That competition had always been present, even almost 20 years ago when this began, but there were others who like me, had their own following as well. These similar independents were spread through the towns and although the chain stores were present, there seemed to be an atmosphere of choice and variety.
Looking back now I think I'd have to admit that while the other 12 or 13 independent confectionery shops were around, people were aware of options. But as shops faded and closed perhaps so did the minds of our visitors. When you see choices, it's likely you explore more, but as places like mine disappeared I think it began to convince customers to stick with the most visible option.
And then suddenly, about seven years ago, my smaller competition vanished and I became the last of the independents. Rather than shrink and fade from sight, I branded my shop with what the chains were not. I adamantly followed one of the most basic rules in retail; be different. With some items the bigger stores featured being imported from china and thus poor quality, I continued to offer the best products made here in the USA. Customers would come in daily asking questions such as "but YOU still have the real kind, right?", and we did.
With this goal of excelling in certain niches and maintaining my own distinct following, why did I decide to close? As much as I hated to admit it, my store was impacted by what surrounded me. What once was a thriving and vibrant shopping destination, began to decline and perhaps has been one of the hardest changes for me to see and accept. (To be continued)