Friday, September 9, 2011

Why I love small businesses

I ran some errands yesterday afternoon and hit mostly the small businesses in town. I try my best to shop at the smaller stores but it's getting increasingly difficult to find those mom-and-pop places because they are getting swallowed up by the giant cookie-cutter retail chains. But yesterday reminded me why it's worth the extra effort.

First stop was the pharmacy. I ditched Walgreens a few years ago because it sometimes took them DAYS (despite the fact I was calling the pharmacy daily) to call my doctor when approval was needed for a refill and after this happened at least 3 times too many, I opted for the smaller pharmacy about a mile down the road. Initially I was hesitant to make the switch. I had never gone to another pharmacy other  than Walgreens. Were smaller pharmacies more prone to drug mistakes or charged more for medicine? But I found the prices cheaper and the customer service hard to beat.

I went in and found the technician pulling my prescription (I don't even have to tell  them my name anymore. They recognize me) and as she rang me up, she asked how my old lady cat was feeling these days. (My oldest cat is in congestive heart failure and has arthritis and she too, gets medicine from this place)  The pharmacy staff is always pleasant.Once I had a drug mix up and I called the pharmacist in a panic. She went above and beyond the call of duty to calm me down and looked up interactions and what not and told me my mistake wasn't the end of the world but to call my doctor regardless. Then she ordered me to call her back when I was finished talking to him for  the follow up. The next time I went in I thanked her profusely and got a hug. I don't  think I would have received that kind of service at Walgreens.

The next stop was the animal clinic to pick up food and more medication for the old lady cat. I've taken my animals to both the big and small clinics over the years and the small clinics win hands down. Granted, the small clinics do not treat the big emergencies or complicated illnesses like the one I had with the old lady cat, but they referred us to a state-of-the-art clinic. When I walked in the door I was greeted with the sight of the receptionists holding kittens. Evidently Thursday evenings are "ladies night" at the clinic, as there is no male staff after 3pm so the receptionists have been bringing their kittens in to work with them. How cute is that?

The veterinarian who sees old lady cat has become a friend and was there during that crisis where my vet friend was not only taking care of old lady cat, but me as well (She probably didn't realize she was going to be a little bit of a therapist during that time). She has loaned me her dog crate to use as a hospital room and now, a handicap zone for old lady cat. There is a litter box and cat bed in the crate so she doesn't have to go downstairs to use the box. Steps are hard on old lady cat legs. I've also become good friends with one of the receptionists and I look forward to going in and chatting with her, even if she is mean to me ;)

Next stop was the local hardware store. I'm not sure why the existence of the Lowe's and Home Depots of the retail world really bother me. I go out of my way to avoid the retail giants because I think the mom-and-pop hardware stores are the greatest. They offer a little bit of everything, including those odds and ends that don't quite fit the hardware store category.  I'm willing to pay the bit of extra money for my merchandise because I see the same staff who are usually friendly and helpful. I haven't had many positive experiences within the walls of the chain hardware stores. No one has walked me to the aisle where my item was located and I'm met with indifference at the register.

I'm a sucker for family owned restaurants, small grocery stores, gift shops, independent book stores and coffee shops. I love the small buildings (or houses), the merchandise not always found in a retail giant, the decor, the regulars who frequent these places. I think that's why I love small towns so much. You find more of the mom-and-pop stores and restaurants in these places versus the big cities. You get a feel for the town in these small businesses and more personalization and interaction as well.

It's not everywhere you frequent where there's a Thursday Ladies Night complete with kittens.


  1. I think we all want to be treated like the individuals we are. I worked at WalMart pharmacy for a time as a technician. The pharmacy manager for the district was constantly telling our pharmacist that she must increase business. He just didn't tell her how she was to accomplish this. I finally told them that the only thing to do was to be better at customer service than the competitor. Until they figure that out, customer loyalty will not exist. That is where the smaller shops have an edge.

  2. I agree. It seems like the bigwigs are more interested in how fast they can rake in the cash. Client/customer building takes time. To me, the quality is more important than quantity and you can see that in the big retail chains. So much crap that is often poorly made and it's all the same. Nothing unique. And incidentally, I think I would LOVE your campground. Its obvious you care about your campers and making sure they have a positive experience. :)

  3. Unfortunately, WalMart has murdered many a Mom and Pop here in Hillmomba.

  4. Hillbilly Mom - it's sad too. WalMart is good in the way that it provides jobs, but bad in that it also takes away jobs in closing down those small businesses. I think your nickname for the franchise is perfect.