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.