It’s the week of Black Friday and as a small business owner that also means trying to capitalize on the potential sales for the weekend but also (attempting to) compete with big box. In reality, we know we can’t offer the same great “deals.” There’s no comparison. Not in retail. For me, this weekend also means trying to make enough to pay the bills to float us for several of the “hard + slow months” to come while also balancing all of the other financial obligations and surprise expenses that tend to surface when we don’t have much cash to spare.
2020 has cut many of us at the knees. I know it’s been a tough year on everyone. There isn’t a single person I know who hasn’t had some life altering event, illness, or hardship these last 11 months. We’ve all struggled emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. It seems like if it isn’t one thing, it’s another. This pandemic has rocked our world. We feel all sides of it. Hurt, panic, stress, fear, sadness, did I say stress? We are trying to navigate foreign waters we never thought we’d have to tread in our lifetime while keeping our community safe and respecting one another. However, we also know our economy won’t be able to bear the weight much longer and a collapse is imminent if we continue on like this.
Speaking from a standpoint of someone who is in a hard industry to begin with, adding a world pandemic, election year, and numerous other hurdles to the mix, I’m shocked I’m still here. To be very transparent, if this continues, I won’t be much longer. That goes for many others as well. However if things continue on like they have, I’m not sure I want to. I’ve wanted to throw in the towel more times than I can count these last 6 months. I read an article the other day that Amazon is up 100% and over 20% of small businesses have CLOSED in 2020. Do you understand how astronomical those numbers are? 20% of all small businesses in the United States. Amazon (other big companies were named you’d be all too familiar with) but one hundred percent!? I can’t imagine that kind of growth. Those numbers take my breath away and also break my heart. Because I know the blood, sweat, tears, stress, sacrifice and a plethora of other emotions and grit that go into trying to offer a product, experience or service (in my case all three) that Amazon can’t boast. I know what it’s like to be the cleaning lady, book keeper, customer service representative, sales associate, shipping manager, merchandiser, among many other hats you adorn when you take on the roll of owning a store. To see all of that go down the drain is heart breaking and discouraging.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that I chose this. I’m not asking for pity or for anyone to feel sorry for me. I’m truly thankful I’m still going and that I have this opportunity. I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk or that I’d make a ton of money. I never went into this for the money. I’m telling you this because there’s purpose in what I and so many others do-this thing that might not seem like it holds as much value or importance as someone with a more prestigious job title. I wanted to see my downtown grow and flourish again. I wanted to see the storefronts fill up with beautiful items staged behind glass for people to walk by and window shop after hours like they used to. I wanted to bring something unique to our town, to encourage others to take the leap so we could be a thriving community that was filled with shops, restaurants, family owned businesses that offered a trade and specialty stores, rather than abandoned empty shells or loan companies occupying our city’s historic spaces. Maybe it’s my reminiscent, old soul that refuses to let certain things pass along with the times but I truly don’t believe it has to be this way.
This choice I made has come with so many amazing friendships, opportunities, and blessings, especially the flexibility to be with my girls. Both of them have grown up in this store. My youngest literally has. She and I went back to work when she was just 10 days old and her first year of life was spent in a pack and play next to my register. My friend (then main street coordinator) Amy, would come by on her break and help me feed her while I tended to customers. She learned how to roll over, crawl, and said some of her first words within these walls. I would not have had that working a 9-5 for someone else. I also can’t imagine not knowing some of the people I know now. Some of the most special individuals in my life I met from them walking in, and that was only made possible by this little shop on main street.
It’s where God put me for a time and a season, be it however long, but I know He uses me here just like he uses you during the majority of your day. It might be someone having the worst day of their life and they just need to come inside to escape and have a friend to pray and talk with. Or it might be a mom who’s waited years to finally have a baby and she gets to pick out their first outfit. It’s sitting in the floor having a heart to heart with my daughter or catching up with a friend. You never know who you might impact or what a small conversation can do for someone. I believe the personal relationships we get to have with our customers is important and needed. Our world is thirsty for community and real connection. Not just for our services and products we offer.
This choice wasn’t taken lightly. Looking back I think I might have been a little crazy diving into something I didn’t know much about other than the two years experience I had working in a boutique while in high school. I know I haven’t always made the best decisions and had so much to learn before I jumped into this journey, but my heart has always been for Ada, for a small business and what it could be again.
I’ll tell you right now, I don’t want to live in a world where brick + mortar no longer exists. It’s been a dying breed over the last decade but at the rate things are going with 2020, extinction is on the horizon. I don’t want amazon prime and target to be my only options. I want to be able to go visit with actual members of our community and spend my money knowing that it’s supporting a local family and the place where we live. I’m not saying you need to carelessly spend money and buy things you don’t need just for the sake of keeping a store open. That’s not it at all. I actually think the opposite. But there are special occasions, birthdays, home updates, etc. that you could pick something up from us instead of priming it to your doorstep. We will make a way to do the same if need be if it meant you’d choose us over them. We do offer things that you use on a regular basis, not just something to add on a hanger in your closet or another throw pillow for your couch. (although we have a pretty great collection of those as well.) :)
When I shop I want to actually hand pick the merchandise I’m going to gift someone for their wedding or brand new baby. I want to have my item gift wrapped and stop to have a face to face conversation. I don’t want to spend money on stuff and junk just to spend it. I want a quality and thoughtful gift if I’m going to give one. We try to give back to our community when we can. We give a discount to our military and first responders any day of the week because we appreciate what they do for us. Same goes for our teachers, college students, and nurses on Tuesday’s. We also love supporting a local ranching family who are friends, by keeping a freezer stocked full of beef to sell directly to the consumer. Another unique offer and experience.
It might cost me a few dollars more. I might have to leave my house, get out of my car, and walk inside, but more times than not, I leave refreshed and grateful that I live in a small town that has a unique place to do business with. And friends, we need more of that. Our spirit needs more connection. Not just behind a screen. I know we are living under different circumstances for the time being, but this didn’t just start this year. It’s been going on for a very long time.
I can speak for Farm Girl and many of my main street neighbors when I say we are doing our best to adapt and accommodate. Farm Girl now has our entire store online, shipping nationwide and to Canada, we offer curbside pickup, and delivery. Stretching and growing more than I could have imagined just over a year ago. I never would have thought I’d be signing us up for Doordash to deliver goods around Ada or purchasing a sign to roll out in front of our store to show people where to park for a curbside order. I never thought I’d be doing 80% of my business online and 20% in person. Which, I know this year has skewed those numbers significantly, however, it was about 60/40 last year. We are stretched thin but doing whatever we can to make the consumer happy and keep our doors open. We are exhausted. It’s not as simple as just closing down for some of us. Our bills keep coming and are expected to be paid no matter what state the world is in or our current situation. Completely closing could be detrimental to some families.
I’m so grateful that we had online options to work with when in store sales started to decline over the last few years and then 2020 happened. But many businesses do not have that. Let’s also not forget the mass filtering that’s going on in regards to social media. I made a post on our 61K follower instagram page and got 48 likes the other day. It’s not making sense. But I can scroll and ads upon ads for target, amazon, walmart, etc. pop up. Being made to shut down early this spring for awhile was really rough. I thank God for our amazing online and local customers who have been spurring us on since March (and way before) because without them, I really don’t think I’d be gearing up for my 7th holiday shopping season.
We’ve gotten spoiled to instant gratification and having everything at the tap of our phone screen while also using our keyboards for conversation rather than communicating in person. I’m not saying it’s wrong to shop online (praise be that we have one!) or save where you can because you have to. I’m also not trying to take up for any business who’s truly been in the wrong that you choose not to support either. I get all of those things. I’m also a consumer just like you. But, I am trying to offer up some perspective from this side of the counter.
I also know that cost is a huge factor when choosing where to put your money. Small IS usually more expensive. But there is a reason, and good reason at that. It’s expensive to run one. Packaging, wrapping, utilities, rent, merchandise, displays, loss, etc. We also don’t get the major deals because we can’t bulk buy like large retailers.
Regardless of cost, I will always pay more for a job done right the first time, a great experience, and for a quality product. In many cases, you truly get what you pay for. I’ve learned that the hard way in some of my own choices.
I don’t want to give up on one of the great pastimes that has made it through the years. I don’t want to see the mom + pop vanish. It might seem silly to you but I’ve heard so many stories of what my store was “back in the day” or how you could park at one end of main and it would take an entire day to get to the other end because there were so many options to shop and eat. The great sidewalk sales, The Front Porch, Shipes Shoes, Evans Hardware, the corner drugstore, parades like the one below among so many other retailers, restaurants, businesses, and events. What a time to be alive and in a thriving community with other people.
If 20% (or more) of small businesses closed this year alone, how many people were without a job? It’s hurting more than we realize. Individuals, families, communities. When you spend small, your money stays small. It stays here. It goes toward the place you reside.
Fight for us.
We need you to rally. And I’m not saying just with money. You can share and like our posts, leave great reviews or encouragement, refer a product we have or a service someone provides to a friend before sending them online or to a big corporation. Prayers. All of those “little things” are just as important, they are free, and we appreciate it more than you know.
I’m not speaking up just for retail either. I am obviously passionate about it because it’s what I do, but I’m also speaking for electricians, beauty professionals, auto repair, family owned restaurants/nutrition clubs, photographers, etc. Those are the individuals that will help support your child’s t-ball team or place an ad in their yearbook. I also want to say, I’m in no way trying to be insensitive of our healthcare workers or anyone who isn’t in this line of work by focusing in on one of the many issues of 2020. Though it might seem less in comparison, it will have serious and lasting affects on our country, economy, and people. This post has been on my heart for two years and with 2020 struggles, I needed to finally share my concern for what I’ve noticed over a long period of time. The last several months have just confirmed it all for me.
It’s an honor to be invested in our community. My husband and I both. He’s a Firefighter/EMT here and I work a few blocks away from his station in the heart of downtown Ada. I pray one day it gets back to the way it was. In the mean time, support your mom + pop. Buy local, small, American made, handmade, and direct from your farmer and rancher. Be kind and love your neighbor and pray for our country. I want us all to make it, for Him to heal our land and hearts, and to get through this together.
I also want to point out that regardless of what happens, God is still good. He is faithful. Our circumstances and outcomes aren’t always what we have in mind but I will continue to remain thankful for what I’ve been given and the rich friendships I’ve gleaned from this experience. I’ll continue to work hard and pour my heart into this business because it’s my responsibility to steward well. I don’t think He’s done with us yet.
God bless you all and Happy Thanksgiving from Farm Girl to you.
Current Photos by: Baleigh Creed Photography
Historic Photo: 1940s Ada, OK (if anyone knows the source please send it to me)