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

1 comment:

  1. I will note here that I have no regrets about doing what I did and letting go of employees. But to see so many individuals taking the easy way out and just paying under the table. ...well, it's frustrating.