The corporate corner store

As you know if you’ve read previous entries, I work for Family Dollar, a large corporation. I’ve talked about many of our regular customers. It strikes me that, in the past, that’s the kind of interaction that used to occurr at the mom and pop corner stores. The neighborhood grocery store, the local hardware store, the rural country store. All endangered species. I’m not here to condemn or judge this change. Just making observations. Many chain stores that have locations every couple miles have their regulars: Wawa (which I love), Turkey Hill, 7-11, the dollar stores, CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, grocery stores, etc.

What makes them personal is the people working there and the customers themselves. That hasn’t changed. The only difference is, we’re making money for someone else while making less ourselves. But still, it makes the day go by to see those familiar faces every day. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job, to get to know people, to learn their stories, to brighten their day, and occasionly, be enlightened by them.

Take my store manager, please. Just kidding. She’s great. She has flaws like everyone, but she’s really funny, and upbeat, generous and personable. She’s tough with her employees, but also fun to work with. People often ask about her when I’m there at a time when she usually is. She’ll put in a few cents of her own money if someone is a little short. (Usually because they forget about the tax. duh) They’ll often bring it in the next day. One customer commented how most stores now will do transactions to the penny. Like if your total is $9.01 and you don’t have the penny, they’ll give you all the change. I was thinking, well you have to because that happens all day long. You’d be at least a dollar short everyday if you didn’t do that. A small business can do that and no one is going to reprimand them for being a little short, or over.

Anyway, about the store manager, I don’t think she would want her own business. She’s happy where she is. Though struggling financially, like most people these days.

So, the corporate corner store has replaced the mom and pop store, but it’s not all bad. We make it more bearable by giving personal service and talking to people and getting to know them. We just can’t give them a break on price or anything, even though we understand.

I wonder what cultural effect the transformation has had, from country to corporate corner stores.
While the chains have saturated the market pretty exhaustively, it’s not the same as having a niche market on every block. Maybe there’s more of these in the bigger cities. I don’t know. I have noticed in my neighborhood on the Southside of Bethlehem, PA that there seems to be more local Hispanic markets. The area is heavily Hispanic. It’s an interesting trend. Is it because many of them move here from big cities where they have more of that? or from the countries they hail from where they’re used to the small business familiarity.

One small business that survives is Cantelmi’s Hardware on 4th St. on the Southside. I patronize them as much as I can. It’s closer than Lowe’s and the service is great. The help really knows their stuff. And there isn’t that big a difference in price on many things. Those big chain stores have a “loss-leader” item that gets you to go there, and then you buy other things that aren’t that good a deal or aren’t of good quality.

Coffee shops is another type of business where there are still locally owned small businesses. Another great 4th St. biz is Deja Brew, which also happens to be the headquarters for the Southside Film Festival, held every June. I haven’t been there in a while. Maybe I’ll do lunch there one day next week.
Til next time…

Working July 4th

I had the latter part of the day off, which suited me fine.
I saw the fireworks, I cooked out, I lit off some silly sparkly fountains.
I am content, but still looking
I heed that guiding presence I feel.
It is me. It is you.
It is real.

July 4th

The young punks in the neighborhood are trying to shoot down the moon. The city sanctioned fireworks are done, barely standing out among the many private shows on all sides from my lofty deck. My own cheesy grocery store fireworks display is done, appreciated by my famly and the little tykes next door. The smell of smoke lingers long in the air. And as my family heads home, my brother and visiting cousin go to bed, I sit and reflect.

Being born on the 6th of July, I was pretty patriotic. Even though it wasn’t right on the 4th, I still had patriotic themed birthdays and fireworks right near my birthday. Flags flying and all that. I do love my country, but I lament the many problems with both the upper crust and the lower tiers of society. It’s interesting that I was born of the 6th of July, not the fourth. My patriotism may never have faded had I been born on the fourth. But I wasn’t. I was born on the 6th. I bought into the indoctrination of history class and homeroom recital of the Pledge of Allegiance. I liked the flag birthday cake my mom made one year. I even liked the all american birthday watermelon with red, white and blue candles they made me at the family reunion one year, even though I’m not a big fan of watermelon. But as I’ve gained more life experience and job experience, my patriotism has faded. We do many things so well in this country. We have cutting edge studies, new innovations in science and medicine, unique and world changing inventions, determination and a will to affect change in any situation.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s interesting that a nation that has never known royalty, or a caste system, or an (official) religious state, has such trouble with the idea of class fairness and social justice. If you don’t agree that we have problems in those areas, then this isn’t the blog for you. How many innocent poor people are in jail? (Most of them are guilty. I’m not a “bleeding heart liberal”) But most of the white collar criminals are guilty, but are never convicted, and don’t do time even if convicted.

I guess the point I had in mind when I started this entry, is that we all have to contribute to society and government to make it work. It’s also the only way to break the gridlock of partisanship. When lawmakers are confronted with the uncomfortable fact that their constituents agree even when they don’t, that they might just have to work together. Sorry!