I have done all these things and yet, I feel like I'm failing.
I said it.
Ever Monday, I hand out checks to my four part-time, two full-time employees and the baker. Every week, I juggle which supplier has to be paid right now, who can wait until later. I just found out yesterday we owe our most relaxed supplier, gourmet cheeses and meats, $1500. Every week, I can't afford to both pay my overhead AND replace the inventory that I've sold.
It's fucking depressing.
Why is this happening? Despite produce prices and deli prices being the same as Wal-Marts (who incidentally, is not down the street, but a solid 25 minute drive away), despite Water Vallians swearing up and down that all they wanted was another grocery store, despite me adding everything that's made sense: sandwiches, deli items, casseroles, soups, ice cream, yeast rolls, and now, breakfast.... people just won't buy at my store.
They'll buy a few tomatoes. Or a cookie. Or a two-dollar sandwich. Or a bottle of milk, a loaf of bread, two packages of meat and cheese. But they won't wheel a cart around the store and buy groceries. Because, somehow, we don't sell groceries in people's minds. We're not big enough, with numbered aisles, and plastic bags, and a mammoth parking lot.
Here's what it would take: 100 people spending about $50+ per week on groceries with me. The lunch and breakfast and random drop-ins would take care of the rest.
I can count 100 people who all live within a mile of my store.
But they drive to Wal-Mart or Kroger, 25 minutes away, instead.
It's maddening. It's heartbreaking. It haunts my dreams and makes me cry and diminishes my time with my family because I have a huge albatross on my shoulder all the fucking time.
Why don't I just quit?
Because I'm an optimist at heart. Because I have employees who use the money I give them to put food on their tables (sometimes, even bought at my store). Because it would gut the optimism on my town's Main Street-- we're not the only new business.
Because some weeks, we're so close.
But it's been 16 months now, and we're going into fall and winter-- a food-retail desert, I've discovered-- with no reserves.
I wonder if we'll still be open come spring.