I enjoy shopping locally, strolling around the four or five blocks that make up the central business district of my village. Once you’ve lived there as long as I have, it’s as much of a matter of maintaining relationships, catching up on the latest doings, as grabbing a bite or picking up an item or two.
I’ve never been in business myself, but I have an abiding empathy, actually admire greatly, those who have or have tried. I understand the pressures they face and recognize the unpredictability of it all. What gumption it takes for people who begin with a hope, a dream, a passion then go to enormous expense and spend countless hours, weeks and more to prepare to open their shop where they then find themselves at the mercy of the marketplace.
The uncertainties are many. Is it a viable business? Will people shop there? Does it demand much more time and effort than one imagined? I know the odds are stacked against them. A majority of new small businesses never make it. I also question the need for many of these new start-ups and often their choice of location. Excess appears to rule. Are we not in fact overbuilt, far too commercially congested in America? My village would seem to confirm that proposition. There are nail establishments all over the place, numerous gift shops as well, together with an abundant selection of gyms. There are three ice cream or ices stores within a block of each other. Branch banks – I can’t, I won’t count them all. Why so many here? The community is aging: how much fresh money is out there, available for new deposits? Our town is also regarded at the restaurant mecca of the area (over 60 existing locations and counting). Many close, but then there always seems to be others to take their place.
I root for every new store or restaurant that opens. The village newspaper consistently features the standard Grand Opening photo and story. It’s a picture most familiar. The owner or owners standing proudly in front of their shop flanked by the mayor, Chamber of Commerce executives and other local officials. An oversized ribbon and mammoth pair of scissors complete the picture. The ribbon will be cut, and the store already in operation, is now open for business officially.
I follow developments. I listen for local chatter about the new place. Are people shopping there? What’s it like? What do they offer? How about their prices? I try it myself – buy a gift, have a frozen yogurt, order a meal. I wish the owner well. Is he or she friendly, gracious? I hope so. Is it, in my estimation, a business that can make it in the village? (Sometimes I just have to scratch my head and wonder what prompted the opening of a store that just doesn’t seem like the right fit.)
I make sure to look in (from the outside) on each new place hoping to see customers in the store. When they’re empty it upsets me greatly (just as I find “Going out of Business” and “for Rent” signs terribly depressing). I understand that sometimes it takes time to get up to speed, for word to circulate and for satisfied customers to show up, then re-appear. Some stores hit the ground running; others require more time.
I will not become a customer of every new place in town, but be assured, I’m sure hoping most of them succeed.