Small Business Trends
(Excerpt from ”Politics IOU” by Margaret Lynn Verhoeff AKA Grandma Thunder}
Spider didn’t want to go out for fast-food! It reminded him too much of his early, humble beginnings.
Their fancy restaurant was closed. After thirty years in business it had closed it doors. Had it been open, few vendors attending their annual get- together would have been able to afford the fancy meal they had all so very much enjoyed in better years. The vendors had been meeting together at the same restaurant for six or seven years. He was sorry to see the restaurant go under for it’s superb style had meant something to him. He and his young wife were still going to be getting together with their friends to welcome in the New Year, but maybe for the last time. Spider wondered how many vendors would come, surely fewer than the prior year, and definitely a much smaller number than in the good years when it was still possible to make a living as a vendor.
Would he and Ginsee meet with them the following year? He really had no idea.
Spider had grown up on the streets in Workingman’s City. He understood what it took to keep a small business afloat during the hard times. As a street urchin, he had been fed and helped by some of the kinder Workingman City small shop owners. As he had grown he was too proud to accept a hand-out, and he had worked for his keep, doing whatever he could do to help those who had helped him.. A few shopkeepers had discovered that he was good with numbers and that was how he had come to learn the small business, economic model.
Later he had had the good fortune and the smarts to escape Workingman’s City, to get himself a degree in economics, and to enter the corporate world. That didn’t work out for he was too much a free spirit to adapt to the corporate hierarchy.
He had quit the corporate world after he had met the ethereal Ginsee. She was as light and white as he was dark and wiry, twelve years younger than he. They had agreed to start a small business together and for ten years they had made a good living selling art, while visiting some of the more prestigious offices and hospitals, helping with fundraising and bringing a little cheer to the corporate employees. After marrying they had purchased a cabin on the edge of the high protected forest in the mountains of Shadow County from where they traveled out to do their shows. The terrain was as different from Working Man City as Spider could find. His favorite sport was rock climbing; he loved to hang halfway between heaven and earth. It was his agility as a rock climber that had earned him the nickname, Spider.
He loved his young wife deeply, and they very rarely quarreled; both upbeat souls, they seemed to agree on most things. But as they got ready to go to the fast food restaurant where they were meeting the other vendors, a fight was starting that was shaping up to be a doozy.
“You are planning to quit aren’t you, Spider? “ She made the accusation in a tone laced with make-wrong. She was right, he had been figuring on how to frame an elegant exit strategy from the game he and Ginsee had played for over ten years.
He was silent for a beat, he hadn’t told her, she had guessed. “I’ll be honest with you, Ginsee I have been looking at it,” he said.
“You mean you are actually thinking of stopping the mobile gallery?” she asked with narrowed eyes.
“Not ever leaving you, just quitting the business,” he said and smiled. It was said to reassure her but it didn’t have the required effect.
“You want us to just quit!”
“Because we are losing money.”
“And we don’t have enough to ride it out? “
“Of course we do, but that is not the point.” he had spent his money on property and invested astutely.
“What is the point?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to just stop, Ginsee.?” She was surprising him. It had been hard on her too of late.
“You can quit Spider but I for one am not going under.” It was said with a firmness that was quite unlike her and he was caught flatfooted by her reaction. While he could or not have their small business, he was stunned to see that she was emotional about losing it. He decided that like a house sacrificed to the mortgage crisis, there is a lot of feeling invested in a small business, especially a family business or one lasting several years like theirs.
”You don’t want to go do something new? There are lots of things we can do.”
It was said with such firmness that he stood there just looking at her.
“So you’re a quitter Spider?”
“I am not a quitter,” he said.
“You quit the corporate world and now you are quitting small business” It came across as a make-wrong and put him on the defensive.
“You need to wake up, Ginsee, times have changed.” He said it with a touch of patronization that he instantly regretted. She always reacted badly to that, knowing that she wasn’t as well educated as he.
“I don’t care!” She had tears in her eyes.
He back pedaled and said patiently “With the volunteer strike we lost our biggest account, the hospital. Add to that that there are just too many Corporations leaving Shadow County. You have to admit Ginsee that our accounts have been dwindling. We are operating in a playing field that is contracting.”
“I know that Spider.”
They had recently gone into a large office building, one of their bigger accounts, only to find that three office wings had been evacuated. The lights were off and the wind was howling down the corridors.
“Where are all the people,” she had asked.
“They have all been shipped to the Third World,” said a loyal customer, one of the few who had staid. In the Third World corporate employees could be had for ten on the dime.
“What about the Shadow County fiasco? It could happen again,” he said.
The County Supervisors had axed what had been a win-win activity. For almost thirty years vendors had gone into the Shadow County offices to create events, partnering with the Shadow County Employees to support charities. What sat in Spider’s craw was that he knew that the popular vendor events served the county employees in many ways that the supervisors didn’t even begin to appreciate. It brought them unusual products and gave them a worthwhile game. What Spider had most hated was that shortly before the guillotine had fallen, he had spent over two thousand dollars to fill special orders for a County facility where he could now no longer go. There had been no warning.
What he had loved about their County events was the spontaneity. In one company an inspired worker had adopted a family and helped them celebrate the Year-end. Soon the other employees had jumped aboard to where he found that their commission was helping over a hundred families in the community. Spider loved that. When you donate to big charity it is the bureaucrats who get the money. Furthermore he understood that when the public sector failed to support the private sector, the tax base began to shrink and that was what caused government layoffs and the beginning of a dwindling spiral. How Spider hated BIG government in bed with BIG corporations and now also in bed with BIG charities.
“The dice is loaded against small business; think of Fred and your pool.” He was still trying to win her over to his point of view.
Fred Kent was their framer; a man who had been very much a part of the success of their business. When the economy had turned down Spider had gone to him to ask how much he owed the banks, fearing the worst because Fred had undergone a big expansion just before the slide. The framer had been a prudent man, and now owned his property outright. When he told Spider that he owed nothing, Spider had hugged him. With this framer on their supply lines, Spider had known they could prevail whatever government chose to do with the economy. Yet they had just heard that Fred had, had to layoff some staff and cut his warehouse-space in half, renting out the part. He didn’t have big business debts but there were always the operating costs, costs that were going up due to inflation. Ginsee’s physical therapist had also layed off staff and closed the pool, she said too many silly regulations for the pool, and heating costs were prohibitive. She was also operating with half the space she had enjoyed before in the better times.
“But they are not quitting, Zafia is not quitting, and Fred is not quitting. They offer so much that I know they will survive. What I don’t like is that you are wanting to quit, Spider.”
“What is going on here Ginsee, this is not at all like you?”he asked. Usually she meekly followed his lead.
“What?” He was still smarting from being called a quitter, and still hadn’t figured out what the conversation was about, so he said, “Yet you voted for him.”
Corkscrew was a little rotund man, with indeterminate color and big ears. He was their elected President. Spider, a strong supporter of the Constitution had gone to the president-elect’s website and had been able to read the socialist agenda that was couched between the lines and had not voted for him. Many innocent voters like Ginsee had been taken in. This had been before they were married.
“Yes damn you Spider I did vote for him and I regret it. That was before you educated me. I have come to see that this president is bad for the New World,” Spider inclined his head. It was the first time she had acknowledged his views on Corkscrew.
It was their friend Jamboree who had given the devious President the name Corkscrew in her saucy blog, ”Pink Salt”. The post had gone viral and the name had stuck,.
“I wouldn’t worry Ginsee, the cadaverous senators supporting the man are already half dead. It is just a matter of time before they all go down.” Ginsee didn’t smile.
“Seriously Spider, the man has far too much power.”
“And what has this to do with our business?”
“What is it we sell Spider?”
“No. Think about it, what do we advertise all the time? We advertise ‘quality of life’. ”
Spider had to concede that what she was saying was true: for their tagline was ‘Quality of Life that is Affordable.’
“Think back to your horrible life in Working Man’s city.” she continued intensely.
He looked at her now fully engaged, remembering tract upon tract of drab square government houses.
“So what happened in Working Man’s City is happening right here and now in Shadow County. Did you see what they have done to the foothills? They are scraping off the tops of the hillocks to level the ground. At least in Working Man’s City it was flat to start with.”
“They are trying to make everything flat?” He hated that.
“That is right. You didn’t know? ”
“It is all going to be all flat and ugly here.” She was still teary..
“Socialism is ugly.”
“Socialism is the big equalizer, I know how you hate that.”
She smiled at him and he smiled back. They were talking again.
“He is screwing with us, Spider, but that is not why I don’t want to quit. We make aesthetics and quality of life affordable for the ordinary man. It is now hard times, and I don’t want to also take that away from our customers. Going on is the least we can do. I don’t want to take a quality of life away from the people that we have served for over ten years.”
Spider got it. He finally got it. He went over to her and hugged her.
“I understand.” How far his fairy princess had come since he had married her. She was amazing! She was awesome!
“”And we will stay in business and flourish and prosper?”
“To flourish and prosper we are going to have to handle Corkscrew.”
Quote of the Week
I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
Excerpt from ”Politics IOU” by Margaret Lynn Verhoeff AKA Grandma Thunder
This is a blog post from Grandma Thunder