I may not be from Maine, but I did grow up in a small rural town. One that is not too different from the one that we are raising our children in here in “The County”. So for those of you that still label me as “from away” – I’m OK with that. But still trust me when I say that we still have some common ground and our backgrounds really aren’t as different as you may think.
I love life in a small town. And I love the lessons that you can learn from those folks that I consider the backbone of these small towns, the local business owner.
My Daddy is a small business owner. He runs a feed and seed business that was started 67 years ago by his uncle. He and my brother purchased this business 10 years ago today.
My grandfather started a similar business in a neighboring community 60 years ago when my Daddy was just 3 years old. It was closed in 2003 after 50 years in business. My grandmother “retired” from that seed business at the age of 80.
Our family is what it is today because of the work ethic instilled in us by small business ownership.
I grew up riding around the store on hand trucks and jumping from stack to stack of seed and feed. When my brother and I were little we would try to
“help” customers and answer the phone. My first job was at the store and I was responsible for mailing seed lists, measuring vegetable seeds, and helping customers with fertilizers and hardware. My uncle would get upset with me when he would see me lifting a seed bag or wheeling one out to someone’s car on the hand truck because it was just inappropriate for a girl to do such a thing. I just did it because it needed to be done.
I am proud of my father and brother for working so hard to keep our family business running. I am proud that people call my Dad for seed advice and consider him as a valuable resource. I love walking into the store and feeling right at home.
But there is one thing about a small business owner that you may not know. Yes, the economy has been very hard on people like my Dad. His business has taken hit after hit. Big retail has made it even harder. People go to the bigger stores for convenience because they can get their shopping done all at one place. But what they don’t realize is that they are sacrificing quality over convenience. Aren’t we all a little guilty of that?
This is what I see when I watch my Dad. He is the unsung hero of his small town. When my Dad needs his car worked on, he takes it to a local mechanic. He buys his tires there, too. He does his banking with a local bank. He purchases electronics equipment from the store down the street because he knows that the store owner will be there to help if he ever has a problem with that equipment. When I was growing up he always purchased his vehicles from a local dealer. He has always worked hard to keep his dollars local. He feels a twinge of guilt when he isn’t able to. Not everyone in town affords him the same loyalty, but I know that my Daddy wouldn’t have it any other way.
I am proud of my Dad and brother for what they have done to keep the store running for all of these years. 67 years in business is pretty amazing. Why am I touting a Georgia business here in northern Maine? Because I see businesses up here suffering some of the same things that have made business tough and this season is a good time to try and do something about it.
Christmas is upon us and we are all scrambling to get our shopping done. Yes, I do a great deal of shopping online. Living up here in rural Maine, you really don’t have much of a choice about some items. But this year I am going to do what I can to keep my dollars local. I always buy maple syrup and maple candies from a local sugar house. There is a little shop in town that sells the best handmade soaps and lotions. I can’t wait to attend the annual holiday craft fair that is held locally in a few weeks. There is a variety store in town that has great toys for the same price as what you would find online. And our candy store downtown is amazing.
If you care at all about the American Dream and good solid work ethic and future small business owners and entrepreneurs, please join me in shopping local. And if you can’t find what you need locally, do a little legwork and find a small business owner that carries the product or service that you need. I can almost guarantee that the service you receive will be better and the gift of your business may even carry them through to the next generation.