Sunday, August 31, 2014

The fear of change

Fear. A four letter word that often keeps you from doing things; stops you from branching out and can paralyze the growth that is critical for a small business.

Yet I'm not sure we always identify our stumbling blocks AS fear; perhaps we label it something else or find a way to discount the uncomfortable feeling that surrounds some important decisions. And to an independent that spells death.

Over the last 10 years I've thought several times about changing the store's name and re-branding our image. I didn't want to be perceived forever as an outdated or quaint mom and pop that perhaps had not updated with the times. Everyone knew this shop and that was great, but looking back now I see where they would say oh yes, the one that's been there forever. Now I wonder, did I let fear keep me from striking out and forging a new image for myself and a cool "up with the times" and relevant establishment?

The other half completely disagreed with my thoughts, refusing to consider what a fresh look might bring, very opposed to the idea of taking a step away from what the norm had been. And that input, coupled with my worries, led me to well, nothing. I didn't do it. No name change, no drastic updating and moving ahead into a new time for this business. Oh, at the time I didn't worry too much about it, I took comfort in the fact that as everyone said, "we'd been here forever". Now looking back, I feel that may have kept us from turning into something that may have stayed in tune with the times more.

Fear. That wasn't what kept me from social media, or at least I didn't think so. I was simply busy - didn't have the time to create all these accounts and come up with things to post - I mean, what would I say on there every few days or so? I probably dragged my feet on that too, finally getting a facebook page up and running only about four years ago. I didn't think that was too late to catch up, but then I didn't add Pinterest for another year or two, and finally started using Twitter just last year. Now I look around and see that other small stores have created an online following in the thousands, from launching their place in social media well before I got to it. Looking back, I can see where staying current, visible and fresh wasn't something at the top of my list - and while it didn't NEED to be at the top, it certainly should have been higher on the notepad than where I put it.

Don't let fear stand in your way. It may wear a disguise of being too busy, or "not for you", but you can't afford to miss the boat.
DO carefully weigh something you think you "should" be doing, that's starting to appear mainstream, to consider if it's right for you.
Don't chicken out and drop the ball because you aren't comfortable with something until you've completely explored it and made an informed decision.
DO try new things, in moderation preferably. You don't want to close for three days to paint the store black hoping your customers will love a strange new vibe that you consider trendy. But if you are thinking of re-branding or updating your business image, ask them. Run an online poll, start an in-store contest for a new name, gauge reactions to things you may throw out there.

Again, if you grow and maintain a social presence across a number of different channels and sites, and are willing to ASK, you will likely wind up with a more complete answer to an important question. Had I polled just my regular customers I might not have come up with a well-rounded response. But IF I had been on various social sites, it may have provided a range of feedback and/or presented me and my possible options to a new audience.

I'm not a marketing guru but I can say this: to be perfectly honest, your company is not going to live or die because you failed to set up a Twitter account. But growing and changing, in this case via forms of social media, is much more than that. It's an entire "mode of connection" with people that may not be the ones walking past your shop daily. It's the bigger audience you can reach and the broader scope of customers you can find by utilizing multiple channels.

I didn't skip doing any of these things due to lack of caring or being lazy. Perhaps I didn't realize how important they were and yes, the worry over losing an existing customer base if I changed my name or presented my company poorly under a new name hung over me. As the "wearer of all hats" a sole proprietor is often stressed, busy and sometimes not able to take on something new. But don't let fear be your stopping point; after 19 years, looking back from my vantage point, I can promise you sometimes it's just important to stick your neck out and strive to reach another level. Even if it's not climbing UP, it may be growing SIDEWAYS, and so thus you keep on MOVING. Your small business cannot afford to stand still.

Note: if this post sounds like I'm being a bit harsh on myself, that's totally fine. There is plenty of blame to go around about why small businesses fail, close, disappear. So I'm not JUST using myself as an example of what I see now that might have gone wrong; there are other reasons and I'll share more of them with you.

#fear #social #media #changes #deathofasmallbusiness #endofanera #growth #marketing #advertising #fear #promotion #movingahead #smallbusiness #independent #locallyowned #momandpop #smallstores #closing #thefinal90

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who needs local businesses anymore?

Local businesses are not only a part of the local area, they are made up of real people. They are the folks that you see in your neighborhood, who teach your children at school, attend the same church as you, and share a concern in the well-being of the community. So if you have a chance to maintain that connection and retain those individual businesses, wouldn't you want to?

I'm working on several blog posts discussing my situation in more detail but have not been able to complete them due to time constraints. Will be posting more soon so don't go away.....there's plenty of things I still have to say and share with you.

For today, I leave you with something I'd written a while back.

Money isn't everything but it sure rules the world -
Big corporations and fat cats at the top.
$100 gets you a whole box of pills from India -
Who needs the corner pharmacist anymore.

People don't need to know their neighbors now -
You don't bother to ask who they trust.
Get a tune up while you shop super Walmart -
Who needs the mechanic on the outside of town.

My grandfather built this, he said with a sigh -
Here's a picture of dad working here, 1955.
Surrounded by glitzy dollar stores they don't see -
Who needs the small grocery, just down the street.

Money isn't everything, yet it sure rules the world -
But loyalty is lost; communities fading out.
Your town has an echo, so hollow it seems -
Maybe something else should have mattered.

#favoriteshop #finallyclosing #endofanera #independent #retailer #smallbusiness #supportlocal #lastseason #endofanera #smallretailer #momandpop #weareclosing #thefinal90 #belovedlocalstore #after35years #storeclosed

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Official Announcement

Posted on my facebook page yesterday....

Dear customers, 

It is with extreme sadness I share the news that our store will close in October. Opened in 1979, it has been an area favorite for decades. So many of our customers grew up coming here, looked forward to visiting and are now friends that I know by name. Over the last 19 years I've had some of the best times in my life, thanks to many of you.

Unfortunately things have been bittersweet lately as circumstances outside of my control have changed. It was very difficult to make this decision and I have put it off as long as possible. Sadly, it is time.

Thank you for the many years of support, encouragement and your friendship. Sometimes doing the right thing and running an honest, decent business doesn't guarantee success. As many of you know I stuck by my principles for the products offered here, and you could always be sure your children were not sold inferior candies made in china. I support American-made, quality confections and the many independent companies who like me, have struggled to remain in business. Sadly each year there are fewer of us left.

1979 - 2014

#localshop #favorite #momandpop #locallyowned #thefinal90 #endofanera #independent #retailer #beloved #weareclosing #lettinggo #sayinggoodbye #closingannouncement #afteralltheseyears #deathofasmallbusiness

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Taking your breath away

Today we depart from talking about my shop to share another one with you. I'm sure you have experienced this yourself when you entered a similar family-owned type of establishment - perhaps you have many of these where you live. But if you must find one near you and visit it just to see what I'm talking about; just to see what these gems are like; why they matter so deeply to many of us.

In a tiny town on the narrow part of land that juts out into the Atlantic below Delaware and runs south towards Virginia Beach, VA sits an icon. Somehow the small town of Parksley, Virginia has managed to escape the vacant atmosphere familiar to so many similar places in the area and has several mom and pop stores, eateries and of course, Jaxon's.

I was only in there for the first time a year ago but it took my breath away - and isn't that the kind of place we all want to walk into? The array of merchandise; the feeling of stepping back a few decades in time, neatly laid out displays, and the astonishing range of items was truly a blast from the past. You could feel time stand still and that this shop had served it's community for many years, being a part of countless generations and families. Where else can you shop for a Sunday hat, quality men's work boots, pots and pans, ribbons and fabric, housewares, little girls' fancy dresses and stationary? It was a real, genuine "variety store" and it made you want to just wander the aisles with a shopping cart, explore and learn their history all at the same time.

But after all, isn't that what a unique and one of a kind business is supposed to do? They aren't all the same, no repetitive layouts found in every one you go into - each one is it's own adventure waiting to be discovered. Perhaps these are meant to be the bright spots in a dull world - a place which allows you to escape from the mundane, everyday pattern of life and soulless chain stores. I hope you will go out and find one to to visit in your state. Sometimes, just maybe, we all need to find that which takes our breath away for a little while.

#smalltown #familybusiness  #easternshore #virginia #independentretailer #Jaxons #thefinal90 #supportsmallbusiness #livelocal #ParksleyVA #mylastseason #finallyclosing #after35years #favoritelocalstores #since1979 #lettinggo

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Invisible Independent

Today, a new emotion surfaced. One of the many, many layers of the grief/sadness/letting go process perhaps?

Someone came in the store and made a small purchase. He jokingly asked how long the store had been here since "he'd been coming here forever and never noticed it". I mumbled that it had been here for 35 years and then immediately wished I hadn't because then the questions started. Really? Had it always been RIGHT HERE in the same location? Or somewhere else? 35 years....was I sure? Yes. I'm sure.

But he couldn't give it up, and then proceeded to ask how long into the fall/winter months we remain open, and what the off season hours are, etc, etc. Finally I just blurted out look, we are closing in a few months so it doesn't matter, and of course, the next reaction was shock and awe. NO! This store couldn't be closing....why?? All I could do was point at him and shrug. If you can't see something that you don't want to see, what can I do? A chain store with a reassuringly familiar name - now that you'd notice, but the little mom and pops - well, they are not even registering on your radar.

Looking around he observed that many of the items were "different" and I agree; they are. That's because many of them are made in the USA, and some look different because they aren't imported from china. <<Eye roll>> from Mr Clueless, followed by "well that's nice but it's so durn expensive to buy American-made". Actually, I beg to differ; our prices are FAR better than the chain store competitor across the street so it's not really the cost of our products that killed us. It was the apathy towards small, "different" retailers, the ones that are original, unique and offer a non-bland experience. But you can't support what you're afraid of, what you tune out, what you can't SEE. And by labeling me and my shop as over-priced, he just reasoned away any possible thoughts of exploring something new.

#storeclosing #finalgoodbye #momandpopshops #bigboxgiants #independentretailer #struggling #locallyowned #thefinal 90 #afteralltheseyears #finallyclosing #endofanera #communityicon #beloved #local #shop #sayinggoodbye

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Am I becoming a dinosaur?

Concerns from an independent retailer, written in July 2011

Today was a tough one. For eleven hours I've tried to be polite to people coming into my shop. I don't feel it’s best to pounce on them and be pushy, yet I greet everyone with a smile or a hello, mention I'm available when they are ready, feel free to ask any questions, etc. Few have responded; some with a blank stare or grunt; some quick to point out they aren't going to buy anything, just look; several almost seem offended I approached them. Ultimately a large number leave after strolling through as if this was a museum, often claiming an easy excuse like the heat or time of day. Many however do note that this is just like the candy shop of their childhood, they reminisce and point out familiar treats with excitement. But they don't wish to buy here - they'll hold out and find a dollar store nearby they say.

Some have stated my worst fear; that they will wait till tonight when they reach the mega-chain store of choice. Bright, glitzy, neon….those stores are all these things and more; larger, more expensive, offering a buffet of made in China candies. Their employees won't know the difference between two different varieties of chocolates, or the legend of salt water taffy that I keep copies of to pass out to my curious smaller customers. They won't offer a sample of a very taste-specific licorice and discuss the flavors with someone searching for a favorite variety their parents used to buy them years ago, maybe in a tiny shop like mine.

But they will go there to these neon castles which are on every corner, and which in the last few years have crushed every independent in town except mine. Out of more than a dozen small and locally owned shops this is the final stand. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything that could elevate my small business to the “corporate glamour” level these people seem to want - even if there was, it's unlikely I'd be able to pull it off. We ARE the definition of "mom and pop" and what so many used to love and welcome, but to an ever-growing number of people are we perhaps turning into plain or outdated, a relic from the past?

A decade ago it seemed everyone wanted to be here; loved the shop, the history, the atmosphere and the products, but I don't think those things are a selling point anymore. It’s not the familiar layout of a chain store, a reassuringly giant place where no one knows your name. I can't ever complete with mega-mall big box monstrosities; I just never thought that is all people would want.

P.S. After the summer I aggressively worked to update a number of things; lighting, product selection, signage, layout and more; all things I'd been trying to keep up with each year. It's important to note that when a small business has primarily one person in charge that sometimes your vision may not be good enough. I'm not sure that a sole proprietor is the best at seeing "different" or "fresh & new" or "out of the box" when it's just one perspective. So maybe I did fall prey to that and failed to change and grow enough? The following year did bring an increase in positive reactions from many visitors but due to poor management and landlord issues the shopping center declined.

#locallyowned #smallshop #independent #retailer #supportlocal #weareclosing #thefinal90 #fading #momandpop #whyshoplocal #bigboxgiants #ourfinalseason #deathofasmallbusiness #communityicon #belovedlocalshop

Friday, August 15, 2014

Letter to a visitor (written July 2011)

Dear vacationer,

I heard you and your family talking when you thought I didn't hear you, discussing every aspect of my shop, debating whether to stay or go. Someone said a certain item could be found cheaper at the market back home; another suggested there must be a walmart nearby; you seemed uncomfortable and out of place in this unique and one of a kind place. So you did notice the difference then - that we ARE different - but why choose to rail against that when you could enjoy it? We don't go on vacation to go to all the same places we go to at home, do we? Ah....the scary side of being "different" works against me.

The bigger stores will indeed have better lighting, huge advertising budgets, and a larger selection. They probably are more convenient to just go in and get everything on the list in one place. They won’t know a specialty item with a history of being made in the same building since 1905 – because they aren't selling that. The staff won’t be able to explain the differences in varieties of licorice, or give you a cell number so you can text before the next visit to make sure your favorite taffy is available and set aside for you to pick up. And there are words such "please, thank you, sir" which you likely won't hear from a seasonal, gum-chewing worker. I'm betting they also won't notice grandad's cap embroidered with the words WWII Veteran so they can shake his hand and thank him for his service.

My store not only offers thirty varieties of licorice, I know something about each one. I can match preferences and tastes, know about the items that you seek for an elderly parent, and search to see if there is a certain favorite still made. Some treats aren't made anymore but I don’t accept inferior substitutes from China. And it's not just me; there are hundreds and thousands of tiny business owners going to work each day to offer you this level of service and knowledge. They are counting on you to skip the retailing giant where you are a number in a line; where you endlessly press a button for service and try to explain what you want, to a person that couldn't care less and is eyeing the clock to see if it’s break time yet. Is that what you crave and nothing more? What about your children, wouldn't it be good to show them diversity, broaden their horizons and stay here to enjoy the experience?

Walmart, the dollar store, chains - all these things are being flaunted at me as if I should be one of them - I see it so many times each summer. Often a family with several generations will come in to the shop. They are on vacation, ranging in age from little ones on up to grandparents. Almost always, the older folks want to stay here, they want to talk to a real person that knows a thing or two. Maybe that elusive favorite sweet they've been searching for is here, perhaps they just want to be waited on, chatted with, treated like a friend. I can do all that and more - but the younger generation is already at the door. They didn't see the gummy cartoon characters made in china because we won't sell them. And as the children demand, scream and show their impatience, their parents urge everyone out so they can satisfy the whim of a 3 year old. And they walk out on me and all I stand for.

#momandpopshop #strugglingsmallretailer #independentbusinesses #locallyowned #sayinggoodbye #after35years   #thefinal90 #community #favorite #icon #belovedlocalshop #endofanera #supportlocal #shopsmall #lettinggo

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Looking back: 2010 & workman's comp issue

This was written in 2010 with the exception of the first paragraph summarizing what I SAW, I just didn't really think it would happen, and the final three sentences.

I'm struggling this year. Rent is up, foot traffic in here is down and my worst fear is coming true; I don't know if people want to visit my small shop anymore. I can't imagine closing this landmark after 30-some years but the reality is that if people continue to follow each other blindly to the nearest discount store and bypass the local independent retailers on the way – then it might not be about what I WANT.

If I close, I stop purchasing quality made in the USA candies, rather than cheap imported products from China, which many chain stores are now selling. If I close, I'm turning my back on struggling independent manufacturers who are hanging in there to produce fine candies here in the states. And even as some hang on, downsize, try alternatives to remain alive, many other family companies are now having to close their doors forever. If I wanted to do things the easy way I’d just place one, maybe two giant orders a year – get everything from China and stockpile it because who knows how long it’s been in transit anyway – save myself a lot of time, work, and money. But I couldn't live with myself if I did that.

You know the image of a worn out, run down city that maybe we have in our minds, or that makes the paper sometimes? It’s a view of an old brick building; windows broken; weeds growing in the pavement; trash and debris strewn around a fenced off yard; a sagging faded sign. Vacant. That’s what I picture when I imagine my store no longer ordering from people who have been in business for three or four generations of family members. That’s what I see happening as the independent retailers fade; even in just the tiny amount of business that I may represent to an American company. It's what takes place when the mom and pops go under and the big chains skip the struggling US companies and go directly to order from China.

People tell me not to take it personally, that this is happening everywhere, that it's not just me. But I care too deeply to just give up or let go, and so I stay, cut every expense to the bare bones - and then I lose the workman's compensation policy. After 13 years of the same coverage, never filing a claim, one day a notice comes in the mail to inform me that the previous rate of $350 per year is gone. There is a new "state mandated" plan in effect, so regardless of how little payroll you may have, the across the board new rate will be upwards of $1600.00. For a season - maybe two months of employees - what I pay out in help doesn't even reach that figure. I can't afford it so I cancel and then refuse to do as so many others do; I refuse to pay under the table. It's not in me to do it. I cannot look a parent in the eyes and tell them I will take good, responsible care of their child while they are working here. From a financial angle I'm not wealthy enough to pay out of pocket bills should someone step off the curb wrong on their way to the dumpster and break an ankle; from a moral standpoint I won't do something illegal. So after 14 years of returning employees and kids grown from teens into college students, this summer there are none.

But we have animals, rescued dogs, and my days are long; often in the 12 to 14 hour range. After months of searching we are able to find two excellent professionals to take turns visiting our pets during the day so they are never left for more than 6 hours at a time. For three summers this plan works out until the final summer of 2014 when due to health issues both pet sitters retire. Still, breaking the law to pay cash to have someone work for me is not an option so I tweak the hours of the shop. It's not ideal but it's now been decided this is the final year and at this point I'm out of options.

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #after35years #since1979 #losingfavoritestores #buyAmerican #smallbusiness #struggles #deathofasmallbusiness #momandpop #shoplocal #Americanmanufacturing #workmanscomp #finallyclosed

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Maybe they don't WANT interaction

Reading an article several days ago has made me feel a little sick, realizing that something I suspected was happening, actually IS. It's not being noted with gladness that I was correct; rather sadness that we as people are changing; getting away from interactions with others in our communities; choosing to "fade in" and be faceless. I write this these two sentences and tears are already forming in my eyes feeling the sting of having become a dinosaur of a sole proprietor. I feel old and washed up, and I'm only in my early forties - but I didn't want to see what might be unfolding right in front of me.

It began as a nagging perception, a fleeting glimpse that I caught about five years ago. People began appearing less friendly upon coming into the store; almost a bit panicked when greeted, as if they craved invisibility. It made me wonder if the personal interactions which take place in a small shop were starting to become uncomfortable or awkward, and that perhaps people welcomed the big box mentality because it was more "safe"? I wrote this then about what I thought I saw  -

"I saw the love for local fade from their eyes...

I saw them shift nervously, uncomfortable at the experience of finding themselves out of the familiar layout of a massive chain store. I noticed the man behind the counter say hello; saw them hesitate to respond. It's strange that some people, when acknowledged, seem to resent the personal attention. Perhaps that's why the anonymity of a vast big box experience is considered comforting?

I saw the love for local fade...."

And then just a few nights ago, I came across this article. Parts of it confirmed what I thought; that remaining anonymous may be reassuring and perhaps, the new comfort zone. So are we just going further and further away from the days of personal interactions? And is that a good thing?

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #deathofasmallbusiness #after35years #finallyover #favoriteshop #sayinggoodbye #endofanera #community #favorite #losingasmallbusiness #independent #retail #finallyclosing #livelocal

Feeling the loss of small businesses everywhere

So you take me for a ride,
Through your town, just to see -
And it hurts reading "For Rent"
Where Main Street used to be.

You pull to the drive thru,
Of another fast food chain -
Casually you mention the loss
Of small businesses, down the drain.

Need to do some shopping you say,
So to the highway we cruise -
Past the small mom and pop's
This community stands to lose.

Once at the big box giant,
I can't join you inside -
I'm mourning the emptiness
Of your town, that has died.

So easy to look past
What's right there to see -
A quiet ride back to home
Leaves a sadness in me.

For your town can't survive,
When businesses are passed by -
And soon people will ask
Why the hell did they die.

Silent streets tell the tale,
Of what has been lost -
Vacant storefronts now show,
What big box "savings" have cost.

Don't let this happen where you live.

#storeclosing #goodbye #after35years #finally #closed #memories #since1979 #alltheseyears #movingon #goingoutofbusiness #loveyourlocal #endofanera #independent #retailer #supportlocal #thefinal90 #lettinggo

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer is fading...

I had noticed July slipped away, taking with it the final time I'd be here over the 4th, with it's hustle and bustle, influx of visitors to our beach town, and the many regulars who for so many seasons have been stopping in here. But I still had August; still had another month of peak summertime vacationer; friends and people I'd come to look for each year, right?

But last night it hit me as I followed a usual Sunday evening routine for us, stopping on the way home to pick up a pizza for dinner; this IS it. My final summer in my own shop is approaching the end and I will likely never again be the captain of my own ship, so to speak. Today I'm doing the equivalent of curling up in a ball and trying to block everything out. While outside a gorgeous beach day unfolds, I'm sitting at the counter that used to be a deli counter icebox in a general store; a massive wooden beast of a fixture estimated to weigh upwards of a ton. The icebox sections on either side of the display case with very thick glass front and top, are lined with metal and have small drains in the bottom of them for the water to run out. It's to me a relic of another small business, perhaps several, which once upon a time used it in another shop. And it's one of the pieces I have to let go of.

I gave my 90 days notice to the landlord on Saturday but had not actually come face to face in conversation until yesterday. The exchange went as might have been expected but left me feeling more hollow when there seemed to be no sadness or regret hearing my news. What did I expect? A place I've poured money into for the last 19 years seemed uninterested that I'd be leaving - oh, there was a standard sort of comment about "you've been a tenant for a long time huh?", said in a distant tone of voice that seemed un-bothered.

But to me this goodbye is so much more, a statement that almost sounds trivial with the sadness I'm experiencing. Haunted by a feeling of unease the last day or two, this morning I finally narrowed down something that is causing me additional discomfort; confirmation of something I've suspected for a few years. Sure, sometimes having our thoughts proven or validated seems like a good thing, but in this case it almost laughs in my face because I saw and felt it previously and yet tried to ignore it. To be continued.....

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #goodbye #smallbusiness #35years #candyshop #since1979 #localstores #closing #principles #Americanmade #whatwestoodfor #belovedshop #icon #familiar #favorite #weareclosing #finallygone

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A new direction appears and then vanishes

Today I feel like a failure. I don't think anyone considers what it's like to go through this but some things I thought were in the works for possible volunteer projects after the summer.....well, those people never got back to me, made excuses not to respond or reply. Back in March I'd learned of an organization that deeply resonated with things that are important to me. I fell hard for their mission and what they stood for, and actually believed I would be part of that in the future.

I was wrong. After putting in a lot of effort and time to be part of a fundraising event in May, no one ever spoke to me again. I've tried to find out what went wrong; why I failed at something else when the biggest part of my life is already crumbling around me but I got no answers. Maybe someone didn't like me, or they didn't really need my help but having cared and becoming involved I've taken the silence very hard

Maybe no one knows what it's like to go through this painful loss of a business but I sure wish something I'd hoped to be a part of had worked out. Maybe people could think what others are going through as this is one of the the toughest goodbyes I've ever said. Maybe it's really important as one is going through something like this to try and find a new beginning elsewhere, a point of starting over career - wise or a new direction. It just might be what helps focus a little bit on the future.

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #lastseason #disappointed #quality #standards #after35years #wrong #choice #newcareer #changes #sayinggoodbye #smallbusiness #struggle #independent #retailer #endofanera #closed

Friday, August 8, 2014

It isn't just my it?

The other night I did some research. I was looking for small business statics on failure vs. success, news articles, anything that addressed what I'm going through.

I found a few items which helped me to feel a tiny bit better - here is one which speaks to the fading of personal interactions with a small "specialty shop" and a gradual movement to "everything under one roof".

Why support a small business? They build real ones on relationships in the community that are hard to find in a big box store. They add flavor and interest to our surroundings. In case you haven't noticed, the homogenization of Leesburg, Loudoun County and many other counties is thriving while the small business owners are having a hard time competing.

 #after35years #candyshop #since1979 #lovelocal #Americanmade #quality #standards #weareclosing #madeintheusa #familyowned  #independent #smalltretailer #lastseason #closingforever #endofanera #thefinal90 #lettinggo

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Time travel offered free!

Today I wanted to share with you something I'd written several years ago, probably around 2009. At the time I felt it captured how fortunate I felt to be here and to have this place, and yet, you can read the bit of worry starting to creep in....

There’s a moment when you know you have connected with your customer; that you've truly interested them. Perhaps you offered them something completely unusual, or really listened to what they were trying to ask for.

I see in their eyes when they reach for a package of Sen-Sens that they haven't found in decades, upon spying a display of Teaberry Gum, or when they bolt out the door with the clanking bell, to smack their Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy on the pavement just for old time’s sake. The year that item returned to production - much to the mortification of their children - many adults did just that.

You connect when you listen to them tell you about a long-gone sweet shop, a "special place" they would accompany a relative to, perhaps where Grandma went to purchase butterscotch buttons, peppermint drops or candied ginger. It might have been the only place in the neighborhood where a favorite type of licorice was sold and they try to describe it, reaching for words in the archives of time; perhaps it was shaped like a coin, or a button? I point to several choices – no, maybe a little smaller than that they say, trying to picture it in their mind; and suddenly it clicks in mine. I turn to the stash of tubs and containers behind the counter and select a piece of candy - and suddenly their eyes are misty and they are time-traveling, back to that corner shop from childhood. They savor the moment and the taste; silently reflecting; enjoying the treat just as if all the years had not passed. A fading memory of times back in the city, brief sugar interludes after school or a special visit with a beloved parent; I listen to the stories as they spill out their recollections. And I'm richer for having had those chances.

Yes, I believe in time travel, because it HAPPENS here. New candies and treats and flavors of taffy are always coming out and we have many of those things. But the heart and soul of my shop represents a different time; when made in China wasn't an option, much less a standard. It was before mega-marts and big box stores stomping out the mom and pop icons; when independent stores took your money and then turned around to reinvest it in our country. I still do that – I seek out the family owned companies which are committed to offering a product made here with pride – many of them with several generations of candy makers in their families.

And yet, I'm a dinosaur. Investing in America is no longer appreciated; valued, understood. The latest and greatest gummy candy shaped like a popular cartoon figure is what's in demand, and I can't in good conscience offer that knowing it may be laced with toxins. I can however, take you back in time - if you are willing to come in and enjoy the ride.

#oldfashioned #sweetshop #timetravel #whatweoffer #smallbusiness #localicon #finallyclosing #supportlocal
#pennycandy #confectionary #memories  #childhood #classiccandies #after35years #thefinal90 #endofanera

Saturday, August 2, 2014

90 to go

Saturday, August 2nd. It's the first of ninety days until my lease runs out and I'm giving notice to my landlord today. I have three months until the day I walk out of here forever.

Last night I was so lucky to see and say goodbye to one of my very favorite families. For years they have been coming in, making this place part of their summer vacations and sharing their family with me. I'm so grateful to have had this experience.

#thefinal90 #lettinggo #storeclosing #goodbye #after35years #finally #closed #memories #since1979 #alltheseyears #movingon #goingoutofbusiness #loveyourlocal #endofanera #independent #retailer #supportlocal #closedforever