In a world where free 2-day shipping has become the norm, we find ourselves becoming more programmed toward instant gratification. I’m not pointing fingers. As someone with several chronic health issues I order online as often as possible to avoid too much physical strain. It is more than just a convenience for me, but I can definitely get carried away.
For instance, waiting 3 or more days for shipping seems a little crazy. If I can’t get it within 2 days I may look elsewhere. Also, I don’t really like to pay for shipping. It’s a little irrational. I want the convenience, yet I somehow feel like the seller should be paying to ship something to me for the courtesy of my purchase. This is made further nonsensical by the fact I have sold items on eBay and know from personal experience that you either charge your buyer the actual cost to ship the item to them, or you offer free shipping but then somehow work that cost into the price of the item. Why? Because you are a small business not a charity, and shipping is expensive and can quickly absorb most of your profit if you cover the costs on your own. So, I know how this works from personal experience as a seller, but as a consumer, I still tend to want what I want when I want it.
Yet here we are, in - yes you know it by heart, “unprecedented times” - struggling as a human race to survive this pandemic. From the first we have heard how this could destroy the small businesses in our communities and most of us have watched at least some of our favorite places close their doors indefinitely or permanently. Surely this has helped us become even more aware of the importance of buying local, shopping small, and trying to do our part to support our communities. Even for those like myself who may not get out every day, I still want the places I love to be around when I go to them. Towns like New Hope, Peddler’s Village, Phoenixville, and West Chester (to name a few) hold a special place in my heart. I don’t want them to be boarded up when I’m ready to enjoy and explore.
It can be hard to choose who earns our business when there are so many options available, in so many convenient forms, and at a number of price points. No one wants to pay more than they should for something – more than they feel it is worth certainly, and it can be hard to decide how to invest your money. We might be opposed to certain practices of some larger box stores, but then find it hard to pay 20-50% more for something at another retailer just to avoid supporting the box store. Worse is sometimes we can not afford to spend that extra money.
You might find a gorgeous sweater at a small boutique but balk at a $100 price tag when you have seen something similar at someplace like Kohls for $30. It can be really hard to justify that extra money to oneself (or one’s spouse). The boutique is only one store and not a chain. It has overhead to consider and isn’t getting the same bulk pricing on – well everything – that a regional or national chain will. The boutique item may have been handcrafted, or at the very least locally sourced or made in the US. Chances are the materials will be finer which is important when comparing. Return policies will probably not be as liberal at the boutique, and likely not as convenient. But personal service is probably more obvious at a smaller store.
Sometimes it all comes down to loyalty. When you find someone who provides a good product or service for you – especially repeatedly, over time – you tend to want to stick with that person/business. Tim is huge on that type of loyalty. Our auto mechanic is a good example for this. Tim swears by our mechanic. He has worked on all of our vehicles for as long as I can remember. They do a great job maintaining and repairing not only our vehicles but also generators and related items. The guys there are always very friendly with me and our kids and have provided rides to us in the past when it’s not really a part of their regular service. Now in all honesty, I feel like we spend a fortune servicing our vehicles, and it’s one of those things I can’t get excited about spending money on even though I know it is a necessity. I always feel a little stunned by the bill even though they are great about estimating and we always feel that we get what we pay for in that Dave is honest about the services needed, provides them in a timely manner, and discusses ways to reduce the cost whenever that’s a possibility. The bottom line is that we trust him, and you don’t really want people cutting corners when repairing your vehicle to save a few bucks. So, whenever anyone anywhere (literally, anywhere) is talking about a vehicle that needs any type of service, we say, “Take it to Kanaskie’s”. Because they have always taken care of us and we appreciate that, and it has instilled loyalty. And it’s the same with our accountant, our printer, our auto body shop, our mill, our computer repair person, our website folks, etc.
You guys might not know this, but we’re a small business (ha-ha). Tim’s dad started the company in the 1970’s, started Tim in the summers at age 12, and since then it has included his brother, our nephews and our son and daughter. I even painted alongside himself for a few memorable months back in ’95 – we each have our own side of the story on why that didn’t become a long-term thing (and I’m a fairly decent painter, btw). We have had several other people on and off through the years, and Mark definitely shines through as a great catch for us. But in general, we have found it hard to find reliable help who are also skilled, sober, and good with our customers. It is definitely a problem in the trades and one of the reasons we will always be a “small shop”.
It is important to Tim and always has been to do a thorough job for our customers. He believes in being thorough with prep, removing all the rotten wood, and using quality materials. He doesn’t mind (and even enjoys) doing little extra things just to be nice, but when estimating a job has learned the importance of being thorough to determine how long it will really take to do everything that needs to be done and do it right. As most of you know, that usually means our price ends up on the higher end of the spectrum. It’s a hard position to be in, especially if things are slow and you really need a job to come in, but as a business owner you have to consider all pertinent expenses and you have to try not to undercut yourself. Sometimes people are surprised at the cost and aren’t always prepared to spend that much – especially on say, interior house painting. But we know this is what it takes for us to do the job right. We completely understand that the cost is a big consideration – that it is an investment, really – and we don’t try to downplay that. Tim will often tell people that they can likely get it done for half the price (sometimes less) by calling someone else. He can also tell you what to look out for as you may sometimes have issues with that lower price. But still, he tries to keep an open line of communication.
The point is, we are not Bloomingdale’s, but we are also not Walmart. We’re more like that little shop down the road selling everyday staples but also offering artisan cheeses and homemade soups and sandwiches. We are less expensive than Bloomingdale’s, more than Walmart, and hopefully we provide a trust and service you have grown accustomed to and that is why we still have a working relationship today.
Unlike many businesses, we have been extremely fortunate this year. We've kept our newsletter going and keeping you updated on us. You guys have really come through and we have stayed busy and kept our crew busy through most of this madness and have work scheduled into the winter as well. It is not an overstatement to say that we are feeling extremely blessed and thankful for your continued support and business. We hope that we can continue to work together for many years to come and that you will continue to provide referrals to friends and family as you have in the past.
Please also know that your loyalty and the current situation around us has made us more thoughtful of our local community and entrepreneurs. Being more supportive of those around us to help them stay in business and keep the towns we love thriving is imperative and we will be keeping this in mind much more during this holiday season and in the new year. When you think about it, even better than 2-day shipping is same day pick-up right at your local store. So, maybe we can try to make every day Small Business Saturday?