And It’s Gone….

I feel a little sad today. A friend of mine who has had a gift shop in the city for as long as I can remember, closed her doors today. The economic downturn got her good.

So many small business retailers are hurting in the city. When consumer confidence drops and people keep their hands in their pockets, it is the retailers who feel it the most. And even though our turnover drops we are still expected to cover all our bills.

When you realise your business cannot be saved it is akin to hearing you have an incurable illness. No amount of work or effort or even a  rejuvenated business plan is going to make a difference. The ship is sinking and you’re going down with it.

Adrienne cried today. All that work and nothing to show for it. All she has ever done is run her own business. She has no formal qualifications and fears she is unemployable anywhere else.  She wonders if she will be able to keep her house and the physiotherapist who works with her ailing mother. She is finding it hard to hold on to hope amidst such uncertainty.

In these situations it is the responsibilities one has that make the loss of income harder to bear. You can’t just pack everything into the car and drive away. There are ties that bind.

Adrienne and I talk of corporate greed and government bail outs. Who bails out the small business owner on days like these?

I watch as Adrienne walks away to her van. It is full of the things she didn’t sell in the closing down sale. What will she do with a van full of knick knacks now? She offers me a lift but I say that I will sit for a while.

Adrienne’s shop window is boarded up. The dust builds inside, almost audibly. There is a plaintive aspect that never was here before, like a sense of bereavement.

I am worried. Adrienne will not be the only casualty of this economic war. It could happen to any one of us. I walk along the street. It is a beautiful summer’s day. The sun sings of a promise of better things to come but there are stains on the ground, dark as blood.

I glance back, catching sight of Adrienne’s shopfront, leaning wearily in the sharp light. This will probably be the last time I see it. I cannot bear to pass it again, thinking of what was. I round the corner, saying goodbye under my breath. And it’s gone.

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24 thoughts on “And It’s Gone….

  1. Well you already know how sad abandoned buildings make me. There is something so mournful about them because they usually signify loss of one kind or another.

    I am so sorry for your friend and I totally understand her fear and uncertainty about the future. It’s a scary world at the moment and I’m afraid it will get worse before it gets better.

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  2. It breaks my heart to see the end of something so dear to people. Isn’t it amazing how high-level greed in the big corporations have such a devastating effect on small, non-related businesses? Prices for goods skyrocket in order to pay those hyper-inflated wages, and who pays? Consumers and the small business owners.

    I have to make a decision regarding milk delivery. It is expensive, and with six or seven people (most of them milk-drinking teen males) living here, we will go through it quickly. Do I tell the fellow who owns and operates the route that I must cancel my weekly order, thereby punishing him for my lack of funds, or cut back elsewhere in order to help him stay afloat.

    My heart says “keep the delivery” but the budget raises an eyebrow and drums impatient fingers on the milk bill…

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  3. That is so sad and rough, this economic situation is world wide. It makes me wonder if I will be making the right choice of going back to school and quitting my job to pursue my dream, but will there be a job out there for me once I am done? With the future so uncertain – you wonder…

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  4. I felt the same when Steve had to close his newsagency and sweet shop because of the greed of others.

    (Just one example: ‘I don’t stock rolling tobacco any more. I can’t sell it. There are too many wide boys bringing it across the Channel in a white van these days.’)

    Now, I buy my newspaper at a mini-market, and usually get served by a spotty adolescent who couldn’t tell me the Prime Minister’s name.

    I’ve taken out subscriptions to the magazines I used to buy from Steve, and save myself a couple of quid each month. I could have done it from Day 1, but I reckon Steve’s smile, jokes and conversation were worth more than the money I’d save.

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  5. ROMANY:
    I am with you on the abandoned buildings, particularly if I knew what was there before. It is heartbreaking to see them left to fall into disrepair. The present situation is very, very hard for everyone. I hope we can all weather it, I really do.

    KAREN:
    And there’s the rub. No one can be blamed for changing their shopping habits due to budgetary constraints, but after a while those changes kick in for the retailer and turnover drops. It’s tough, but everyone has to do what’s best for them. The big supermarket chains make it really hard because they have such buying power that they get the big discounts from the wholesalers. The smaller businesses don’t get those discounts so they can’t pass them on. You shouldn’t feel guilty about the milkman, though. The playing fields have changed. At the moment it’s all about survival. And it sounds like you go through a lot of milk. LOL. Great to hear from you again, hon!!

    NAT:
    I will. Thank you. It’s always hard to let go. I’m sure she’ll be OK.

    TBALL:
    It’s so hard to know, isn’t it? Things will bounce back, I’m sure. I do think that long term, going back to school would be best for you, because you do have a lot of talent and I would be very surprised if you had trouble finding a job. You should go for it!

    CRAFTY GREEN:
    I hate when that happens. Such a sad sign of the times.

    EMPLOYEE:
    I think she’ll be OK. She is quite resourceful. A bit of an unwelcome reality check, however.

    TRAVELRAT:
    That’s the thing I miss the most about some of the shopkeepers I used to know who have since shut up shop – the chats, the laughs. You don’t get that in the big stores. The price of progress, eh?

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  6. That is sad. Luckily some of our small businesses around here are actually cheaper and better quality than the supermarkets (baker, grocer, butcher, etc). I take some delight in buying less and less from the big supermarkets.

    Karen – how about just cutting down a small amount on the milk from the delivery person and topping it up with cheaper milk from elsewhere? That way you save a little bit of money but you still get to support the little guy.

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  7. It makes me so bad that little shops and small business, which already had to compete with large chains, now have to close down. It’s sad for the business owners and sad for the World, which will lose more of its charm.

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  8. DAOINE:
    Great to hear from you. Hope you are feeling well. I always try and support the little guy as much as possible. Sometimes, however, the budget just doesn’t allow. tough times, indeed!

    HILLY:
    I couldn’t agree more with you about the charm. I already feel the local flavour in my area has been watered down. It’s such a shame for all of us.

    LURAGANO:
    It’s hard to know what to do. Sometimes there’s nothing that can be done. I think that being aware of it is a start as well as shopping local where we can.

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  9. I’m saddened to hear of your friend’s plight. The dream of owning a shop only to have to close its doors is beyond sad. I hope that your friend has other leads and I wish her the best. It isn’t right for this to happen to her and to others.

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  10. Oh, this is so sad Selma. I feel for your friend I really, really do. When I was much younger (in my 20’s) I had my own wool shop. It was my pride and joy. Unfortunately, competition from the department stores and the prices they could offer did me in. I couldn’t compete and had to shut down. It was a very sad day and a dream lost. 😦 I am glad though that I had the guts to go for it and the experience on many other levels was a good one, looking from where I am now. At the time, it was devastating. I hope your friend finds another positive path and soon. Hugs to both of you,G

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  11. It is a sad story, oft repeated. We are going to have to learn to build true local community economies that run successfully completely outside the auspices of both the banks and the government. I’m looking forward to that.

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  12. GEL:
    I think Adrienne will be OK. She will miss the independence of having her own business but not the daily grind. It’s a new chapter for her.

    GERALDINE:
    I didn’t know you had your own shop. It’s so hard to compete with the big stores, isn’t it? But you’re right – having the courage to open it in the first place is a great thing. Good on you for giving it a go!!

    PAUL:
    Totally with you on that. bring back the sense of community. I used to love the old days when you chatted to the baker, the fishmonger and so on. Those people became friends. Bring back the old days of the community high street, I say!

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  13. it seems as no one and no industry is immune to this economic down turn.. i am sorry for your friend,, and hope that life comes back to her 10 fold soon,, giving her back her joy….

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  14. It’s always very sad when a small business shuts down. I remember so many that have closed over the years around here. They take part of the character of the neighborhood with them. I have exactly the same feelings about the possibility of being thrown out of my line of work as your friend does. It’s a distinct possibility for so many of us.

    I guess what’s helped me is that I’ve always sadistically told myself that any failure would be all my fault, so now that things are getting worse I can see that it’s not my fault because I haven’t done anything wrong. Much of life is a matter of being subjected to forces that are beyond our control. The fact that your friend is actually a responsible enough person to feel anxiety about how to continue paying for her mother’s therapy, etc., tells me that she will pull through. Just think of all the people would couldn’t be bothered to pay their own bills, let alone anyone else’s.

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  15. PAISLEY:
    I’m sure she’ll be fine but it is hard to reinvent yourself when you’re in your 40s (as we all know). It’s a tough world at the moment.

    RICHARD:
    With you totally on the self-blame. I am very guilty of doing that too, but I can see now that most of this economic crisis is due to external factors. And you’re right – I don’t see too many of the big CEOs rushing off to pay their bills. I hope you manage to keep your job, hon!

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  16. Selma, Hi–sorry to read of this.
    The big stores are truly pushing the smaller folks out of business. I have refused for years to EVER shop at Walmart. Walmart is particularly despicable, because they offer NO benefits to most employees(they deliberately give only part-time hours to employees, so there’ll be NO requirement to give benefits), and they also import nearly EVERYthing from China. Few goods are made in USA, India, or Latin America(or Australia). The goods(clothing, toys, foods) they sell are usually sub-standard, too.
    Perhaps your friend can do a home-based “Internet” business, or set up a “store” on ebay–that would be a quick way for her to sell those knick-knacks and/or left-over stock she may still have.
    Peace, kid.

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  17. KAYT:
    I am thinking of all those struggling at the moment too. Hopefully, we’ll all live to tell the tale!!

    LISA:
    I saw a doco a while back about Walmart. I was shocked at how badly they treated their employees. I think that’s where the phrase ‘working poor’ came from. Those stores really have done nothing worthwhile, either in an economic or social sense. It really is a crying shame they have such clout. Adrienne is thinking about going online. I’ll let you know!!

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  18. This downturn seems more frightening than the last one….maybe because it’s seems so ominpresent and global….but also deeeeeep! My heart goes out to people like your friend Adrienne. It seems so unfair to have worked so hard to make a business succeed, especially when it comes from the centre of one’s passion.

    I hope she finds her way…and goes online. It may be a good option. please keep us posted.

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  19. DANA:
    Omnipresent is a great way to describe it. It almost seems alive. I feel for all the people who have worked hard throughout their lives and end up with very little. I always say to my son: ‘Work hard and everything will be alright.’ Now I wonder. I will keep you posted. Thanks for your concern.

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