Ten Things I'd Like Local Businesses To Know: Part 2

It's been awhile.

Almost five months, actually- and the original 365 project is over.  I could- and will- post about so incredibly many challenges and successes and the triumphs and resentments that bloomed over the past 365 days. The blog will continue, and I promise that I won't go as long this time between posts.  There really is no end to supporting your local, indie businesses and the question morphs into more of what the percentage of our buying is truly realistic for the average family.  That's something I plan to explore in the coming months.

The first order of business will be finishing the Ten Things I started back when the wind was colder and the days not so packed with activity as they've become. Apparently, I have a throng of mobbing fans that have waited beyond their patience threshold and must see these last five things- including one pun obsessed very dear minister who I would hate to disappoint.

So, without a second longer to wait- the final five:

5.  Don't, for the love of whatever deity you worship, smoke directly outside of the front of your business.  Don't let your employees smoke directly in front of the outside the front of your business.  Strongly discourage your patrons from smoking directly outside of the front of your business.  Do I care if you or your employees smoke?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Smoke until your shriveled gray lungs fall right out of your body- that's your right as an American, and I support it wholly.

However, I have asthma.  Your smoke, innocent enough to you, impedes my daily ability to take in fresh air and function at 100%, and if I have to walk through it to patronize your store- I'm going to go find another, where no one smokes out front.

Plus, I resent smelling like a seedy bar simply because I walked through your door.  So, go to the back door to smoke, and have your employees do the same.

4.  Make your shop entry look attractive- not like a place to pass drugs.  Many businesses don't own the sidewalk or curb in front of their stores/shops.  Often, municipalities can't keep up with the rampant litter and dirt in a specific locale- which makes it up to the owners to decide whether they're going to take care of it themselves or simply shake their heads and walk back into their shops.

Customers notice when shops and businesses are well kept.  They notice when there's trash piled up against the display window, and they notice whether that display window has changed in the last six months or not.  As a business owner, no doubt you're likely busy and pulled in a hundred directions- but this has to be a priority for you.  If a customer feels like the facade of the business is run down and seldom tended to, they'll pass and go to one that's clean, current, and safe looking.

3.  Don't make it hard for me to spend my money with you.  Please take debit and credit cards.  Yes, I know- the processing companies take out a certain percentage in fees.  Yes, I know- the percentage seems much higher then reasonable for a small business owner.  I agree- it's frustrating.  But, if you think I'm going to go to an ATM that's not mine and incur a $2.50 fine simply for getting out cash and an additional $1.50 from my bank for not using one of their ATMs, you're incorrect.  I, and many people like me, will simply go elsewhere to get what we need.  

2.  Know your products.  I might ask for advice, and while I don’t expect you to know everything, I do expect you to know about what you carry.  This one seems fairly self explanatory, but in the case that it's not, let me clarify slightly.  If you opened your shop out of a passion for what you do, chances are, you know just about everything about what you're selling and this will never be an issue.  But, if I bring up a question about why what you carry is different than what your competition carries, I expect you to be able to answer simple questions about the differences in product, including why you chose your inventory over other choices on the market. 

1.   Get a website and have your hours, location, and phone number clearly marked on the front page.  If they change, update your website and facebook page.  This past 4th of July, both me and my husband were home in the afternoon for the holiday.  We had a few purchases to make, and we checked the facebook page of one local shop to see if they had holiday hours (they did).  We ended up spending $200 plus there, and other folks were coming in the door as we left.  Conversely, there have been times where I've  gone in to a business during their normal stated hours on facebook, and they failed to post that their hours had changed.  As I posted in the first half of this 'Ten Things', I need what I need, usually within hours or days of needing it, and if you can't be bothered to keep up with your own changes, I'll find somewhere else that will. 

So that's it- the second half of my ten things I want small businesses to know.  These things matter- at least to me, and my guess is, to most of your customers as well.

Thoughts?  Anything you'd add or take away?


Ten Things I'd Like Local Businesses To Know: Part 1

We're midway through month 8 of the New Albany 365 challenge.  Month 8!  That's almost a pregnancy.  Lest the rumors begin, I have no intention of giving birth to anything at the end of this journey, except one huge 'What I've Learned' entry, or three. 

Since we last talked, I've cheated twice more (though admittedly on the same trip to the same store):  Razors and lip gloss.  I can safely say that there is not one local grocery store or drug store that carries the razors I use- and the ones they do carry put my legs at risk of looking like candy canes from razor burn.  Razors are definitely something I can't source in New Albany- and, we were stopping by Thriftway, which had some acceptable options, until they closed.  After that, I was stuck in the land of one blade, and that's just not kind to the shins. 

Now that confession is over, we're to the real reason I started this post.  I'm sharing ten things I'd like local businesses to know that either help me either want to do business with you, or make me run away screaming. 

With the usual caveat that these are in no particular order except for how I jotted them down on the back of an old piece of one of the kids' homework, let's start with...

10.  Hours. As a mom that works, volunteers, takes kids to activities, runs, and occasionally even takes a bit of 'me' time, my schedule doesn't always allow for me to visit you between the hours of 9 and 5.  Heck, sometimes even when you're open until 8, I have to actually plan a trip to come shop or get my items and block time and childcare.  I know it sounds crazy, but perhaps you could have extended hours some days...or, as another brilliant friend mentioned- work with your competition so that you can alternate late days.  It's been done before and everyone wins, and I'm not left to have to hit a box store. 

9. Closing during your business hours. I get it- emergencies happen, and with a smaller shop, you often don't have the staff to keep it open when these things occur.  I totally forgive you and will come back another day- unless, on that second trip, you're closed again in the middle of the day during your stated business hours, with no notice, no nothing.  I want to spend my money with YOU- not big box store X.  I'll drive out of my way and take my precious time and sometimes even pay more because you live here, employ people, and invest yourself into the community.  But I can't keep coming to find you closed on multiple occasions.  Gas is expensive;  time is money; and I need what I need, within three or four days of needing it.  

8.  If there is no reason to bring politics into your business, don't.   You may be passionate about our President, or you may not.  You may love our mayor and city council, or you may not.  Regardless of your views, know this:  You don't know what mine are, or the other guy that just walked into your store.  I'm here to buy a gift for a friend and I don't want to hear a diatribe on political issues even if I share them.  You also run the risk that you're my polar opposite.  I'm ok with folks that I don't agree with;  I'm NOT ok with people that don't have the filter to keep political rantings where they belong:  the internet, with friends, or family.  If you can't honor and respect this, I won't return.

7.  If there is no reason to bring religion into your business, don't.   Substitute all of the above with religious dogma, faith, and belief and the same holds true.  (Not applicable if you are a Christian Bookstore or other such business that profits from the statement of the religion or faith in the name itself.)  There are a million flavors of faith and religion (and lack of), and chances are we don't quite agree on all of it...plus, there's the glaringly obvious fact that what you're selling has nothing to do with any kind of theology.  Nothing.  Though anecdotal, I've not found businesses that profess a faith to be any more moral percentage-wise than those that don't.  

6.  Be careful who you hire.   These people represent you when you're not there, and you need to make absolutely sure that they can do so without supervision and with the same dedication to your business that you do.  I've seen local businesses lose customers because the man or woman at the counter can't be bothered to set their Sudoku game down for five minutes to answer some questions.  In some areas, we have quite a bit of competition in variety in New Albany- and I'm not going to let you know that your clerk was rude or ignored me...I'll just go elsewhere.  

 Thoughts?  Do you agree, or disagree?  Let me know- and, if you're a business owner, I'm totally open to discussion about why I'm wrong or inaccurate.  

Part 2 to follow in a few days. 


Donuts, Bourbon, Bread, & Doritos

We can't let this happen again.  It has been too long since I last posted, and while it'd be easy to blame the holiday season, I could have chained myself to the couch and laptop and made myself type.

Before we go any further, I have two more confessions to make- bringing my cheating total up to 4, I think. I'm not sure how many transgressions I get before I'm taken and flogged publicly, but so far no one's showed up, so...

We have had a Christmas tradition for the past four years where in the few days leading up to the 25th, my husband and I and the kids all go to Krispy Kreme one evening and get at least two donuts each and coffee or hot chocolate, and then go out to look at all the light displays.  I tried my hardest to convince my 9 and 6 year old that it needn't be Krispy Kreme;  we could go to, say, Honey Creme  during the day, save the donuts until later (they're not open in the evenings), and then go look at the lights, but that resulted in shrieking "NO!  It is a TRADITION!  We cannot change TRADITION!" from the kids.  I explained that I was going to have to blog and explain that I cheated again, but that had no effect.  They weren't budging on this one.

So, a friend tried to help me with a way around it:  She gave me four free glazed donut coupons.  That would have been perfect- except that we couldn't use them all at once, and everyone wanted two.

In the end, we got a dozen and between that night and the next morning, they were history.  I can't say they didn't taste good, because they were warm, glazey, gooey, and melty...though, someone ate my custard filled one and if I find out who (youngest boy, cough cough)- they ow me big time.

My second cheat was Christmas Eve.  Remember how there was to be quite the snowstorm somewhere within about forty miles of here?  Remember that there was going to be a line that either meant thirty feet of snow or rain, and depending on which side of the line you ended up on , you could be in for a real mess?  Well, after the kids' presentation at church was over, I was convinced we needed bread (we did), and bourbon (I could make a good argument that we needed that, too).

Unfortunately, the only place that was open was Rite Aid, so I stopped in.  Like any good snopacalypse preparer, I also picked up doritos. Of course, we got approximately one inch of snow and that was being generous, but better safe than without the essentials.

But that's it- you know all of the cheats now.

Santa?  Santa respected my wishes and sourced locally.  I hear he hit quite the jackpot at Ben Franklin in New Albany for the items he couldn't make, and I'm not sure the kids could have been any happier with toys they didn't need from stores that make good money convincing them they do.

All in all, it was a wonderful holiday month.

Next post will bring you the items I'm missing or having a hard time finding, in hopes that maybe someone can help.  Until then, live local.


The Fastest Way To Cheat: Do It For The Kids

It happened again tonight.

For only the second time since July 1st, 2012, I stepped foot into a national chain and spent a small amount of my hard earned money.

Let me explain.  We were at a 93rd birthday party with the family, enjoying each other's company and good natured heckling.  After dinner and some lazing around, it was time to bring out the cake and ice cream.  (I'm allergic to milk- so, if my doctor is reading this, I did NOT eat ice cream.  PS- It's hard to type when your fingers are crossed.)

I noticed my youngest child was grimacing.  He's 6, so I assumed he ate his ice cream too fast and gave himself a healthy dose of brain freeze, so when he whimpered I didn't think much of it.  But by the time we were in the car and headed home, he was having one of those throbbing, rolling headaches that ebbs and flows, and when it flows, it HURTS.

I took a mental inventory of the medicine cabinet and realized two things:  The garlic salt was somehow in the medicine cabinet (remembered from the day before's chili making escapade), and we were totally out of children's ibuprofen or acetaminophen, which had previously been purchased at Mathes Pharmacy.  I quickly pulled out my phone and looked up their hours- and of course, they'd closed 45 minutes earlier.

I tried to think of anything local that would be open that would have children's pain medicine.  My oldest child can take an adult pill just fine, but not my boy.  I stopped in to one of the locally owned convenience stores, and struck out in any children's medicinal products.

I think there comes a point where a child's immediate pain trumps even the most valiant local buying efforts.  I wasted no time running into Walgreens and grabbing two bottles of children's ibuprofen (grape flavor).  After another 45 minutes, my son was sleeping peacefully.

But the experience brings up one of the important questions I hoped this journey would unearth.  What are we lacking in terms of availability locally?  Are there just some things that we cannot expect to get 24/7?  Or, should we reasonably be able to expect an independent drugstore/grocery store/department store to thrive in a town of our size? If not, what is the role of a national chain in this particular arena?

I don't have answers for these.  In an earlier day, parents would just have to wait until their local mom and pop opened up in the morning, if they'd run out of medicine the night before, and their kiddo would have spent the night miserable.  So, how can we help our towns sustain an option that's open late, late hours that also has a huge, diverse product offering?


That Day After Thanksgiving

There's a meme that's been making its way around my facebook circles as of late.

We all laugh, because we know this to be true- and then feel a small twinge of guilt, because whether we do it this year or have done it in the past, most of us have participated in the greedy frenzy.  I know- there are some really great deals out there.  Heck, some of the deals may even be items you actually NEED- or, maybe they're actually on your holiday list for someone else!  

But part of understanding ourselves and our role in the local and national economy is realizing the impact of our buying habits.   Where we spend our money determines much about how the country moves forward, and how we treat our workforce- as well as which political and moral causes get funded by the corporations where we shop.  I don't want to create a political divide by assigning attributes to either side, but there are some really strong cases for bipartisan support of indie and small businesses.  If we buy cheaply made items from another country at a mass discount at a mega chain, then that's what we'll continue to get.  If we buy thoughtfully and support our entrepreneurs and community businesses, that's what will begin to thrive.  

A few years ago, a concept called Plaid Friday was introduced to create an alternative to the frenzy.  While still consumer driven, Plaid Friday invites you to consider choosing independent businesses for your holiday gift choices.  Many are offering discounts of their own, and are allowing both their employees and customers to enjoy Thanksgiving without having to worry about pitching a tent four days before to maybe get one of four cheaply made items as a doorbuster.

As I've talked about other places on this blog, when you buy from your indie/local businesses, you are supporting a local entrepreneur;  a neighbor, a community member, a person you potentially interact with on a day to day basis.  There's a concept called the multiplier effect, and the idea behind this is that an indie/local business person will take their income and re-invest it into the local economy, over and over.

So, for example,  they've likely hired employees also from the community.  Those employees then have income, a portion of which will also be spent in the local economy.  The business is also more likely to utilize a local accountant, marketing company, attorney, all of which pay more local employees. All of this has tax implications at the local level, too:  each of these individuals is taxed, and that's how we afford good schools, good fire departments, good roads, and healthy communities.  

Consider all of this on Friday, Saturday, and through the holiday season.  Heck, consider it all year round.  You work hard to earn your money- use it thoughtfully, and consider supporting those indie/local businesses you'd be heartbroken to lose.  

Oh, and another meme that popped up today:


Local Voting: Make or Break Our Indie/Local Businesses

On a regular basis this week, I've seen on my facebook wall some form of the following statement.  "OK, so I've been following this whole national election thing, but I haven't had time to research local candidates.  Someone tell me who the best choices are."

I'm going to let that sink in for a second.

Are you horrified yet?  As in, '"The Shining"-this-could-ruin-my-life' type horrified yet?

You should be.

There is no denying that the results of the national election will have an impact on all business, especially small, local indie businesses. But at this point, there are relatively few undecideds- and to be honest, one or two or ten votes are probably not going to make a difference for the office of the President.

But state, county, and city offices?  They're absolutely vital to what happens next.

Those elections are the ones that impact the daily operations of a business owner the most.  If you've not researched your candidates that will make the laws that affect zoning for your business, street and sidewalk maintenance, parking laws and enforcement, local taxes, schools, fire protection, police protection, sanitation, water, trees, and parks, you put yourself in the position of having no control over your livelihood and success. These offices make or break a successful community, and if you don't like the recent outcomes of local decisions, you have no one to blame but yourself if you had no clue who you voted for.  I truly don't have words strong enough to explain how horrified and disappointed I am when I hear that people haven't bothered to do more than read yard signs when they make their picks on election day.

Here's the good news- there's still time to change the future.

If you've not voted yet- early or absentee- or if it's still early enough in the day on November 6th, you can link here to see who the candidates are in Floyd and Clark counties, and some basic information (if they bothered to answer) about what they stand for.  If you're in Louisville, you can go here and type in your address and it will give you your candidates.

Business owners and community members, do NOT give your power away in this election simply because you've been lazy.  Educate yourself, and VOTE!


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  

Get your last minute candy and costumes at an indie/local retailer- like Horner Novelty in Jeffersonville, or Caufields in Louisville. 

(This is not a paid advertisement or endorsement of any establishment listed above, and no one approved this message.  Additionally, it's probably a bad idea to use local children for your soups and stews.)