The shop, our shop, was more than a business-it was an extension of us. I suspect all small businesses are more heart and soul than numbers, spread sheets, and "bottom lines."
Certainly, never enter into a business without thinking in terms of making it profitable and professional; otherwise, that venture, that dream, will fail. But even with an eye always towards practicality, it is the passion that will sustain it and you the longest. We never lost our passion, but practicality finally beat it into submission-with good reason. We ran out of the green that is vital to surviving as a viable business.
Understandably, most folks see a shuttered business as before-and-after process. One day it's open; then it's closed. Perhaps the community feels empathy, and maybe even a personal loss, as another bit of the local community "ain't der no more." Yet, it looks to be a two-part deal-either open or closed; it's lights out, bye-bye. But it is not that simple as flipping the OPEN sign to CLOSED. The closing of the enterprise is so painful, drawn out, and personal. There is much that happens before the lights are turned off.
If anything was learned from our years with the shop (and much was, albeit much too late), it was the insight into what goes into working a small business-be it a hardware store, dress shop, eatery, or bookstore. And now for the third time, we are learning much about closure-for the very last time. Twice before, the shop was dismantled and moved, which was physically hard work, along with bittersweet farewells to the buildings that had become home to us and our customers.
Hell, I remember my tears as the toilet was taken out from what was no more than a funky courtyard outhouse in our shop's Toulouse Street location. For ten years, I bitched about that restroom, and it was no longer ours. You get attached to stuff
Opening a business, be it for the first time or at a new location, supplies you with enough adrenaline to climb the highest mountains. You are working towards something. Closure, however, at least in our case, stirs up regrets: the could've/should've of doing things differently, the what-ifs, the guilt, and a sense of failure. Then, there
is the anger.
Yep, I am angry. I speak only for myself. I will not put anger into my partner's legacy-but since I kind of know him well (he is my sweetie/my husband). I do know he takes this entire thing personally. But I will own the anger by myself. Oh, and also, the cat is angry.
She elevated herself from feral to shop cat and worked hard to earn this position and the benefits that came with it. She will be saying goodbye to her domain with all the space, nooks, and crannies a feline could ever wish for. I have never seen a shop cat or dog take such a proprietary pride in its surroundings like she does. Now she will
have to come live with us in a small house with three other rather surly cats. I am
angry for her.
With the loss of anything or anyone there are stages a person goes through. For me, the anger lies just below the surface pretty much all the time. The anger at the overall lack of local awareness and support-especially from those who know and love us. This is followed by guilt for my not being a better consumer and cultural advocate for all that is uniquely New Orleans. I have promised myself, and the gods of Karma, that I will double down on my own efforts to practice what I preach, so, I guess, this comes under the stage of "lessons learned."
And then there is the polar opposite of the anger-be it righteous or petty-the humbling gratitude to those who did rally around us-those who gave, not only their consumer dollars, but their time and moral support. Tourists, visitors, and travelers have been our constant in terms of purchasing clout. Furthermore, these folks that walked into our shop as strangers left as friends more times than not. We have been blessed with tourists who take the time to research a town before visiting.
I'm also thankful for the generous support of food writers, bloggers, and social media as well as print media. Plus, there are the customers who Yelped, rated us, and shared our shop to others. I appreciate all of this, and more, for making us kind of famous-in a small quirky way. Due to this, we became better known. For example, we were more popular in Australia than in Uptown. These shout-outs sustained us longer than our advertising budget, or lack there of,
could ever have.
I've complained that we never could garner a viable local trade. We were situated for 15 years in the Quarter and understood the difficulties locals experience in trying to find parking there. When we relocated to an area centrally positioned, with abundant free parking, we thought our popularity with New Orleanians would grow. Well, we were wrong. Perhaps this is simply our poor timing, as Amazon is usurping consumer dollars from almost every brick-n-mortar business.
With all this said, I would be remiss and downright wrong not to say, "Thank you," to those locals who did go above and beyond to promote and support us. While we had yet to tap into a large enough trade locally, we were treated dearly by those that did walk through the doors and by local media and culinary crusaders. Bless y'all for your generosity.
Hopefully, one day someone will say, "Remember that funky little cookbook shop?" Perhaps they'll recall all the magic and love that we put into our shop. Here's hoping so.