Anyone been on Main Street lately? Anyone still have a Main Street where they live? Okay, let’s say it’s not called Main Street. Let’s just say it’s the main drag in town. You know, the place where all the stores are/were. Maybe it’s been a bit decimated by the whole online shopping/Amazon thing, but there must be a few stores left in town.
The news only gets worse on this street. Most of the merchants are baby boomers. About 2.4 million small businesses in this country are owned by boomers and they employ over 25 million people. A lot of these owners are at a crossroads. They want to retire but there’s no one to pass the business off to and not a lot of potential buyers.
So what. You can get everything you need from Amazon, right? True, but aren’t we going to miss being able to pick up the pipe wrench to see how hefty it is? Won’t you miss pushing hangers of blouses across the rack to find something perfect to wear that night? Isn’t it relaxing to browse the aisles of a good bookstore to find a book that’s new or that you want to read again?
I’m the offspring of a merchant. I watched how hard my father worked to make a living and how hard he tried to offer great service and value. As much as I respected his upstanding reputation in our small town, I knew I didn’t want to be in the line of succession. I ended up working in the public relations field but that didn’t stop me from making the idiotic decision to open up a small retail venture. The first lesson I learned was that I was the least expensive employee that the business had. That is I was unpaid.
Retail is tough. You’re on your feet all day, you have to deal with rude people while still smiling, and the profit margins are thin. Like my father, the baby boomers who own these small businesses would strongly urge their children not to take over the business, and instead pursue a professional career.
Where does that leave Main Street? It’s a You-Won’t-Miss-Us-Til-We’re-Gone situation. Someday soon, there are going to be a lot of vacant storefronts there. Maybe we’ll be satisfied with ordering something and getting it delivered by drone within the hour, but it just won’t be the same as walking up and down the aisles of creaking hardwood floors to appreciate the highly curated selection of goods someone has worked hard to create.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.