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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sharing my story

A few days ago something unexpected happened. I was contacted by a reporter for a local newspaper who wanted to do a story. A story about the demise of this shop I assumed, but it wasn't quite that. I think the fact that I started a blog about the final days was more fascinating, perhaps because people don't generally share stories like this. But I'm different and see past what could be viewed as superficial whining or complaining. That wasn't the point of this at all.

I know some other small store owners must have had to close a beloved shop at some time when maybe they weren't quite ready to let go. I know some people out there appreciate, care about and value little retailers like me. I know that someone must respect what we stood for and the standards that we upheld by having principles and sticking up for American-made products. I'm sure that there are a few people who, like the hundreds of loyal customers I've had over the years, "get" why this mattered. And if even just a few readers come to the realization of what this was like, how it DID matter to me and to many others, perhaps they will think a little the next time they are out and have choices.

I have been so lucky. I was able to have had this experience and these 19 years. I have met amazing people, heard their stories, become friends, and I have loved being a part of my community. I've shared wonderful moments with people and have been able to pass on the message about rescuing and adopting animals which is something I'm involved with.

And while my story is the absolute truth that some people prefer not to see, perhaps the few who read it will open their eyes. Love your local community, people and businesses folks - as we, the heart and soul of your towns, cities and neighborhoods close, something changes forever in our world.

 #localstores #momandpop #smallbusiness #livelocal #thefinal90 #storeclosing #endofanera

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I'm not good with change

....but I'm learning.

2:35am and I'm dead tired but not sleeping. I'm an onion tonight, peeling off layers, and every time I open my eyes it seems sadness drips out. I am stronger than this, I know......

I have always hated change, lived a life for almost 20 years where little happened to disrupt the norm. And so it must come as no surprise that this ending after almost as many years does sting and tug at my heart.

Some people have an attachment to things, such as sports cars, jewelry, or luxury vacations. I craved being myself in the world that I thought I'd come alive in; the place where I'd found my passion and spirit for life. For the first time in my life things fell into place and from a deformed spirit grew something that was mine.

I know, how can a job or a business mean so much? Maybe we aren't all alike, and maybe what brought my soul to life wouldn't thrill yours. But I found my place in the world for a time and although I'm grieving the loss of this thing that helped me become whole, I have to believe there is more out there. I'm sure this isn't where my story ends. It just happens to be the place where I'm pausing, learning to let go and finding out what's next.

#lettinggo #movingon #sayinggoodbye #finally #closing #endofanera #goodbyemomandpop #thefinal90

Friday, September 19, 2014

My favorite customers; their favorite store

The door with the clanking bell popped open and a pair of customers enthusiastially greet me with the words "you're still here - our favorite store at the beach!!". I'm not tooting my horn but I get that a lot - so many of them make this a destination and often make a beeline for my shop as soon as they arrive in town. It's become a tradition while on their summer vacation each year, and I know them all. Names I can't remember but I never forget a face.

I quickly divert the conversation to chat about their family, catch up on the latest news and learn which grades the kids are going into this year. We pull out cell phones to share pictures of each other's dogs and swap stories about all the years of summers and vacations and what it was like long ago in this town.

They have a list, sometimes hand-written, sometimes synced to their home computer and right there on their ipad. We find all the varieties of licorice mom requested, the odd sour hard candy for Uncle Paul that they can only find here, discuss what size gummy candies would be suitable for a younger child, and I pull out a few samples so they can decide on Huckleberry or Watermelon taffy. They aren't staying around here this summer, some of the relatives wanted to be further up the coast so they are 45 minutes north but they tell me, would of course, still make the trip here.

They are ready to go and I still haven't told them. I wish there was a way to hand envelopes to my beloved customers and ask them to open later when at home so I can say goodbye without really having to talk about it. But they tell me they will look forward to returning next summer and I have to say something; I have to thank them for being such devoted fans, for sharing their summer memories with me and for making this a part of their vacation. I hand them a card which has a variety of ways to stay in touch, just in case I relocate. It's a very slim hope but I would hate to lose touch with so many of these people - perhaps there is a way we will meet up again next summer for coffee or ice cream. Many don't see the line of text on the card that says simply "R.I.P. <store name> 1979 ~ 2014" and I'm grateful for that. I hope they'll see it later when they get home and will understand.

#closing #smallstore #independent #retailer #momandpop #locallyowned #thefinal90 #loveyourlocal

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The things that mattered

When people ask me what I'll miss I'm always at a loss for words. Which part of this business do I choose to mention and what memory or story do I share? So many things made an impact on me; the customers, the experiences, personal connections, laughter, tears, amazing people and so much more. But that should come as no real surprise since often small retail shops are the heart and soul of their communities. Did you know that? Sometimes I think that gets overlooked but in so many ways we seem to care about things that corporate chains may not.

For example, these stickers mattered. Yes, basic, black and white oval decals mattered to me, and to others. They are from Operation Homefront and are free, to be given to veterans as a small gesture of recognized for their service. They are displayed in the front window with a small American flag and a note saying "Thank you for your service. They are free; please come in to get one". Funny thing is no one realizes they are free - they assume I'm selling them and are always hesitant until I turn the decal over and show them the information about Operation Homefront and explain the project.

And then selfishly, here's what I get out of the deal; I get to shake their hand and tell them we appreciate their service. I see people grateful to be acknowledged, almost always humble about their service, yet proud of what they did. I see them smile at being recognized as an American soldier. I'm able to place a decal in the hand of a hero. Sometimes I see them tear up at such a little gesture done for them. And sometimes, I even get a story or a few words about what they did.

Those are just some of the moments shared with my guests, visitors, customers and friends. Those decals and those who they are handed to mattered to me. I am lucky; during my 19 years here I was able to catch so many of these moments. I will always remember this experience.

#storeclosing #goodbye #smallbusiness #after35years #lossofsmallstores #momandpop #closing #thefinal90 #whatmatters #veterans #memories #smallbusinessmatters

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How important IS that thing called social media?

I touched on this topic in a previous post which you can find here - "The fear of change", 8.31.14   http://thefinal90days.blogspot.com/2014/08/fear.html - but I felt it was important enough to break down as a seperate topic.

How much does social networking really have to do with your business? I believe many would chime in to agree that it matters plenty, some might say yes but it's important to not assign too much value to the process, and perhaps most would confirm that it is "somewhat important". It's more critical than you may realize however, and is something you cannot afford to skip. Below are a few points that I think are worth sharing.

1. You are not simply throwing your business name into a hat, aka the vast world of facebook or twitter or pinterest. You are building a brand upon the activity and history you already have, to connect with other people across different areas of communication. Are you so wealthy and swamped with business that you no longer need additional customers? Then this post isn't for you.

2. Rather than wait until your customer base fades and shrinks, you are constantly positioning yourself to be noticed. This exposure silently works 24/7, 365 days a year to attract and reach out to a new segment of people. Are you out there for them to find? If not, you didn't just make it harder to gain business; you gave competitors who ARE out there a leg up.
3. Social sites may be the new "yellow pages" or phone book of the past. I say past as if I'm a dinosaur and yet I'm only 43. But I haven't pulled out a phone book in AGES. But "way back when", with yellow pages being the places you had to be listed, not many businesses turned up their noses at the idea and simply didn't bother. When someone wanted to find a coffee or book shop, those printed directories were the place to turn. Fast-forward to now and you'll see most people googling places to go, browsing nearby choices on Foursquare or scrolling through facebook.

4. Phone book listings never had fans or followers, or interaction for that matter. Today's networks do, meaning you can grow and cultivate an entire following on one site that could be very different from what you find with another one. Those interactions help you see what works, how customers respond to sale posts, ads for a special, or as a way to gain feedback on a particular thing.

I realize that from the perspective of a marketing guru this is written clumsily and the reason for that is I'm not one of those social-saavy people who build a career out of this. I'm just average small shop owner who was caught up in the day-to-day operations of the shop. Who didn't quite grasp the scale of connections that social sites offered, and who failed to realize the importance of finding a younger customer base. Who may have overlooked that the type of feedback I could have received would have been useful to tweak, edit and improve my shop. Yes, I have a facebook page, with a decent number of followers. But engagement with those "fans" is limited and I further limited it by not reaching out across other networks. I'm "friends" on facebook with a few younger customers but rarely see their posts. Why? Because their parents and grandparents are on facebook too, which in some cases is embarrasing and has led the younger generation to alternate sites such as instagram, twitter, snapchat, etc, and so it's valuable to diversify across several modes of communication.

Instagram....did that just make you think of pictures, that you would just take a bunch of snapshots of your merchandise or restaurant? And post them? What would you say or caption each one with? Yep! If a picture is worth words what does an incredible dessert just coming out of the oven look like? Well, in some cases it motivates me to get in my car and head off in the direction of said dessert. So why did my amazing double-diped peanut butter pretzels never debut on Instagram? I guess I was too busy - or I didn't get what it was all about - or didn't realize how I could speak to people who would oooh and aaaah over my confections.

You can't run a lousy business for long no matter how many fans you have and building up a large network of followers in no way guarantees your sucess. But for the sheer learning value in feedback when you run a poll, ask a question or hold a contest to name a new ice cream sundae, you can't afford not to be out there. Remember, if you are sitting still you aren't moving ahead. Do it now.

#socialmedia  #goodbye #smallshops #momandpop #bigboxfocus #independentsdying #locallyowned #Instagram #familyowned #twitter #facebook #engagement #fans #audience #followers #branding #connecting #customerbase #increasing #growth #interactions  #thefinal90 #socialnetworks

Monday, September 15, 2014

What is the point of this blog?

It occurred to me that someone may have recently come across this blog and might be wondering what the purpose is. Am I just looking for a place to gripe, complain and share my sadness? And who is this actually targeted to; my customers, other small retailers or consumers in general? The answers are yes and everyone.

Yes, I'm dumping out my emotions in raw form. I'm trying to still work every day without appearing to be sad to my visitors so I'm unloading the hurt here. Unlike on facebook when things are presented to you randomly regardless of your interest level, you either wanted to read this blog or you didn't. If you were clueless about what a small business might mean to some owners, maybe you're catching a glimpse of what it's like now. Like an onion, it's a journey full of layers, some sad, some painful, some filled with regret. And there are the moments where I pause to consider what else I may go on to do, now that I will be free from this crushing schedule, what other adventures await me and what the next chapter holds. For now, that seems to me to be a very distant time since I'm in this daily process of saying goodbye.

It's meant to be an eye-opener for those who still have an open mind, the reality of what happens when an beloved independent closes. There are a lot of reasons why this is happening, so many that I'm betting anyone who reads this will connect with me on some level. Maybe you'll get something out of this as a person who loves their familiar small town places and sees the value in supporting them, or as an owner who might be learning from my mistakes, or maybe you've already been through this and can relate to mourning the death of a small business.

The other night I was feeling pretty down and that isolation crept in, the one that appears when you realize you may not know that many people in your situation. So many of my friends have "real" jobs, corporate contracts, and this is about as foreign as India to them. The good friends try to understand anyway, even though they know they don't "get it" and I love them for trying. But sometimes you look around and realize you are different and with that difference can come a feeling of not having folks to connect with.

I googled phrases like "closing a small business", "loss of a mom and pop store" and "independent retailers closing". I'd like to say that the results were hilarious in their absurdity but I don't think I laughed. There ARE sites that offer such gems of wisdom such as notifying the electric company, closing a bank account, paying creditors - the most trite and useless details were listed on numerous places as if that's all there is. Let's face it, if someone is closing in financial distress, they likely don't give a damn about paying their bills or notifying anyone. They generally just pick up and leave.

If however, you care deeply about your business then you would already know what needs to be done. But the part you won't see anywhere is how to prepare for what people will say, how you'll feel when the oldest, most noticed antique fixture is up for sale, the one that has been such a cherished part of your world for decades. You will find nothing that helps you write the final signage announcing it's over, that on a certain date the doors will close forever. There is no guide for when some of your beloved customers will come and tell you what this building has meant to them over the years. And nothing will lessen the sting of seeing three generations of family wait until they are all here on vacation to swarm the store together and say how saddened they are to hear the news. It's a process unlike any other, so that's the reason for this blog.

Follow it if you care to learn anything, can relate, or are seeing for the first time that we - who operate little shops like this all over the country - are more than just a faceless place. We ARE the heart and soul of your community; we donate for your Little League fundraisers, support a benefit event for a neighbor, open up upon request because you forgot a gift and desperately need one. We see you at church, teach your children, quietly donate boxes of snacks to the troops serving overseas, and bring a cake to your mom's 90th birthday party held down the street. We hire your teenagers, hand out printed materials explaining why we sell American-made products, show up at the local airport to welcome home a soldier, exchange hugs and tears when you stop in to tell me your father has  finally passed, celebrate the birth of your first grandchild.

We are all those things and more, so it will matter when some of us are no longer around to grace your streets. We are what makes up the diverse and yet personal connections that many of us grew up with and long to maintain. So part of the reason for this blog is to share a story of what we are and why we hope to remain part of the community. Choose wisely friends.

#loveyourlocal #independent #locallyowned #momandpop  #oldtimeshop #‎thefinal90‬ ‪#‎storeclosing‬ #goodbyesmallshops #momandpopfades #bigboxfocus #independentsdying #sayinggoodbye #familyowned 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why independent retailers are different

There’s something familiar about an old-fashioned candy store that takes you back in time. It’s a glance in the window when you spy a well-loved childhood favorite; a fading memory of a small corner shop in downtown Chicago; a dusty recollection of an afternoon spent with Grandma, when she took you to her favorite sweet shop. On a whim, you decide to check out a little shop which has been part of the landscape for years, a place you've rarely visited. As you push open the door, gently clanking bells announce your entry and then it hits you; this isn’t a chain store.

You’ve left behind the cookie cutter “every store the same” personality of identical floor plans and familiar layouts. Here, things look different, unusual and you suspect you may have crept back in time or into another dimension. And yet, there stacked on the shelves, sit some very familiar favorites – necco wafers, squirrel nut zippers, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, Sen-sens, marzipan acorns and more – things you haven’t seen in years and thought were extinct. Have they really been around all this time and you missed them? And why are they here, tucked away in a small shop filled with antique tins, memorabilia and personality?

On all sides you are surrounded by visual delights; gifts and merchandise, wooden signs and more. But what you came for is already swirling through your senses as the aroma of licorice, chocolate and spice drops greet you, bringing you to a stop in front of the antique candy counters. This is where raspberry jellies, almond bark, coconut creams and truffles are arranged in rows, layer upon layer of dark and milk chocolate goodies. Tags explain each item, and some offer more insight such as “made by the same company since 1895”. Another modestly mentions that this is “the only Marzipan ever sold in the shop” since they opened in 1979. Passing the counter you can’t help but slide your hand over the polished wood of the antique display cases.

You spy a sign which states "We have black licorice available in 25 varieties" and suddenly you are craving something you loved years ago in Holland when you discovered the birthplace of licorice. The clerk asks if you are seeking anything in particular and you stumble to describe it; the shape, was it perhaps anise in flavor - or more like a flat coin maybe? She invites you to come over to the counter to try a few pieces. Since there are so many kinds, she says, it’s best to sample a couple of varieties and see which one comes close to what you are looking for. The first one is not quite your thing; the second is close but the third....you close your eyes and enjoying what you remember from decades ago….and now it’s yours, right here. You leave your selection on the counter, and at the suggestion of the clerk, take the waxed paper with several pieces to enjoy as you stroll.

Displays featuring horehound drops, Clove, Blackjack, Clove and Beeman’s gum, jelly-filled butter mints, chocolate pretzels dressed in sprinkles, nuts, and toffee continue to spread out as you head towards the salt water waffy display. The window sign had boasted of the “largest selection anywhere around here”, and seeing the amazing 65 flavors available, you believe it. Molasses, pineapple, raspberry, watermelon, maple, chocolate mint, tropical punch, strawberry cheesecake, Neapolitan and mango are just a few of the choices available, as well as specialty “theme blends”. A laminated poster explains that many of the mixes have been created from customer requests over the years, and that there is even a "Salt Water Taffy #101" handout, which identifies each kind found in the Supreme Mix and lists all the flavors by their color.

Many of the tubs and bags of mints, wrapped candy and shoestring licorice have an additional label, clearly meant to offer you a bit more insight to what is really sold here. Some read “still made in the USA”, “manufactured by the same family company since 1925” or "yes, these are the original ones, since we don't sell the cheap imports". There are posters behind the counter informing customers of nut-free and gluten-free options, along with handouts that explain the legend of salt water taffy, the history of Bonomo's Turkish Taffy, or the history of Ben Hur's. It’s almost as if – well, it IS apparent - that everything here has a story. And, the store is proud to share that story with you.

Sigh. It’s time for me to return to daily life. The check out counter is smooth, old wood – a vintage general store icebox in fact – and like so many of the treats found here today, was crafted with skill and pride. When I ask why this place is so different, the answer is about what I’d expect – that the products the big chains offer companies from china are not what’s in stock here. That’s ok, because I’ll take what is here; I like knowing people care about what they offer and where it comes from. I collect my bags and reluctantly wind my way to the door. One last sniff of the delicious air and the bells gently clink again as I leave – but I’ll be back. The owner suggested I return with Grandma to see if we can find those mints that she has not found in decades, but has talked about for years. Just maybe she will find them here.

#Teaberry #BlackJackGum #peppermints #clovegum #BeemansGum #Bonomos #turkishtaffy #SenSens #buttermints #jellies #truffles #chocolates #saltwatertaffy #antiquecounters #cornershop #horehound #smallstores #oldtimeshop #flyingsaucers #deathofasmallbusiness #thefinal90 #storeclosing #goodbye #Americanmade #quality #standards #madeintheusa #familyowned

Sign posted

I did it. I put up a sign stating the facts, that this store will close in just weeks. The sign encourages people to come in for sale items, that everything must go and that this isn't just a seasonal ending, it's a forever ending. And then I closed and locked the door a few minutes early because I couldn't talk with the lump in my throat.

When I say this is a hard loss, well, I realize I'm taking it harder than many people might. There have been goodbyes in my life before and yet for almost two decades this has been present, always there. It was one of the few things I loved and cared deeply about, and more importantly the place where I found my passion and soul as I healed from personal scars. And it is now the place I'm leaving behind as my heart sort of breaks. "I will miss you", I wisper to the antique counters as I brush by on my way out the door. In my life, probably more than for most, this thing that was my own meant so much.

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #since1979 #lossoflocalshops #momandpop #smallstores #familyowned #after35years

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Not yet...

7:47pm on Saturday and I'm dragging my feet. I wish there was some way not to say "every thing must go". I wish there was a way to skip over this part. I wish there was a way to just slip out thd back door aand never have to answer another question about why. But I need to put the sign up, not just for customers but for me, so it can start to sink in that I'm down to the final days.

35 years here; 19 of them mine. And 45 days is all that remains of decades of small business work, heartache, love, caring and now, learning to let go.

#smallbusinessclosing #goodbyetoanicon #after35years #thefinal90 #supportlocal #buyAmerican #oldtimeshop #different #unique

Today I'll post the signs

I didn't post the "closing forever" sign yesterday.  I just couldn't do it but I'm sure I will today. After all, how can I exit in 6 weeks if I don't have huge signs telling people about the bargains inside, how they can "get a deal" and benefit from this turn of events? Somehow it just feels strange to be encouraging that behavior and yet it's the only thing to do when you are closing, right?

I'm sure I will post them today.

#closing #signs #endofanera #smallbusinessclosing #sayinggoodbye #thefinal90 #closingforever #after35years #deathofasmallbusiness

Friday, September 12, 2014

Everything must go

I think today's the day. With just a little over 6 weeks left I cannot avoid putting up the final sign to draw in customers one last time. Despite all the other sale signs placed around the store and in all the windows, I've avoided "the one", the final announcement stating "closing forever after 35 years". But I have to do it. I have to encourage everything to be bought at deep discounts so the doors can be  closed at the end of October. I hate to do it because I dread the comments and questions  that will follow but time is running out.

#familyowned  #candyshop #Americanmade #since1979 #independentretailer #lastseason #closingforever

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

After 90 years...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm too moody, focusing so much on the sadness I feel. It doesn't really matter because the whole point of this blog was to give me a way to bleed in words what I was experiencing. I hoped something I wrote might resonate with a consumer,  perhaps encourage thinking in a different direction about their choices for the future. I thought possibly another small business owner could glean some wisdom from here, maybe seeing some of the mistakes made and recognize changes that they could make in time to not follow my path. That was the focus of the post titled  "Fear" a week or so ago, as now the perspective of seeing how some decisions ultimately affected my shop.

Whatever might be learned from this journey, I felt it was important enough to share. And so today's post is really just a link to a story that I hope you will read. Assuming you have some shred of interest in small business survival, , staying relevant, I think it's worth checking out.

Saturday October 13th, 2012


#after90years #departmentstoreclosing #familybusiness #community #chooselocal #independent #retailers

Monday, September 8, 2014

We are losing our choices

Many people tell me I shouldn't feel badly, that it's not my shop that failed. That this is happening everywhere and that many small businesses just like mine are fading into nothing but pictures and memories.

That's true, and while I realize I'm not alone, it doesn't make me feel better about what I see happening. Some folks are eager to discount the importance of small shops and independently owned stores, saying it's so sad, how times they are a'changin', and the dreaded "p word"....progress.

Is progress always good and does just the fact that something falls into the past a great accomplishment? Or are they just using the word to imply that what everyone does nowadays is good; that when many people move in a certain direction that it's a positive thing? Is falling into place in the herd of sheep lined up at the entrance to walmart the best possible thing, or is it just what's become "the norm".

What were to happen if some massive change in economy or transit of goods and products occurred, that limited our choices and availability of things to buy? What if the chain stores ending up controlling every aspect of our shopping and there were no alternative? Do we really only want to have BJ's, Sam's Club, Target and a few others?

Lest it appear that I've lost my mind and am comparing my shop to the giants, let me clarify that's not the point here. The real issues lies with us having options and choosing where we can spend. But the more independents we lose, the few choices remain. And that my friends, is a tragedy for America. Because it sends a message that only the strong survive and the small vanish, we may lose our towns, the unique flavors of where we live and most of all, our sense of community.

#chainstores #retailgiants #limitedchoices #goodbye #smallbusiness #thefinal90 #momandpop #locallyowned #shoplocal #choices #livelocal #yourcommunity #smallshopsclosing #nomoreindependents #deathofsmallbusiness

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pieces of me

Today is hell and I would give anything to make this end. I am literally peeling off pieces of me and placing bit and parts of my life, heart and soul into plastic bags people are leaving with. I loved this stupid store so much, I loved being a part of people's lives, I loved knowing I gave them a chance to buy the best while supporting the best - America's candy makers who are still here in the USA making products. This was a tiny amount of business to them but at least I stayed a firm supporter of what they offered and stood for - with this store closing that is one less supporter and already so many of us are gone.

When will people realize what we represented? I don't think they realize the love and care that went into this shop, the generations that came here and the dedication I had. The few visitors earlier today who caually bemoaned the fate of small businesses as they noted the other stores closing in this shopping center, ended up shrugging and writing it off to "progress". What progress, when like robots they all follow each other to the big chains while the real owners are fighting to hold on? When will anyone realize that we ARE the heart and soul of little towns, the unique flavor of an area and a real person? This is ripping my heart out and I can do nothing.

#thefinal90 #storeclosing #goodbye #smallbusiness #35years #heart

Friday, September 5, 2014

Letting go

"As we grow older and wiser, we begin to realize what we need and what we need to leave behind.  Sometimes walking away is a step forward."

#lettinggo #movingon #thefinal90 #closingdoors #nextchapter #smallbusiness #finallyclosing #afteralltheseyears #supportyourlocal #independentsfading

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I believe....


I believe....

....that grief isn't defined by words and equations, or measured by certain traits.

....that what spoke to your soul and made you come alive is something that can now be a huge loss in your life.

...that the longer you wait to make a change that you know is coming, the harder it will be.

....that hatever once made you whole; filled an emptiness; was there as you came out of the dark and healed, is going to hurt like hell when you say goodbye.

...that letting go may be the only way you can reach the next chapter in your life.

....that when the time comes when you have to walk away from memories of when you were broken and found the one thing that worked, that restored your faith in yourself and that let you live again, that it's going to rip your heart out.

....that being afraid of change keeps you from growing.

...that it's possible to feel some things should never end and that what made you complete should never go away.

....that this may be the time for me to fly.

...that you can love something that restored you to living as a normal person so much that it's going to leave fragments.

....that this sadness is about losing the only thing in my life I ever became.

....that letting go of this dream is harder than I thought.

....that these years were some of the best times in my life.

#lettinggo #closingabusiness #movingon #afteralltheseyears #nextchapter #deathofasmallbusiness #goodbye #momandpop #smallstores #closing #since1979 #afterallthistime #closingforever #thefinal90 #belovedsmallshop #icon #community #shoplocal #loss #hometownbusinesses

Monday, September 1, 2014

My 19th summer has ended

I made it. After almost two decades here I have somehow managed to make it through the final summer for this store. Often Labor Day is a celebration of having accomplished another season of visitors, and now we would begin to fade into the second season that is the beautiful fall months at the beach. But I'm not celebrating this year and earlier today I said goodbye to several of my long-time customers who cried hearing the news.

As I've mentioned before there are so many reasons I have arrived at the final chapter for me and my beloved shop. I will miss so much of this; the people that I've come to know over so many layers of years and seasons and too many reasons to begin to count....

#finalseason #smallbusinessclosing #thefinal90 #after35years #endofsummer #storeclosed #struggling #smallretailer #momandpop #favoritelittleshops #supportlocal #shopsmall #independent #weareclosing #lettinggo #goodbye