Ten years ago if you had told me that I would be minding my own corner store, I would have laughed. If anything, perhaps I could have seen myself with a bookstore, as much as I have always loved to read. My life was always a very quiet life. Almost hermit-like really. It always has been and, to a certain extent, I envisioned it always would be. But life has a way of switching up on you. Of offering paths that lead to doors you never knew existed.
And so here I am. Luckily I was able to talk my brother into this rabbit hole with me. It is a crazy cast of characters that continue to lead us deeper into whatever this is that we have started. I say ‘whatever it is’ because there are some days that I flat out do not know what we are doing.
Our store exists in an unreal world where we get to create the rules along the way.
Take a look at the typical corner store in your neighborhood. It is a stagnant world. It is a place that can be operated by one or two people who confine themselves to a stool in the front. Perhaps they watch a small television screen all day while they wait for shift relief. Perhaps they exist in a heightened state of fear over a possible robbery so they sequester themselves behind bulletproof glass and eye everyone suspiciously as the doors open.
Our store is nothing like this. We are in constant movement. From the moment we open the doors in the morning until the sun goes down, we are juggling produce, sandwich menus, trying to locate new local businesses to bring new items into the store, managing administrative stuff that has us back and forth to City Hall, trying to get products on the shelves, setting up meetings, explaining the store to new customers, managing employees, cleaning up the place, brainstorming new ideas, etcetera etcetera.
All of the movement we do stems from one central question: How do we improve the health of a community?
It is the guiding principle. And yet, here we are five months into the store being opened and I can honestly say that the state of our own health has declined as we’ve tried to offer more to those we serve. I have lost the time I used to have to get up, go for a run, and then go to yoga. I used to meditate daily and really take time to myself. I read all the latest fiction. Those hours seem to have disappeared in a haze of bakery runs, opening procedures, and general stress about how to go about our day.
Some of this is expected. Starting one’s own brick and mortar business takes dedication and time. But we are not being dilettantes about this. The point of this store is about recognizing a healthy path and following it and we must be walking the path we are proselytizing.
There is a book we carry called A Life Unburdened by a gentleman named RIchard Morris. From the outside it looks like a simple weight loss book. The cover shows a silhouette of a shrinking man. When I read this book last year, before we even opened the store, I knew I wanted to keep it in stock. It is a candid depiction of a Black man who for years led his family toward unhappiness, complacency, and obesity and his waking up to the fact that life did not have to be so lived. He regained his inner strength and transformed his entire family by taking control of his health and losing over 200 pounds.
It is an inspiring and amazing journey. I spoke to Richard last year and he is a delightful person. He runs his own small farm in Virginia, has grown even closer to his wife and children, and sounds just plain happy. He chronicles this part of his life on his blog Barefoot Agrarian.
I bring up Richard because his journey reminds me that we always need to be making conscious decisions to keep ourselves in balance and healthy. Health does not just happen. Not in this country anyways.
Our store cannot continue on the path it is going without burning us out completely. Changes will be made to ensure that we can continue to grow this business and create a lasting enterprise that follows through on the commitment we made to the community.
We’re working on some things and will be communicating our changes in the near future. We might have shorter hours. We are definitely working on how to get our Pop Food section working more smoothly. But more importantly, we’re working on regaining our own health, getting some sleep so our brains can function, and taking the time to smell the dogwoods so to speak.
© 2012 The Boxcar Grocer.