Tuesday, August 12, 2008

They Did.

Well, it's official. Night Owl Records is no longer.
Pirate's Den is done.
Paradise-One is zero.
Female Spirit has lost theirs.
Zoe has gone fishing.
Blue Moon Grocery's moon has set.

So what's going on with Cottage Street, small biz in Easthampton, and the great renaissance in our quaint little hamlet?

As Easthampton arguably began its resurgence from the success of Northampton, becoming a nearby affordable alternative for small businesses and home shoppers, so it seems to be going the way of its big sister. The downtown, along with its two biggest abandoned mills, finds itself in need of fresh money, energy, ideas, and enthusiasm. Instead of cool little shops like Crooked House and the Goodlander Gallery, it's Stop and Shop and a few chain stores to be named later. Let's face it, although the economy might not be quite as bad as the media paints it to be, people are definitely feeling the pinch of the rising prices of everything, particularly fuel for their gas and oil tanks. Times, they are indeed, tough.

Do I have all the answers to turning the tide, to jumpstarting the next 'up cycle' of growth? Will the city's new 'master plan' hold the keys to the promised land? No, and I hope so, but probably not. You can lead a horse to water, and even make the water easier to get to, but you still can't make them drink it.

Starting a business is difficult. It's stressful, financially fraught with peril, and hugely time-consuming. Success, in my school of knocks opinion, is a delicate mix of the right idea, at the right time, with the right knowledge, and a ton of hard work. It's about doing your homework before you sign anything, be it a lease, P&S, bank loan, or that first credit app. Starting your own business means saying goodbye to that steady paycheck, benefits (although I realize those are fleeting), and a structured work week. Success can bring with it even longer hours and new pressures. Further, failure can put you in a financial hole that could take years to crawl out of. That's why few who dream it actually do it.

That's also why rather than dwell on the seemingly sorry state of local economics and these so-called victims of its wrath, I feel inspired by them.

They didn't just dream. They did. They followed that passion that burned in their belly. They took those thoughts and piles of post-it notes from morning coffees and daydreams during drives to their cubicle-based jobs and made plans. They found a way to make it real. They created something from nothing. They injected their souls and sweat wholly into something they believed in.

Why did they do it?

Because they loved music and wanted to be around it all the time and to share it.

Because they loved to cook and wanted to make others happy with food.

Because they believed same-sex couples should have a place to live that was luxurious and non-threatening.
Because they wanted their professional life to represent something more than a paycheck and a pension.

Sure, things didn't pan out the way they'd envisioned. But each moves on a little wiser, with a life experience under their belt that no one can ever take away from them. In hindsight, perhaps they would have done a few things differently, but I feel confident to say none regret having put their chips on the table. The memories they've created and the impact they've had on others is truly the reward. Would each love to be contemplating such problems like franchising, second stores, and new product lines? Sure. Do any regret having tried? I doubt it. Mark Schwaber wrote about it in his usual eloquent style here. I think he put it best...

These past 5 years have been remarkable. We've learned more about ourselves, our community and our world than we ever could have if we had chosen another line of work. Not for one second do we regret any decision we've made. We don't consider this venture a failure in any way. Quite the opposite. We feel completely fulfilled. This store has come full circle. It was started (and will finish) with all the love we have to give. It's made our lives together forever enriched. Words fail when it comes to fully communicating our gratitude to all of you who were involved in taking this wonderful journey with us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you all.

How's that for not leaving anything on the table.

Rain and shuttered shops be darned, I'm inspired.

1 comment:

Tommy said...

Excellent!