March 21, 2021- I happened by two very different friends’ shops, last night. One, which features coffee, wine, olive oil and balsamics, with a small sampling of fresh-baked breads and scones, had a musical trio playing for a couple of hours. I have been a friend to the owner and her family, for about five years. In the course of our conversation, the topic of inflation and its effect on small businesses, arose. There are the obvious concerns that would need to be considered: Wage increases, rental costs, insurance premiums, maintenance of facilities and equipment, pricing, housing and transportation-for both the owners and employees. There are as yet unseen factors, such as the cost of keeping up with business-related technology and of environmental events, which will impact the enterprise.
The second place I visited is a vegetarian/vegan coffee, tea and chocolate cafe, which also offers CBD Oil, herbs and medicinal compounds. It is a hangout for musicians who like to jam, on Saturday nights. I brought my hand drum and a couple of rattles, and joined a small group of guitar players, flautists and a didgeridoo master. As the manager was solo, behind the counter, a couple of us pitched in and helped clean some drinking vessels and steamers. The owner of this enterprise is less concerned about inflation, which she approaches by keeping a communal mindset, with regard to staffing, maintenance and supply chain. The “tribe” man the counter (for reasonable wages, of course), help keep equipment in working order and grow much of what goes into the cafe’s fare.
There are similarities and differences, in the realities faced by both owners. Both are single adults, who recently lost their life partners. Both have a strong work ethic and a sense of entrepreneurship. Both are what may be called “Compassionate Conservative”, with a strong sense of tradition and self-reliance. The main difference lies in their view of community. One has a strong circle of friends, who keep her buoyant, and know that she has a solid commitment to their well-being, as they do to hers. The other has the potential for growing into a similar place, but has been a bit more sheltered, and is still honing her sense of trust, as well as being in a newer community, which is itself still evolving.
I began to feel the pain of the latter friend, and while not being in a place to offer long-term, day-to-day assistance, in resolving her difficulties, I will at least lend a shoulder and pair of hands to help her get organized for the challenges that are anticipated.
Each of us encounters the pain next door, in some form or another. As one who has often lived in “islander” status, during this pandemic year, I can see, going forward, that being hands on, in helping to relieve at least some of that pain, is the only recourse.