with the ease and convenience of online shopping and because shopping at those places isn’t much fun.

Why drive to Walmart when you can shop at walmart.com?

But the downtowns, the Main Streets, will be OK — and perhaps better than they have been since out-migration to suburbia began in the 1950s — because the successful ones are nice places to spend time. They offer community. They offer real connection and meaning.

Nowhere is that more apparent than Ballston Spa, where I spent some time last week. The village has just 5,400 residents, but is surprisingly lively. Its downtown is wonderful — maybe the best of any small…