By Peter Rose
This is a season that is all about warmth. We’re all loaded with memories and images in our heads of holidays past, with family, gatherings, fireplaces and the closeness of those we value. It’s warm. It’s good. We make it good, because it means so much to us.
By the time you’re reading this, I will have the first of a new tradition behind me, having spent two days in and around Frankenmuth with my wife, our two girls with their husbands and three young grandkids.
As I’m writing this now, I feel anticipation for that same warmth. Everyone identifies with that, don’t they? I am so looking forward to spending just two days away, with just my family. Hanging out with the family is the only real purpose, but it should be no surprise that I’ll be nosing around for shops and experiences that inspire me.
Frankenmuth is not about national chains; not about the internet. It’s all local; it’s all warm. The connection you feel to people in shops such as you find in small towns like this is palpable, and each browse, each purchase is far more likely to leave you with a sense of satisfaction and happiness than any other shopping experience. I’m looking forward to it now; I hope to be able to share tales of being impressed.
Small stores, independent and local, are all around us, though. I don’t have to go to Frankenmuth to find such stuff. I only mention that town because it’s my job – writing this column is easier with experiences from the front. And “the front” is what we’re talking about as we enter the final 30 days of the year, where every dollar taken in matters a lot for the small stores. Every purchase matters – a lot. The holiday gift giving season pays off a lot of bills and can provide a cushion that gets indie retailers through the winter months. I’m talking about local stores with local owners and local employees who all benefit tremendously through a series of single, conscious decisions.
Knowing how important this is for them makes me want to do business at such places. It’s so much more real, so much more meaningful to make someone happy and grateful. As opposed to being a part of a revenue stream that mainly leaves the state, benefitting people I don’t know – and that don’t care about me, or say thank you, or even know I spent the money at all.
It’s something that, once really understood, makes every decision about spending on food and drink and shopping a lot easier. I want my money to be leveraged to the full extent of its potential to benefit me. I want my spending to be appreciated. When possible, I want to think that my spending might be reciprocated, just as theirs has done with my places. In this way, spending in circles where we live and play results in those same dollars being spent again and again and again.
We can all lose the thread. And we can all find it, too, and very easily. We can all come to our senses, and realize that we’ve got more power than we ever let ourselves know. Little old us, with all that power.
My stores just experienced an emphatic demonstration of support for us independent retail businesses on “Black Friday” and “Small Business Saturday.” It feels incredibly good; we’re all so grateful. I belong to nationwide groups of independent retailers, the majority of whose reports of the weekend’s results are really encouraging for them, and for all of us. More and more people are letting themselves get the satisfaction they’ve been missing. Many never stopped. Many are starting out in life, seeking authenticity, and finding homes with local and independent businesses like ours.
The pursuit of that authenticity is what motivates me. I travel near and far to find it. Not that I’m always buying. But I’m always looking to feel the real thing. The connection to community. The smiles, the product knowledge, the excellence in presentation, the cool and unique products, and the genuine gratitude for the patronage. It informs, it inspires, and it feels very good.
When I go to Frankenmuth (and not Birch Run where low end product is sold, tricking the people that don’t know, and with zero connectivity), I’ll be in total relaxation mode. I can use it. But then again, you can rest assured that I’ll also be hyper-aware, eager to report back with tales of glad tidings from the indie front.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. Thanks for reading my columns, too!