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

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