Two women were holding me up in the checkout. They fussed over two large black bags, asked the clerk if there were more. They’d found a good buy. While the clerk ask for help, one of the women went off in search of a folding table, leaving the other one to me. She apologized for the wait. No problem, I said.
She had the bright open face of someone I’d like to talk to, so I asked what the big black bags were for. They’re pizza delivery bags. My friend is opening a pizza shop next week, just up on Wilmot, she said. Brave, I said, with the economy.
Maybe, she said. But, people are beginning to buy my soaps again.
Yes, I make soap, scented soaps, with herbs and spices. I like to use real lard. I’ve had to go to vegetable oils because some women don’t like to use animal products. Oh, I said, like vegans? Yes, I think so.
We talked about making home-made rendered lard for our soaps (I used to make my own) and beef tallow. She likes the texture. So do I, but I don’t go to the trouble now and I don’t have any hogs to butcher. Neither does she. We laughed.
When the recession got bad people went back to cheap soaps, from the grocery, she said, but now they’re coming back to my nice soaps.
That’s a good sign, I said. If they’re willing to spend more for your pampering soaps, that’s good. I think so she said, and so does my friend. She’s not waiting to open her pizza shop.
The other women came back and we talked more small business stuff. They’d held me up at least fifteen minutes, and I was loving every minute of it. We shared a lot of values. I was always a small business person, and understood their challenges, and joys. It was encouraging to see two women so upbeat about the economy.
I also liked it that they were shopping for business stuff at Big Lots, looking for bargains, watching the bottom line, just as I always had, week in week out, month in month out. Frugality is often the difference between success and failure in a small business.
Oh, did I mention, they were both women of color? These women would not have been running their own businesses a few decades ago, more recently in the South, maybe even now. But here in the West, land of opportunity, they were making a go of it, and enjoying the process. And they felt comfortable, seemed to enjoy, sharing with a White man. I know this doesn’t seem remarkable to many of you, but I can remember seeing water fountains signed, “Whites Only”, and not so many years ago, “Employees Only” signs in Virginia, that were open to us, because we were White.
I wished them well and they thanked me. Small things can make my day. Twenty minutes some people would have thought lost, but to me is was the gem of my day. I will remember them. And I’ll probably try to find that pizza place on Wilmot.
Oh. Hot tip. Invest in small companies catering to the middle class. The turn-around is near.