Sunday, February 12, 2012

The beginning of Something

My cousin Nick is coming for a visit today and he has brought New England with him: it's like 18 degrees out there. RIDICULOUS. I secede.

This week has maybe, potientally, been a game-changer, and I can't talk about it yet. So there. I'm excited, though. Change is good. Change is how you get what you want.

I was reading manager blogs yesterday on tips how to fire people-- uh-huh-- and came across a piece of wisdom that I will paraphrase: the right person in the job can increase productivity by a factor of 5. So don't settle for the almost-right person, because they're hurting your business.

Well, that explains my cook's impact... she is right, and she has impacted my business in an exponential kind of way. Plus she makes Annaliese lunch every day.

We had a completely average week at the store last week. No special events, no crazy surge of shoppers, no holidays to boost sales (other than Valentine's Day, which did sell a few extra cupcakes). And yet we paid our own way. We hit a number in sales that seems unremarkable now--- average, even-- and yet, it's what I was thrilled to get to last spring. There is growth, is what I'm saying. There is growth. People from outside the community still ask me often-- are you doing ok? Is there demand for a little store like this, with imported pasta and cane-sugar sodas and organic yogurt?

It hasn't been a slam dunk. But apparently, slowly, one elderly lady swearing my apples are the best, or the bank teller telling me yesterday that the grass-fed local rib-eyes have the best flavor, or the old guys eating biscuits and gravy on Saturday morning, at a time, there is.

There are not a lot of locavores in this town. There are very few rich people. But everyone wants two things: their food to taste good or cost less. Its definitely and either/or.

We try to appeal to both. On different items. Hence the 99 cent/lb apples and the imported pasta.

I super love selling food.

Most of my customers still shop at supermarkets, but the longer I spend away from Kroger or Whole Foods, the more repellent I find them. People tell me every day they have to go there for --- fill-in-the-blank-- brand, and I nod, but whatever. A brand is a brand. I'm kind of happy leaving all that targeted marketing, that deceptive "freshly baked!" labeling, that generic versus name-brand ingredient scrutinizing, behind. We don't have as many options in our shopping as Krogerites, but on the other hand, I know exactly where my food is coming from. I know precisely where the money I spend in little stores go. And shockingly, the assumption that prices are higher mostly isn't true. It's true on brands. Not true on produce, or bread, or coffee, or other staples.

And that's not just my store. K and I went to a little hipster market in Portland last summer and then we went to Whole Foods. The little hipster market's produce was across the board more varied, more local, and cheaper than Whole Foods.

I wish everyone would eat small. The world would change.


I can really go on about groceries as of late.


Family? Kids are great. Caspian is eating like a horse and has the body of a future boxer and now weighs a pound less than his sister, who still has half-a-head of height on him. He seems wildly popular in this town. Yesterday we left them at the church for a youth event and when we came to pick them up, he was getting touted by all the big kids, who were trying to orchestrate his winning at musical chairs. He also snuggled up to me this morning and told me how happy he was it was family day. And he's completely potty-trained -- at 2 and a half-- with very little effort from me. Caspian's awesome.

Annaliese has been a champ lately at the store, and at French lessons, which she adores. Twice a week at 11am she runs up the stairs behind the store to Madeleine's apartment and gets tutored by this very hip arty girl in French. She comes back down and our cook makes her tell us something in French before she gets her lunch. She then takes her lunch and flies down to the front of the store, where she usually watches a cartoon and eats her sandwich, carrots, and pickles at her little desk in front of the window. Sometimes she disappears next door to the dress shop and watches Miss J. cutting fabric, or I'll find her in the kitchen with Miss C., icing a cookie.

It's a charmed life. She's pretty independent at the store, because she has to be; I'm working. It's harder having her there, but conversely, she seems to be thriving. And she is learning to love her vegetables.

And K.? K is handsome and funny and last night we had a true Mississippi date: after dropping the kids off at the church party and before the art council event we were slated to attend, we got take-out crawfish from the little former gas-station down the road and then pulled pork sandwiches from the trailer that sells BBQ on the weekends next to Sonic. We grabbed the one can of beer in our fridge and sat in the booths of my store, getting spices and BBQ sauce all over our hands. K's good.

I am anxious for spring because I want to plant my sunflowers and zinnias and morning glories and crazy heirloom squashes and melons.

We are going to be harvesting our first rabbits this week.

The daffodils are out.

Have a great week!


Anonymous said...

You are soooo right about food and supermarkets and our brainwashing---.There's an article there,alexe---expand on it.
and really--food is the ultimate politics.
I'm so proud of you. Your voice is true--

Vinnie+ said...

Rarely are truer words written...or spoken, for that matter. Food is almost the whole deal, when you think about it...which you have and do. If we can't feed our bodies, then the rest of it doesn't really matter. Van says this will be a time in history when it will be said that human beings weren't allowed to eat real food, weren't allowed to eat...scary thought.

What you do matters. Hugely. I too am so proud of you. And more, I am proud to know you.