The Small Business Saturday after Black Friday has been gaining momentum in the past few years. I try to make a habit to shop in non-corporate stores as much as I can and in Mount Pleasant we are blessed with some wonderful small businesses. Unfortunately, we don’t have an independent bookseller, although there are a few in the wider area. We do have a Barnes and Noble and I do patronize the store, I appreciate the teacher discount card and the fact that I can have a decent browsing experience. At one time I knew one of the managers by name, we had worked on a joint project together, but she is no longer with the company . While the employees are generally helpful, they don’t know me from Adam and there isn’t a connection.
Contrast what I observed in My Sister’s Books in Pawley’s Island. This store is an interesting place run by sisters. They only deal in paperbacks and audio books. There is a mix of new and used and it would literally take days to browse all the shelves. As I sat by my signing table I was struck by how many customers the owners greeted by name. It was obvious they had many regular and long-standing costumers who loved to trade in books, buy books and talk books. I also observed a family with husbands, wives, and children, spending their Thanksgiving at the beach, come in and all family members found a book or two. So many readers! I met a mystery author a children’s author and a photographer who had a book of stunning photos all taken at Pawley’s.
I met a mystery author, a children’s author and a photographer who had a book of stunning photos all taken at Pawley’s. We had all been invited to celebrate the Small Business Saturday. I even managed to shop for a few books while I was there. I enjoyed answering questions about my book and why I got into writing. I also enjoyed discussing other books and genres with readers. It was truly an enjoyable experience.
The big lesson I took away from the experience is the connections small businesses can make with customers makes the business so much more than buying and selling. The owners of My Sister’s Books are truly passionate about reading and they know what their customers want. I saw one of the sister’s go and pull a book for a customer and saw the delight of that customer to be treated so personally. I would hope the employees a the big box bookseller would also be passionate about books. I know they are locals who are glad to be employed, but I get the sense their enthusiasm or drive to know their customers is lost in the corporate mindset they are trained with.
I think in the times we are living in, the only way to improve the state of the world, our nation, our state, our community and even our neighborhoods is through personal connections. Not through social media, but face to face contact, sharing our interests and our passions. Getting to know each other on a more intimate level, so we can have empathy and understanding for each other. I know if I had a choice between two businesses and one of them had gone out of their way to be friendly, or remember me, or to treat me as a person, not a dollar sign, that is the business I will return to again and again.
Small things add up to big things and do I dare say, could change the world.