In this day of outsourced America, I believe in the power of owning a small business in small-town America. I must disagree with many of my local townspeople when they say, “Gone are the days of small business, Mary. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” They do make them like that anymore. And my husband and I are living proof. Both trained chefs, we left the big city seven years ago and returned to my hometown to open our own restaurant, and last year, a bakery. We knew it would be a struggle, an uphill battle. In a town full of restaurant chains void of any personality, we knew we were going out on a limb. But after all, that’s where the fruit is, right?
I believe in the power of working hard for something worthwhile. I believe in the power of sweat equity and knowing that everything that happens in my businesses is my job. I believe in the idea of calling my dairyman at 6AM when I forgot to order buttermilk and he assures me not to worry-he’ll be right over. I believe in knowing where our food comes from and the farmers who struggle to get it to us. I believe in knowing what Joe, a transplant from Brooklyn, will want each Wednesday when he drops off the New York Times Food Section. I believe in seeing the eyes of children light up as they try to decide, with their pudgy little hands all over my pastry case, which cupcake they’ll take home in a pink box. I believe in greeting each customer with a genuine “Good morning!” and ending the day with an equally genuine “Enjoy that loaf of bread with your family!” I believe in buying Tom, my organic flour man, a brioche after he’s taken the time to carry 20 bags of flour down two flights of stairs. He says, “Thank you ma’am. It’s all part of my job.”
Don’t get me wrong. Owning two small businesses in small-town America isn’t always easy. It’s not all smiles and pats on the back. It’s grumpy old ladies who complain about the multiple grains in their multi-grain loaves. It’s obnoxious men talking so loudly on their cell phones that my counter girl is unable to take their orders. It’s ill-mannered children accompanied by even more ill-mannered parents. It’s ladies in $300.00 eyewear playing the role but are who unable to tip a 20-year-old college student. It’s night bakers who enjoy their alcohol more than their bigas and call me from the county jail.
Each day is a struggle. Each night I’m exhausted. But it’s mine. And each dark morning when I arrive and each dark evening when I leave, I know I’m doing the right thing. I believe in it and it shows.
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