Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five weeks later.

I'm finally admitting how much I miss this. It seemed I would have posted sooner but the words wouldn't come, and perhaps I was trying to think about moving on instead of looking back. But the honeymoon stage that was new-found freedom from working seven days a week has faded. For the first time in two decades we could accept weekend invitations; sleep in on Saturday and not have to rush out of church on Sundays to open the shop, but that faded fast.

I miss my store, the people, my customers. It seems my creativity that grew there and turned into pieces of art is gone. It will return some time probably, but for now my soul is as empty as a birdcage with an occupant that has left.

My sweet senior friend Miss Doris must have come down to the beach this fall as she always does, but we didn't get to catch up this year. I wonder if her cancer is still in remission. We always had such long, meaningful talks about major events in one's life such as illness, loss, and holding onto hope. She loves her grandchildren so very much and I loved seeing her eyes sparkle when she told me about their latest school events and adventures. Miss Doris isn't part of my life anymore; she wasn't in the shop over the summer so I never got a chance to tell her goodbye or exchange addresses.

So many things I'm experiencing differently now that my life has changed. On November 14th I went to the grocery store for the first time as an unemployed citizen, no longer a small business owner. November 18th was the first church meeting that I attended since April, before the summer season began, and a Thanksgiving without customers and a busy weekend seemed hollow to me.

Silently, one by one, these things tell me that I loved something too much. It's all going to turn into just a memory soon, and those years when my soul came alive and for the first time in my life I was happier than I'd ever been, will fade. It feels as if the snow globe that was my world has shattered. I loved being a part of your lives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The excitement of having your own small business....

Ahh....the adventure of stepping out on your own as an independent business owner. I remember.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of doing this, as no class can prepare you for all the balls that you will need to learn how to juggle or the numerous tasks and responsibilities that they fail to mention to you in school. It is an adventure all it's own; one that people often view as a leap of faith or a defining moment in one's life. There will be the highs and the lows and the worry, but at the end of the day you may turn the key in a door that is yours and yours alone. 

You might be the captain of a ship on the tumultuous seas, or just one single person in a tiny boat, frantically rowing to keep up with the rushing current. There will be struggle and second-guessing and incredibly long hours as you work to prove yourself, and there might be the sweet taste of success that eludes so many - yes, it may be yours! And if you truly care about doing what's right and standing up for your principles, be prepared, since those choices sometimes come at a cost. It is an experience like no other, but keep in mind; should you grow tired or stale or disillusioned, that there is nothing quite like the pain of having to let go of a dream.....I hope for you that never happens.

Never stop growing; reaching; improving.  I wish you well on your journey

#independent #business #owner #smallretailer #localshop #adventure #thefinal90 #mystoreisclosed #after35years #finallyclosing #beloved #local #store #loveyourlocal #smallbusinessmatters #wereclosed #since1979 #endofanera

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I'm out.

The last few display pieces have been picked up and the final items are in storage. I'm on day two of trying to process that I'm unemployed, have nothing that is truly mine and that I've said goodbye to what I loved.

To those of you who supported and loved this shop, it was an honor to have you as customers and friends. I will miss being part of your summer vacations, seeing your families and chatting each year with so many of you that I came to know.

Thank you for this time of my life. I will remember you forever.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

No longer a small business owner

It's just about over. A few things remain in the store that were to be picked up or taken away and that should be done by tomorrow.

There's a faded window sign proclaiming the very best in old-fashioned candies and sweets lying on the floor by the door, and a few stacks of glass shelving sitting against the wall.

What used to be my store now has an echo, something I knew would happen and yet pretended not to notice over the last few weeks. When my friend two doors down closed her shop last month I went in towards the end and the hollowness was there. I couldn't stand it. I had gone in to be supportive of her closing and yet the echo made it hard for me to pay attention or stay long. I knew my shop would be next.

This has been the hardest thing I've ever done. Not just the saying goodbye, or searching for a new direction or letting go of the dream, but physically also. Serious lack of planning and dragging my feet didn't help but I'd also underestimated the amount of work and time it would take to sort, donate, sell, set aside and pack up 19 years of memories. Running several days beyond the date I was officially to be out wasn't planned but it just worked out that way.

By tomorrow I should be finished and will place the  keys in an envelope and drop them into the slot for the landlord. I'm no longer able to say I'm a small business owner. The time has come to move on.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4th

Today is the final day of this process. It has to be since I'm beyond exhausted, very stressed and several days late on this whole moving process. Yes, I seriously underestimated the amount of work and am paying for that mistake but I think I can swing it to be finished by tonight.

But first I have a dentist appointment then packing up for another trip to storage,  another day of hoping I don't get a ticket for expired tags on my car, and somehow finding time to go vote.

I need an end to this and sincerely hope today's the day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

What if I can't write anymore?

I wanted desperately to write one of the last posts on this blog from here, in this store where so much has happened. I'm trying not to give in to the ridiculous idea that it only took place here and may never again; because what I have learned to say on a screen came from my heart once my  mind mended.

That's something I should be able to keep, cultivate and continue no matter where I am. I say that and try to believe it but a piece of me silently asks, what if this place where you healed, stepped out of the shadows and into the light - what if the loss of so many things that were so important suddenly pulls one of the legs out from under the table? Yes, tables can and do stand on three legs but only when they were made that way; not when they came to depend upon a fourth.

I can't think like that. I have to take the good and the bad from this experience and go on to set this old laptop on another counter or table or desk and let the words out. It's not fair to let myself think it's over just because I'll be sitting somewhere different.
I hope that somehow before Monday night I can sit here in this now-silent shell of a store and once again pour my heart out. I'm so afraid the words will come to a halt when I leave here; I just want to stay tonight and write. And remember. And keep loving the piece of my life that matters so much to me that it's stinging my eyes and running down my cheeks again.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

90 days was up at midnight

I didn't make it. Despite working non-stop all week I wasn't able to have everything packed up and out by Friday night.

Yes, the sorting and decisions and memories overwhelmed me and progress was slow - much slower than I'd anticipated. And as I noticed my hesitation and inability to let go, toss or keep, it dawned on me that perhaps maintaining a shop of this size had become more than I could gracefully handle.

Two folks who were unable to come and pick up several large items left me scrambling and  when I wrenched my back Thursday night I realized it wasn't going to happen. I got an extension until Monday and after a day of rest am back for another 12-14 hours.

I don't appreciate the nagging feeling in my head that keeps pointing out I've become easily overwhelmed like this more than a few times in the last couple of years. Maybe since  losing my employees four years ago when my workman's comp policy increased (by six times the previous rate), I'd been so alone with this amount of work that things had become more difficult for me.
Maybe I had changed and simply didn't have what it took anymore. In any case I've got a new deadline which will be day 93 since I gave notice.

I've got a lot to do and I'd love to slap that annoying little feeling buzzing around my head which reminds me that perhaps I HAVE slipped a little; lost my edge maybe. It's good I have a lot of hours ahead to be thinking this over.

A picture of how we looked earlier this year....the way so many of my customers knew this place and loved it.


Friday, October 31, 2014

My last few days

A lot of learning to let go this week....some of it I'm failing miserably at. I know that one day I will look back on this experience and realize it was just time, that the dream, this passion and great love of my life are over. But right now I keep thinking I will wake up and it won't be really happening.

What goodbye looks like....

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Freeze frame feeling

I've fallen into a crazy state of sluggishness this week, almost as if I don't believe this is happening.  Granted, I am fighting hard to look ahead and take some good things away from this experience and per my post from yesterday, perhaps it's time to focus less on the loss and more on the positive. But right now I'm totally overwhelmed by the rush to sort, pack, throw away and have everything ready for the movers on Thursday.

Given my panic it's a shame I didn't plan better but it feels that the world is in slow motion and I'm barely moving. I have to get this done and so I'm here for another 12-14 hours today....still feeling like I'm trapped in a damaged video, the kind we used to encounter years ago. I'm in that minute as everything starts to blur and slow down to frame-by-frame movement as the VCR grinds to a stop.

#lastdays #storeclosed #momandpopclosing #independentretailer #movingon  #thefinal 90 #deathofasmallbusiness #endofanera #finallyclosed #after35years #itsover #timelapse #closedforever #momandpopclosed #itsablur

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Perhaps it is how you look at things....

Maybe I'm not looking hard enough for the good stuff. I recently started following another blog, one that couldn't be more different from my lifestyle and yet it captivated me. I'm not sure how I came across Liz since I seem to have trouble finding sites on Blogger that are what I think I'm trying to find. But perhaps what I needed was to learn about this view of life so maybe it WAS what I'd been looking for.

My life and writing couldn't be more different from hers if I'd sat down and tried to be 180° the other way. It speaks to me of finding joy, appreciating life and loving every minute we are given. I may have been missing the whole point of what life experiences teach us and yet, reading snippets of  someone else's journey could be opening my eyes to a new world.

As an exercise to myself I thought I'd look again at the the post I wrote late last night but didn't publish. I wonder if by focusing on the dark and troubling parts, I'm actually limiting what I let myself see. And in the light of today's astonishingly beautiful weather, the dim view I had on my life's current events seemed perhaps too mournful. What if I'm focusing so hard on my loss that I can't see anything else and thus am missing the whole point of this experience?

There are some photos on my phone that I've taken and I'm going to look for the one that I think is the most beautiful. That's what I will post here today instead of something about my business. Then I'm going to go think about this.

P.S. I loved this photo of an unusual swirling cloud pattern towards sunset last week but didn't post it. Why? Because there are power lines in it - and real professionals don't make stupid mistakes like that. So I let perfectionism dampen the beauty I thought I saw....?

#findingthelight #thankful #appreciatelife #beauty #joy #Iamtrying #learningtoletgo #thefinal90 #freetofly #lookforthebrightspot #seebeauty #lettinggo #learningtofly #endofanera #finalchapter #lossofsmallbusiness

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The weekend is over

I called it an hour early. I couldn't take the comments about "I knew you were here but this is my first time in this shop in 20 years or "I bet you can't wait to get out of here and retire" if I look 25 years older than I am and with retirement on my list. Most days I have thicker skin but right now everything about this hurts and I had to just close the door. This has been my life for so many years and today my heart is breaking.

Just posted: "Folks, it's over. We will be closing in just a few minutes. I can't thank those of you who came in this weekend enough but it's time. I have loved being a part of your lives, vacations and families and will miss you so much. Thank you."

I'm trying to catch my breath and I can't.

#wehaveclosed #itsover #thefinal90  #closedforever #belovedshop #lettinggo #confectionery #over #myhearthurts #smallstoregone #ihaveloved #tryingtobreathe #finalday #endofmystory #heartbroken #missingyoualready #lastday

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My last Saturday has ended.

What an amazing day. So many people came in the store to say goodbye and purchase items for the last time. I heard phrases like "you meant so much to the community" and "thank you for being here all this time. We have loved making this shop a part of our visits."

A few people had tears in their eyes while saying goodbye and knowing that I wanted to preserve this day in my mind I tried to take as many pictures as possible. It's not "just" the closing of a store that is happening, it's a place that many people cared about.

I don't really think the waterproof makeup held up too well. But that's all right because it means I was able to say goodbye to the things and people who  mattered. And yes, a few of those tears were when these stunning flowers arrived from a lovely friend, perhaps the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. What a day. I am so lucky to have had something I loved so much.

#thefinal90 #smallbusinessclosing #35years #finally #beloved #local #shop #iamsolucky #momandpop#whatitslike #losingourindependents #livelocalsupportlocal #Americanmade

My final Saturday

My final Saturday as a small business owner begins.

I'm never going to consider myself less of a person simply because I will work for someone else in the future; it just won't ever be the same. I've loved having the ability to educate, inform and share the message of buying American made products. So many of my customers appreciate that and return because there are standards here and they don't have to question what they purchase.

Sadly, a large segment of those shoppers are older - they are the ones who "get it" when the younger generation  - even those with children couldn't care less. I wish I'd been able to reach them but after all this time I couldn't. This chapter has ended for me and it's time to give up the pursuit. I can't help feeling a little disappointed that there will be one less voice speaking up for the American manufacturers, producers and even local artists who's work we carried. American made products. So many of my customers appreciate that and return because there are standards here and they don't have to question what they are purchasing.

#Americanmade #quality #standards #manufacturing # confectionery #thefinal90 #buyAmerican #standforsomething #principles #MadeInTheUSA #lackofsupport #smallbusiness #sweetshop #belovedicon #local #community #pennycandy #smallstore

Friday, October 24, 2014

Another chance today

I was able to tell a bit of my story today, to a news reporter and a very large black camera. That's not something normal for me but I'm appreciative that they thought it mattered enough to send someone out.

In the brief amount of time however when asked to sum up what this all meant; how it feels to be closing and what my thoughts are, I fumbled for the right words. How do you pack all that into just a few minutes? And yet, perhaps what I blurted out is what matters the most to me; something to the effect of "when you do business locally you connect with your community which is something no big box store could ever offer". A comment or two about having standards, principles and doing what's right echoed the choices I've made not to sell unknown products made in china but to stand by the American companies which continue to struggle.

Hopefully the message somehow comes across on the news today at 6pm. I came home and looked for confirmation of what this blog may have done and I'm not sure I see that. This blog never gathered a crowd or set the world on fire, but perhaps it mattered to just a few people. Searching for the hashtag #thefinal90 gave me this colorful collection of graphics and images which have accompanied my journey and somehow, that made me feel better. I did what I set out to do; spread a message across various forms of social media and if no one cared, that's out of my hands. The words and the thoughts and the dedication to small businesses everywhere is there. I just hope someone reads it who connects with something that was written.

#finalchapter #smallshop #closing #afterdecades #ihaveloved #community #localicon #thefinal90 #sayinggoodbye #deathofasmallbusiness #momandpopcloses #losing #local #shops #almostover #cornerstore #familiarshop 

One week to go

It is the first of my three final days of business. After Sunday only a short time remains until my lease ends on the 31st. 

I am trying to face these remaining days with the attitude reflected in this graphic. I've done my time grieving and I'm sure there is more to come. Some of the toughest decisions about items or fixtures lie ahead and I still have many things to let go of.

But as a wise friend said to me this week, I cannot let this consume me. I have to let go of something I love but I cannot let that loss crush me. I am sad and trying to keep all this in mind at the same time. Wish me luck.

#lastfewdays #final #goodbye #closingforever #thefinal90 #endofanera #independent #retailer #beloved #shop #familiar #icon #favorite #store #momandpop #lettinggo #finallyclosing #confectionaryshop #memories #small #cornerstore #chocolateshop

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Going out with a bang

I changed direction and did a complete about-face. It's not like me but tough times call for dramatic actions I guess. After months of agonizing over this decision, feeling  frustrated over so many of the factors that led to this choice, I faced the fact that I'm out of here in less than two weeks head on. Posted on Sunday:

Greetings folks! I've given it a lot of thought and decided we will not just go out quietly. When you have been here for this long you cannot just slip out of sight and there are so many people still to say goodbye too, those who are messaging and texting wanting to get into the shop one last time. So we will go out with a BANG!! This weekend will be the final three days and we're celebrating with an epic sale, free candy and goodies and a chance to see you all once more. 

This is going to be the best place to start on your Christmas gift list!! Be here to say goodbye, celebrate 35 years AND do some fabulous shopping! I'm looking forward to seeing you - the best customers ever. I will miss you so much!! xoxoxo"

I'm setting up the store for a giant sale, cleaning out, throwing away and making piles to donate. I can't help but feel a little excited and glad that so many people are planning to be here this weekend and that definately warms my heart; which at the same time is still breaking into a million pieces. This place IS me and I have been it's heart and soul for 19 years. I'm struggling but felt that this was the right way to go out.....

I'll have to post some of the comments later on that have been made but to do it now will lead to leaky eyes and I have a party to plan.....

#sayinggoodbye #finally #closing #endofanera #goodbyemomandpop #thefinal90 #storeclosing #loveyourlocal #localbusinesses #closed #lettinggo #after35years #loved #ending #ihaveloved #missingthisalready

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maybe it is a time to fly

People keep mentioning all the great possibilities that lie ahead of me now. They talk about the next chapter; the new adventures and all the opportunities I'll have.

It's true. I will have many chances to move on in other directions. Unless you've had a small business it's hard to realize how much falls upon just one or two individuals and how often time is no longer your own. The daily hours of the shop, seven days a week can be wearing but more importantly it can drag you into a state where you are no longer growing.

Perhaps I was there, as to run and operate the store took so much of my efforts and energies. Sometimes I think it's possible to slip into that without even realizing because when one is is a sheltered state of routine maybe we forget to look outside of ourselves. I think there are things I'd like to do; try; fiddle around with jewelry making perhaps. But the time and energy wasn't there lately and I may have missed seeing how small my world became.

This could be my chance to find a new love and my next passion in life. I have to remember that become a vibrant and beautiful butterfly one must shed the protective dull grey cocoon to move forward. Maybe, in the upcoming November and December and all the other months to follow, maybe I'm going to find my colors after all.

#locallyowned #sayinggoodbye #thefinal90 #endofanera #independent #retailer #beloved #shop #familiar #icon #favorite #store #momandpop #lettinggo #closingannouncement #confectionaryshop #memories #small #cornerstore #chocolateshop

Friday, October 17, 2014

After 19 years, only two weeks remain

12:38 am and I'm pulling up to the parking lot at the store. There is a lot to pack, so much left to do and yet manage to keep the shop straight for customers to navigate. There are still a few days left to be open for business.

I'm here now because to come in each morning gets harder and harder and some days I can't stand the questions from people or the looks. Tonight I'm alone with the shopping center and while I'm pulling down things to sort, pack up or mark down I can lose myself in loud angry music. During the day hours I have neighbors to consider but for now I can try to drown out my feelings.

I think back over so many years and memories and too many people and customers and experiences to count. Being a small business owner is special and for me it was a wonderful time. I hate the saying "it's time" when everything in me scream that it's not and yet the circumstances that are dragging this place down are out of my hands. It is time and I'm still fighting to hold on.

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #endofanera #favorite #customers #decades #business #community #icon #sweetshop #beloved #local #smallbusiness #favorite #pennycandyshop 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I am lucky to have loved so much.

It's 10:30 in the morning and I should be at work. There is so much to do; so many things to pack, donate, list for sale, get rid of. What I can't package up is all the memories of this part of my life. So many people and memories and good times, bad times and everything in between. I have loved being the owner of this place; grateful to have known so many of you; trying to make sense out of the final two weeks.

I am letting sadness cloud my thinking which is complicating matters. I need to be making calls, searching out antique dealers for the century old fixtures and being practical. But right now the concept of losing the only time in my life that things came together for me is taking over and I'm not doing all that needs to be done.

Several of my rescued animals are curled up with me as this is being written. They understand, know my sadness and gather around. I'm grateful for the silent support which comes with no comments or questions or advice on how I should feel right now. The depth and difficulty of this goodbye is perhaps relative to the feelings held for this chapter in my life. I am so lucky to have had something I loved so very much.

#goodbye #smallbusiness #35years #finally #closing #localshop #momandpop #locallyowned #thefinal90 #sadness #memories #IHaveLoved #mystore #deathofasmallbusiness #lettinggo #movingon

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Soon a light will go out

It's really sinking in tonight that everything is going to change forever in just a few weeks.

I was out tonight in town and headed home finally, traveling down a silent off -season road. My shop sits in a well-known cluster of brick buildings that have stood there since I was just a few years old, located at the corner of a beach highway intersection. As I make the turn to go home I can see the door and front window of the shop and the lights over the front display shines out into the courtyard. Every time I've turning that corner by the stop light for all these years, I've caught a glimpse of my store that I've taken such care to grow, preserve, nurture and love. A few years ago during the winter my light burned out and to make that turn and see darkness where the familiar glow always was seemed strange.  Now strange is going to become the new normal and that light will go out in just a few more weeks.

For the first time in almost half my life I'll be making that turn without seeing something that I built and that I poured my heart and soul into. It will just be another building to pass by once the life drains out of it in just a few more days, and I think to myself how very lucky I have been to have loved something so much.

#fading #light #store #closing #forever #35years #later #itsover #lettinggo #sayinggoodbye #mysmallbusiness #loved #customers #friends #memories #alltheseyears #candyshop #whatwestoodfor #belovedshop #favorite #destination #summertime #memory #thefinal90

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reality creeps in

I think I'm finding some extra confirmation on the dinosaur thing.

Since Sunday when I learned of another small business that was closing I've been restless; searching; looking around for some sign that "my people" are still around. I don't know the gentleman who is closing his shop or his story but what I could read on his facebook page was sadness over closing. And that I thought, meant that there are indeed other members of my tribe present - the ones that loved what they did, valued and fiercely loved their customers and life as an independent.

If there were others besides me who felt this loss that I'm feeling, then I'm not alone, right? I shared someone else's story; passed on his words and added a few; and no one commented. It was as if they tried to ignore what is happening, or perhaps they didn't really want to know. But these are people with whom I've connected with, the ones who still have their restaurants and stores and service companies. THEY would care.....right? Because if they don't then am I sharing a dead cause and blowing a silent trumpet? I looked all over the Internet tonight for some long-time independents that always have championed this thinking - the ones who agreed, and supported, and understood.
But their pages were silent and they themselves appeared distant; either otherwise occupied or moving in a new direction. A few had closed up in the last year and some of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for the "Shop Local" movement had abandoned the effort altogether. Perhaps they saw the light I've been hiding from; perhaps they realized things are changing and some of us will fall. Perhaps I'm one of the few who didn't see or want to see what's right there? 

And then it dawned on me; maybe this is how you begin to know your time is up, when you look around and realize the others are gone. Maybe this is how you begin to see that others have let go of a dream that was once like yours. Maybe this is how you realize you've held on too long.

#truth #reality #ending #closing #afteralltheseyears #forever #thefinal90 #shoplocalmovement #dinosaur #fool #blind #whatotherssaw #failed #dream #itsover #realization #lettinggo #closingasmallbusiness

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Today in Connecticut....

Today is a break from reading about me and my journey, because I'd like to share someone else with you. This morning I was tagged in a facebook post by a friend who has shown support for small business owners, mentioned her feelings on my posts and understood what I've been saying. She, unlike so many, "gets it", and I'm grateful for the people who realize not only what we do but that moving on isn't always easy. Thank you Linda. 

She mentioned me and another person in her comments which told me that this was the final day for another small business owner. I had to know more, not from a spectator standpoint but because I needed to see if this closing was being handled better than I'm managing mine. It's possible that not all proprietors feel the way I do; maybe I'm making too much of my journey and this long goodbye. Then again, it matters a great deal to me so I can't just say nothing, but what if others don't feel as I do?

I looked up the page for the other shop that is closing and just had to copy their announcement here for you to read. It's goodbye - not just to a job, or a place -  but to a community, and it looks like a sadness similar to what I'm feeling. I hope Mr. Carlo won't mind that I am reposting his words here but they matter. We - the heart and soul of your neighborhoods and towns - matter. And it's breaking my heart to read his farewell but especially the one line in there that you may pick up on. 

A photo he posted this morning on his facebook page -

His official closing announcement from 10/6/14:

"It breaks my heart to write this, but we are going out of business.

This week will be our final week that we will be open. We will make grinders till Friday, then no more grinders. I am going to retire. For 6 years my son and I gave our customers the best quality, best service, best prices possible , ANYWHERE. We were honest and fair with everyone. Many of our customers became personal friends of our family, and will continue to be our friends. We will miss ALL OF YOU. But the ones I will miss the most, are all the beautiful children. There is no way to describe how wonderful it is the have them come into the store, and call me Mr. Carlo. These beautiful children are our future, and I know they will grow to be amazing adults, doing amazing things. I know that hundreds of you, won't know I'm closed till you come in for your once a year holiday meal. One can't help but wonder what you feed your family the rest of the year. I have so many people to thank for all the great things they did to help us in our 6 years here. Nick and I could never do it all by ourselves. So this is it, my last week, and a new owner will take over in a couple of weeks. Thank you so much to all our loyal customers over the years, I hope that you all know how much we care about you all. 

Carlo and Nick"

This photo was also posted today. Here is the facebook page -

To Carlo & Son Quality Meats, you were so loved by your customers, friends and those you served. I'm so sorry to see you are closing. We - the independents can never be replaced by larger stores, lesser quality or lack of personal commitment to what we do. 
I wish you all the best.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Live that dream

Did you ever have a dream that happened - something that right before your eyes turned into reality? I did. I am grateful for that. And yet the selfish part of me wants to remain an entrepreneur, not return to just being a normal person with a regular job.

But the risks and the dead end I've arrived at within the last several years are more than writing on the wall and I'm smart enough to see that....right? I am, and I'd still do it all over again if I could relocate; but I'm 20 years older and while far more savvy I'm also perhaps not as able to pull 20 hour work days getting moved, set up and established for a new beginning. And there's this bad taste in my mouth from the situation I'm in and perhaps this IS what's best, for me.

But for YOU - wanting desperately to make that leap, to break out on your own and write that new chapter - do it. Don't let it slip by because that may be the best time of your life. For me it was.

#store #closing #familyowned #ghostsofthepast #smallbusinessowners #entrepreneur #dream #deathofasmallbusiness #thefinal90 #independentretailer #lastseason #closingforever #locallyowned #momandpop #fading #oldtimeshop #‎thefinal90‬ ‪#‎storeclosing‬ #sadness #newcareer

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The many stages of saying goodbye

I thought I'd been through the challenging parts already. So many things this far have been far harder than I anticipated and I'll admit that for a few days earlier this month I actually breathed. In a way it seemed that some of most difficult tasks which had loomed on the horizon were completed and now there was no turning back.

I'd given the required notice to my landlord and after days of dragging my feet had finally posting the "closing forever" signs. I'd learned how to field questions of all varieties and varying degrees of rudeness and had even made a few feeble attempts to take some of my personal items home from the store.

But for just under two decades this store HAS been my home: it's where I've laughed, learned, cared, grown, educated, cried, and where I swore I'd never give up on something I loved so much. It was, as I'd mentioned in a previous post, the place where "I'd come out of the dark" as a shattered life was rebuilt and a new place in the world was created.

This shop where I'd connected with so many hundreds and thousands of people across the years, was so much more than "just a job" to me and to some extent when you run your own ship I think you have to feel that way. I made a mistake that will be hard to warn others about and difficult to explain; I'd fallen in love with my business. That's not something you should ever do I guess, because when if the time comes when you have to say goodbye, it's going to be so much more than just a change in where you work. It's going to hurt like hell. I know that now because I'm there.

#sayinggoodbye #finally #closing #endofanera #goodbyemomandpop #thefinal90 #storeclosing #lovelocal #community #choices #small #shops #localbusinesses #closed #lettinggo #after35years #loved

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


It's a word I mention often and something by which I live. And ever since I wrote yesterday's blog post I've been a little annoyed. It took me until this afternoon to figure out why, but I finally got it.

That doesn't sound like me - not the real me. It sounds as if I'm whining about costs, complaining that "life is hard", etc. when in reality I'd normally be fighting for what I loved. And I did love this shop - the one that I'm letting go, in a process that I've often described as cutting off my arm. Maybe I cared so much because I have been through the rough years and the very difficult times. Maybe it's because I fought hard to stand for something and then even harder to keep it all together. So for me to throw in the towel now - am I really ok with just blaming it on others, rising expenses and landlords?

No, I'm not ok with that and I COULD have stayed if I'd wanted. It's conceivable that my very competitive sales structure could have been adjusted; that my shop would have began to resemble the chain stores with a smaller selection at ghastly prices. I didn't HAVE to carry those stupid melt-in-your-mouth mints that came only from Ohio because I was determined to offer my customers the best. Surely a factory in china creates something similar, right? So why am I faithfully buying something more expensive "just because"? 

One can pick and choose items and merchandise as a sole proprietor, and one can also make poor choices. If I stuck to my guns on those damn mints there was likely a whole slew of similar products that I could also be purchasing more cheaply. So why did the mints, which in turn represented how I do business, what my choices have been and ultimately, how I'm running my shop - matter? Because they don't have an awful artificial taste, and they don't burn your mouth but rather melt on your tongue. Because when the day before a 29th birthday, the other half of my life was diagnosed with cancer. It took my breath away and almost took the business when I walked out to be there in the hospital day after day after day. We learned about medical terms, surgeries, doctor's visits and the endless game of waiting for results. We found that so many things in life both started to matter and also ceased to be a priority, how self-employed insurance was a nightmare and a joke and how during chemo that nothing tastes right.

Except for those damn mints. They did the trick and helped offer some bit of taste to counter dry mouth that comes with months of treatments. Having lost a parent at an early age to the same dreadful disease, I was aware of how little a cancer patient enjoys. I tried to never  run out of them in he following years. My customers knew I have something for everyone and so it did matter that I sold the best. And no one who happened to mention in conversation that their relative was fighting hard through a chemo program, ever left without a bag of mints.

So you see, I had my choices, was able and willing to choose inferior product for higher profits. But that's not how my daddy raised me. He always told me you do what is right and honorable, because that's just how we live, and so the part about cutting corners just wasn't an option for me. And yesterday's whining about costs that went up as foot traffic went down; how it all came to a crunch one day - well, I had my choices and chances and I made them. I made the right ones for me and didn't settle. Because you know, when you start caving in on one thing.....then pretty soon it's another, and then another. And then what you have is lack of pride in what you do. That's not what I picked.

P.S. Don't get me wrong; it's nice and affirming and perhaps soul - finding to do something that you believe is right. But that doesn't make it easier. While it's pretty therapeutic to bleed and weep all over this keyboard and blog about doing the right thing it still hurts like heck to say goodbye. 

I'd like to have a few less days with leaky eyes, but then again if I didn't care this much I guess almost two decades wouldn't have mattered the way they do. Still, it's pulling off pieces of me to leave and I wish I could stay, do everything on my terms and live the good life. I'm gonna miss this so much.....more than I can say.

#commitment #to #quality #standards #madeintheusa #loyalty #thebest #refusingtosettle #principles #buttermints #meltaways #stickingupforwhatsright #meltinyourmouth #chemo #lackoftaste #comforting

Monday, October 6, 2014

Operating costs do rise

 I'm fairly sure I've mentioned before that as I dump/bleed/unload my thoughts here on this blog, that some posts may be relevant to certain people and others may not connect with that particular bit of info at all. I'm not doing separate blogs for those who may care like I do about being loyal to local businesses, or those who are small shop owners, or for those who may simply be curious. Most of my entries are about a specific topic or issue and this one may be more geared towards other independent owners or those considering a storefront. Think carefully before you get into something that you may not have added up all the costs for.

People ask me often - too often, perhaps - for specific reasons I'm closing the store. It's far to complicated to put into words honestly, as there are a number of reason, factors and causes for this decision. Many folks seem to enjoy speculating for possible causes and reasons, and tied for first place in how many times I've heard them, the two top guesses are A, the rent was raised or B, I'm retiring. At 43 option B is not in the cards....or perhaps that's meant to inform me I look far older than 43. Option A is not quite correct either because it wasn't specifically the rent; it was the "other fees" that have been adding up. And by adding up I mean increasing as well as new costs that have appeared out of thin air, sometimes creeping up subtly until one day you sit down and really look at what it's costing to have a storefront. Of course, if you own the building where you operate you are far ahead of the game as each mortgage payment is an investment rather than a drain.

Rent is spelled out in a lease which lasts a year, two or more. Mine has crept up a little over the 19 years but not much, so it's the other costs that have started to take a bite out of profits. Most owners have a "CAM" (common area maintenance) fee which covers trash and upkeep around the shopping center or complex. Mine at one time was $300 and it's safe to say that as of 2014 it's increased somewhere around 12 times that amount. Things cost more and many increases are understandable but a few years ago, due to expenses, our trash cans were removed from the facility - the ones that customers would use for a coffee cup, etc. We were told it was no longer affordable to have individual receptacles and without them - well, people drop their trash in potted plants, corners, just about anywhere. Of course visitors are not going to hike to the end of the parking lot to find the dumpster so it seemed unfortunate that this happened. And our fees didn't decrease; they continued to rise. I think something so basic annoyed a number of merchants because suddenly we seemed like evil little people expecting garbage cans to be available for our customers.

In our vacation town, a charge termed the Gross Receipts tax had been in place for those who rented out homes to summer visitors. I can see how that fee was charged to those who collected the money, i.e., the homeowners, but it wasn't levied against vacationers. Yet about five years ago when the town felt that all rental arrangements should pay this, including businesses who rented a storefront, the fee came directly to us, the merchants. It still doesn't seem quite right to me since I'm not the one profiting from rental of a space, but the motion passed and an additional $360 per year was tacked on to the bill upon renewal of a yearly license.

Business license for the state is $75.00 and for the town is $196. Insurance rises every single year whether or not a claim is filed. And workman's comp has it's own separate blog post a few weeks back that you can read to see how that went for me and why I ultimately lost it. A few years ago when the decision was made for the shopping center to convert from it's well to town water we were all assessed an additional fee. And yet with a rental property that our family owned, when the property was improved those costs weren't passed on to the tenant; it was our investment.

There are so many things to consider when operating a business and expenses are perhaps the biggest issue. But it's important to think about how much of the additional expenses you can legitimately pass on to your customers - and I'm at the point where I don't want to keep raising prices. Fixed costs are one thing, but those which keep rising because they are outside of the lease - that is starting to irk me a bit.

How much is too much? Well, for some retail stores, such as the jewelry shop or upper-right clothing, they may not feel that increases are a big deal. Compare that to the smaller overall sale-per- customer that a candy shop may have and I'm feeling a bit uneasy. A $750 water bill to improve a property that isn't mine - well, that's a lot of candy to sell. I can't say that my business model is wrong because for so many years it worked. But lately more factors are coming up that make me realize why so many small shops are ultimately closing here. Perhaps we ARE the small potatoes that can't cut it after all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Changes on the horizon

I've said before several times that there are a number of reasons for closing my store. Some of them related to the business of retail and how people seem to buy these days as opposed to years ago. Part of it had to do with an area chain featuring multiple locations; most recently in the neighborhood of 25 stores nearby. Saturation was the goal and they had the funds to do it.

That competition had always been present, even almost 20 years ago when this began, but there were others who like me, had their own following as well. These similar independents were spread through the towns and although the chain stores were present, there seemed to be an atmosphere of choice and variety.

Looking back now I think I'd have to admit that while the other 12 or 13 independent confectionery shops were around, people were aware of options. But as shops faded and closed perhaps so did the minds of our visitors. When you see choices, it's likely you explore more, but as places like mine disappeared I think it began to convince customers to stick with the most visible option.

And then suddenly, about seven years ago, my smaller competition vanished and I became the last of the independents. Rather than shrink and fade from sight, I branded my shop with what the chains were not. I adamantly followed one of the most basic rules in retail; be different. With some items the bigger stores featured being imported from china and thus poor quality, I continued to offer the best products made here in the USA. Customers would come in daily asking questions such as "but YOU still have the real kind, right?", and we did.

With this goal of excelling in certain niches and maintaining my own distinct following, why did I decide to close? As much as I hated to admit it, my store was impacted by what surrounded me. What once was a thriving and vibrant shopping destination, began to decline and perhaps has been one of the hardest changes for me to see and accept. (To be continued)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Struggling with September

I've spent all day trying to come to terms with saying goodbye. September and October are some of my favorite months and over the last few days I'd been feeling a nagging sense that this is all slipping away far too fast.

Shortly after the summer season officially ends with Labor day, things begin to change. Stores hours that were 10am until 10 pm gave way to more civilized closing times of 8pm and for the first time in many weeks some of us shop owners took a day off midweek. We slept a little more; reconnected with our families; enjoyed a dinner out with the spouse for the first time since June. And then somewhere in the middle of the month we began planning again.

The fall and the times leading up to the Christmas holidays required attention. Those are valuable weeks for business still, admittedly less than summer but without requiring extra staff and the long hours. It was a time when many of our regular customers would make their appearance after a summer of renting out their beach places and so it was a fun time to catch up with so many familiar faces. I would always hold off on putting up a Christmas tree until after labor day weekend but since the holidays were coming it became commonplace to start changing and decorating the store. All these activities combined with the cooler weather and more relaxed schedule seemed to make up one of the best seasons of the year.

This time it's all so very different. Instead of placing pumpkins and strawbales outside I have signs listing the many items available for sale at deep discounts. Rather than draping fall leaf garlands across the doors and windows I'm adorning them with signs that scream "CLOSING FOREVER". I'm not greeting the shoulder season with enthusiasm and excitement but rather preparing to bury an old friend.

No matter what I could have done today it wouldn't have mattered. The clocks marched onwards towards the ending of one more month that I will never be able to experience in the way that I loved. In a few hours my final September will be done. This place; these years; those memories are fading from my life and I'm unwilling to let go. I have stupidly loved and cared so much about this shop and my customers, the interactions and being a small part of so many lives that it's taking my breath away.

#september #ending #storeclosing #goodbye #after35years #ihaveloved #sayinggoodbye #movingon #familyowned #finally  #smallretailer #independent #business #thefinal90 #endofanera #closingforever

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bittersweet and in print

So I made the paper - not just an online article, but something printed in one of our free local weekly papers for this area. It was bittersweet to open a publication and see my shop and it's story splashed across the pages but that is what I wanted right? I mean, I set out to do this blog to not only share my journey of closing and saying goodbye but to make mention of small, locally owned businesses. I wanted to explain how far apart we are from the soulless chains and how we are living, breathing, vibrant parts of our communities.

I don't know how much of that came across in the article but it was well done. I think the reporter/writer "got it", but for the sake of the story I'm not sure how much he wanted to go into detail about the death of small businesses because that could be a bit depressing, and yet I think he did include a few snippets of things I'd said. This has been such an interesting experience for me to share these final 90 days as I move towards closing and I think that's what landed me the article rather than the fact this store is closing after 35 years. Do I care which angle caught someone's attention? In a way I do, because being interviewed because of the loss of a local icon would have been satisfying to pass that on to the public, but perhaps that doesn't create good material and probably no one would have read it. More people are inclined to turn a blind eye to the fading of mom and pop I believe, and it's not probably comfortable to view the evidence that we may be disappearing. Silently embracing the big box lifestyle is the new normal and still I suspect many have a twinge of sadness at seeing places close; perhaps even a tiny nagging feeling of guilt for their lack of caring.

The last two posts on my blog very much reflected the dedication that so many small business owners have for what they do. I think illustrating the public service site that I run and offer to my area shows how I'm connected to my community, and then there's the look at how our worlds and shopping habits have shifted so greatly from multiple personal interactions to just a one stop focus. I don't feel that everything under one roof is better and it will be interesting to hear the opinions of others regarding that.

Despite the publicity from the article, it's been a bit daunting to have even more people come in appearing eager to ask for details. It seems that in an odd way people would prefer to sort of minimize the years we have been here and instead write the store's closing off as "progress". Maybe sometimes we find it easier to find a word to assign to change that we see but don't really wish to think too hard about. Maybe sometimes we don't wish to see what is right in front of us.

#sheepnomore #inprint #newspaper #article #storeclosing #thefinal90 #retailnews #newsstory #bittersweet #finally #closing #after35years #momandpopclosing #bigboxchains #losinglocal #changing #landscape #smallretailers

Friday, September 26, 2014

Big box casualties

This began being written back in 2009 as I began to see the attraction the larger stores held for consumers. I worried that we, the independents, may be fading from favor so now, five years later, I'm finishing it. 

I believe the shift towards the “get it all under one roof” mentality has significantly impacted the small retailer for many reasons. I'd venture to say that it's become more than just how people spend; I think it's become a mind set. Prior to the early 1990's I had never set foot in a Walmart. I know, I know. Sheltered east coaster I guess, but when we traveled we went to places that were all about the small towns and where variety made up the local landscape. Somehow, if the giants were present I managed to miss them until they arrived in Virginia, probably around 92' or '93.

Before Walmart you may have needed to go to several different stores for various items. I realize by today's standards of one stop shopping that behavior seems terribly time consuming and wasteful, but was it really THAT bad? I don't recall being so horribly stressed out by needing to visit a small hardware store, locally-owned pet supply shop and grocery as a huge black hole in my life. Matter of fact, it offered variety and experiences, especially when visiting familiar and favorite stores. But then along came the mega-chains Suddenly size mattered and the larger the building the better your shopping experience would be....right? Dad could wander off to the electronics department; the kids were loading up on McDonald's and at the arcade; and everyone was happy. No squealing about how long this was taking, or need to rush, because there was no need to go anywhere else. Our world had begun to shrink into one vast place and we LOVED that. Run the car in the back side of the building for tires and service, visit the cell phone kiosk, try on eyeglasses, get the bank stuff done....seriously. It was ALL there.

Is that when our thinking began shrinking too? Suddenly we couldn't be bothered with Mr. Wells down at the local hardware shop because that was too much trouble. Never mind that he'd faithfully been on duty for 37 years, and his father before that, dispensing advice, and helping with projects; it was another stop and we just couldn't manage that anymore. It was easier to pick up what was needed at either Walmart or the accompanying big box twin that it was so often paired with, Home Depot.

Carol, who owned the pet supply for the last 12 years knew everything about animal foods and what to feed for just about every kind of situation. She knew your pets and kids and was always a fun visit, until the day you realized that bags of dog food were a little cheaper at Walmart and you were already there. So you didn't need Carol anymore and you cut that bit of personal interaction with a real person out of your life.

Did big box buying rise in popularity due to the nature of it's “built-in babysitter” feature? Because perhaps it's not just about "the time saved" by visiting one place. The combination of low prices, multiple services and perhaps a way to entertain the whole family for an afternoon could have been what sold people on it. But what if we let go of the other choices we had, and as they fade and close we end up with only this option? Do we want our only decision to be between walmart and perhaps one or two other giants? I realize that's being overly dramatic but what if they were to raise prices significantly once they have killed off much of the competition?

I'm not sure I like the idea of having to line up like a herd of cattle at the same place as everyone else - I mean, you've seen what Black Friday looks like, when the first few stores open their doors early in the morning and hundreds of people are anxiously waiting. I don't "do" stampedes and prefer to spend where I choose, for reasons that range from knowing the owner to supporting someone's commitment to quality.

Choices may be fading and not as plentiful as in years past, but here we still have a number of independents that I love, use and value. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the fact we run to several small stores isn't threatening our quality of life. After all, it's the chance to choose; a right we all have. And more importantly, it's a privilege we could lose in the very near future.

#bigboxstore #mindset #consumers #choices #spendinghabits #lossofchoice #retailgiants #monopoly #personal #connections #onestopshop #shopping #experience #thefinal90 #walmart

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are independent businesses really different?

Sometimes I think the small mom and pop stores may appear to some folks to be just a little place with fewer choices. Perhaps they assume we are over-priced, or greedy, and we likely don't have a fast food restaurant inside or arcade games to entertain the kids - so would they be wasting valuable time by shopping here? Certainly cannot offer the range of products that the big stores do, and as the "everything in one stop" mentality seems to be the thing these days, would they be compromising their shopping experience by coming in here?

Today I tried to put into words for someone how we - small business owners - are more than just a person at a register in a shop. Quite often we genuinely care about the people who live near us, the area and our customers. I mentioned how posters for local happenings, church events, fundraisers and other activities have always been welcome in my windows. We don't have a policy banning such things, unlike a nearby Walgreens and Food Lion, which last summer would not even post fliers for a missing dog in the neighborhood. That bothered me and underscored again how the little things sometimes matter more to us independents than to a corporation. So I'm sharing with you an event from last year just to explain.....

The dog belonged to an elderly gentleman, and he was beside himself with worry over his beloved pet which had accidentally slipped out the door. I had become involved because I run the local lost and found pets site for this area. It's an all-volunteer operation that helps guide owners through the process of what to do when their pet goes missing, and we have a great team of followers who often will go out to search and assist. I'm very grateful to all who give of their time to help make our site a "go to" resource for our community and we have aided with hundreds of pets over the years. On this particular day I'm mentioning, I'd been contacted by family members who were located out of state to tell me that their grandfather was frantic over his lost dog.

As I'd done many times before, in between my customers I spoke with Mr. Morris, gave info and told him I'd make up the lost pet fliers for him. He drove over here to pick them up and then went to ask businesses around the area to please share. The two stores closest to his home were the best choices but when he called me later that afternoon, distraught and upset, he said they had refused to help by hanging the fliers. "Against company policy" they told him. Isn't it nice when your local businesses go out of their way to lend a hand and yet the big chain can't be involved.

The day wore on with no signs of the missing dog, who required medication and without it would likely soon have seizures. I suggested a search effort for early the next morning before I had to come into work but Mr. Boris shook his head, pointing out she may not survive that long. He was losing hope and I was concerned. And then, about an hour later came the call we'd been waiting for; his dog was spotted in a neighbor's yard; he was rushing to pick her up and going directly to the vet. She turned out to be in fairly good shape, received her medicine and was released. I love happy endings, but even more I rejoiced knowing how thrilled Mr. Morris was to have his girl back home.

"Love your local" is something that I live by. It means to value, support and appreciate my town, and as a shop owner I've been able to participate in so many ways over the last 19 years. And it's not just me - so many people just like myself do the same. They often know everything that goes on in their area and quietly help out or lend a hand when needed. Maybe it's because while being self-employed we have the freedom and option to do so, or maybe we just care about our friends and neighbors. We are the heart and soul of our communities and when you choose to pass us by because the bigger stores have a McDonald's inside, or will sell some items for a tiny bit less, you pass by what matters.

While my efforts will continue of course, once employed elsewhere my involvement will be limited. I will miss being such a part of this place. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I've had for almost half my life.


#community #neighborhood #independentshops #helpingout #localbusiness #involvement #smallshopowner #interaction #locallyowned #priorities #caring

Monday, September 22, 2014

What we stood for

Written in 2005, as a means of explaining that we HAD standards, that you didn't find corners being cut in here, and that we supported our country and those who made quality products in it. I don't regret a thing because like anything worth doing in life, you have to stand for something.

"Our store has a long history of carrying confections proudly made in the USA. Since 1979 we have held to our principles of doing business with American manufacturers, the ones offering quality items which for generations have been produced here in our country.

We have stood firm in our commitment to buy from those companies who often are in their third or fourth generation of family ownership. It appears to be the right choice to spend our money with individuals who choose not to sell out to manufacturing in china and instead continued to employ our Americans and contribute to the economy here.

It's a small amount of money a shop like ours spends, but if we stop doing that, who will? Unfortunately, as many of the mega-chains opt for cheaper, low-quality products made in China, they are helping to put our American manufacturers out of business. As the walmarts of the world choose to support corporations with such a lack of standards, they are stealing jobs from our citizens and forever changing the landscape of our economy.

We stand for something. We uphold standards of food regulations followed by American manufacturers, without questionable ingredients. Chocolates, licorice, fudge, salt water taffy, hard candies, mints, caramels, stick candy, lollipops and more - yes, these things are produced here in the USA - but not the latest gummy cartoon character candy that your child wants; because it's only made in China. When you shop here you can talk to people that KNOW their product, who can tell you the history of the companies and show you a list of ingredients.

These are some of the reasons why we are different. As we enter 2006, which will be the 27th year that our shop has been a part of the community, we look forward to seeing and serving you.

Thank you."

#Americanmade #quality #smallbusiness #standards #local #momandpop #noimports #buyAmerican #thefinal90 #madeintheUSA  #supportlocal #supportsmallbusiness #demandAmerican #buylocal