Last week, the darling young man who does odd jobs for me needed $50 worth of lumber to repair the fascia that the squirrels were busily gnawing through on my house. He said, “I’ll get the lumber from Big Box Chain Store. That’ll save you 15-20% over the little local hardware store.”
I smiled and sensed a teachable moment. I said, “I want the little local hardware store to stay in business. If everyone goes to the big box chain store, my little hardware store will go broke. Having it here enriches my life and my community. Spending 15 or 20% more to buy from a locally-owned store and make my community strong is worth the investment to me.”
He tilted his head. “I never thought about it that way,” he said.
He went to my little hardware store and bought the lumber. I supported my community.
A few days later, he returned to my little hardware store with the lid from an old can of paint we needed to match my soffit and fascia. He asked the paint manager to match it. The paint manager said, “This paint didn’t come from us. We could try to match it, but you can see on the can that it was purchased from the paint store down the road. They will have the exact formula you need in their records. You really ought to go there.”
That’s social responsibility on the part of my little hardware store paint manager. He knew that another store could meet my needs better than he could, so he acted with selfless honesty to serve his customer. I think my young handyman learned a lesson about supporting local small businesses from that experience.
But my story doesn’t end there.
Last week, my husband tried to fix a table lamp in our library. The lamp had stopped working. He tried a new bulb. Nope. He decided he would disassemble the lamp. He couldn’t get it apart, which is just as well because he wouldn’t have been able to put it back together.
I knew the lamp needed a new lamp kit. I knew I could install a lamp kit; I’d seen my dad do it, and because I am a woman, I will read directions when needed. But I couldn’t take the lamp apart because I didn’t have the strength in my hands to unscrew the nut from the lamp nipple. My husband brought me all the wrenches he had, but we couldn’t make any of them work.
I said, “I can’t do this now, but we can go to the hardware store tomorrow, and I can get someone there to help me unscrew it and sell me a lamp kit to fix it.”
No dice. Because my husband is not well, he was nervous and obsessing on the lamp. He needed the lamp fixed immediately. Part of my responsibility in taking care of him is eliminating as much stress from his life as possible, so I grabbed the lamp and said, “Come on, Kiddo. We’ll go to the little hardware store now.”
Since it was a Sunday afternoon, we were the only customers. The ONLY customers. Everyone else was at the big box store saving their 15 or 20%.
The two cashiers at my little hardware store were standing at their assigned posts. I handed the first cashier my lamp. “Here,” I said. “I don’t have the strength in my hands to unscrew this. Can you help me? And then sell me a lamp kit so I can go home and figure out how to fix it?”
The cashier unscrewed the nut from the nipple. Then, since not one other customer had come in, he went and got a lamp kit off the shelf, took it out of the package, and fixed my lamp. I grabbed a new light bulb and we tested the lamp. On. Off. On. Off. Yep. Good as new.
I paid for the lamp kit and the light bulb. Then I slipped my new friend a few dollars. “To take your sweetie out for a hamburger,” I said.
He smiled. “Thanks,” he said. “I will.”
Perhaps my local businesses cost a little more than the big box stores do, but they make my life much richer. The people. You know? They will send me to the local paint store if that would be better for me. They will help me fix my lamps. I will help them take their sweeties out for a burger. I will always support my small local businesses. I wish everybody would.