I’m sitting in a neat little bookstore and coffee shop — a cosy little nook off the main drag in a small town just outside of Louisville. The owner said they closed at 6, but she didn’t mind me and Katie hanging around for a little while longer while she caught up with clean up and closing.
There are Christmas carols playing on the radio, Katie is playing with their Lego table set and I’m writing a bit. Other than the owner, there’s no one else here. It feels very much like a storybook place from a good book. The mix of old books, roasting coffee beans and ancient hardwood floors sings a General Store tune with the clang of a spittoon to keep the rhythm.
When we came in, technically right at closing, there were two older couples, certainly friends of the owner, enjoying post-dinner coffee. A neighbor came in with a fluffy dog. Another patron smiled and chatted a bit then bid everyone goodnight as the 6:12 train from the Ford plant moseyed by on the tracks out front.
As I sat taking in the atmosphere I looked down at my phone which alerted me of an online sale somewhere. My email included two entries from Amazon. A news headline floated by about a big-box retailer.
And I thought to myself, “How can places like this survive?”
The answer is social media, but not social media the way you or even I really think of it. Successful small businesses almost always are so because the owner builds a relationship and reputation with his or her neighbors and friends. You can trust them because you know them. Sure, good marketing, advertising and the like will find their way into the mix. But it’s connecting with other human beings, illustrating not just a business value but a relationship value and doing both consistently that will save the little guy.
And maybe, just maybe, the masses will grow weary of the noise, the crowds and the cost of buying big, buying online and being blared at and find a cosy little nook to get what they need.