Terry is back out in the field, and has sent in this recent report in Terry’s on going series.
Inspired by a visit to Terry’s 23rd class reunion (it’s Terry and I’ve quit asking.)
Nonetheless, with a respectful nod to Theodor Seuss Geisel, “this isn’t a story about Here. It isn’t a story about There. It’s a story about Everywhere”. – Editor
Dear Fellow Travelers,
And now, a wise fable by the prolific author and DiscoverAdel.com correspondent, Terry Traveler.
In a small town many miles from a large metropolis, sat a small town grocery store along a beautiful scenic byway. The store had been built in the earliest economic fervor by a wealthy family man and prominent community icon. The store was modest yet extensive, offering all that the local patronage could want and more: a meat department with highly trained butcher, hot and cold deli items, freshly made baked goods, quality produce and household odds and ends. The store was also a gathering place for all who lived nearby and soon became a wonderful hotbed for local gossip, politics, and general busybody activities.
Over the years the store prospered and became the best place for school kids to learn customer service and the meaning of hard work. The leadership was handed down from family member to family member and with each new generation changes were made to continue to meet customer needs. Soon the store needed to expand, and the town was a buzz as construction crews added hundreds of square feet to the store and parking lot. The ribbon cutting was well attended and all were awed by the clean, well-lit store.
Years past and times changed. The beautiful scenic byway became a popular tourist attraction and soon a fast food restaurant opened along the exit ramp. For the first time, the store was simply profitable, and bonuses were skimmed to meet margins. But fast food could never contend with the human need for locally grown produce and feminine hygiene products and the store prevailed. But dark clouds were churning on the horizon.
The profitable fast food drive-thru drew the attention of competing chains and soon the exit ramp was filled with various options of cheap, fast, and questionably good food. The family grocery store attempted to compete by extending its hours. Now open 24 hours, store management was tasked with employing the store at all hours, and with so many options, school age employees were hard to come by. In an attempt to satisfy everyone and the mighty dollar, 20-year veterans of the grocery store were forced to work long shifts and holidays. Soon the most dependable employees found reason enough to retire, and a new wave of management, no longer associated with the original family, set in.
This the grocery store could have withstood, had it not been for the dark horse of a big box chain opening just a few miles away. The small grocery store began to worry- it could not compete with the surprisingly low prices and blue light specials. Month after month customers were siphoned to the mega store as the grocery store struggled. Quality customer service remained the top priority, but dirty shelves and floors could not be ignored and the quality of products dropped sharply. Attempting to save money, management changed suppliers and limited the number of items ordered. Customers began to complain of rotten produce, overpriced meat, and limited selection. With each complaint frustration seemed to seep deeper and deeper into the staff and soon the high quality customer service was witnessed only by the loyal yet limited patronage.
For the first time in 52 years the store lost money, and the trend continued until the store mournfully announced it would close after 55 years of service. Loyal customers swept through the store and purchased all that the shelves contained at 80-90% off. On the final day the 5 customers who visited wept. They had been the first customers to walk through the doors 55 years ago; had stocked the shelves to pay their way to college, and the bare walls and vast emptiness erased all the happy memories of times past.
The land was purchased by another large chain and the building was demolished with nary a witness to its demise. Within a few months multiple chains had filled the space and few remembered the tiny grocery store that had been the backbone of the community. Soon the town began to atrophy, with large developments drawing attention away from the center of town and those who visited the beautiful scenic byway saw no need to tour its namesake.
Today valiant yet vain attempts, made by the few determined townsfolk, are made to drawn attention back to the community but the illuminated luster of the so-called convenient store cannot be beat. The townsfolk continue to ask where they went wrong; why their children have no ties to home and move from the community; what could have been done differently but few are willing to admit that the town had sold its soul for the reduced prices of greasy food and convenience.