Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Doing Our Part On Small Business Saturday Weekend

Small Business Saturday was yesterday.  It is the day that American Express started last year to promote shopping locally through their OPEN program for small business owners.

A super sized company with a great idea that affects the local merchant in a good way.  A rare thing this is.  American Express may have started out promoting its OPEN small business unit, but what has happened has been the promotion of all small businesses.

More often than not we head for the plaza, or the mall to "cluster shop".  Cluster shopping is attacking ones list by shopping in places that offer most everything on the list.  Large stores like Target, Walmart, Macy's, Sears and Kohls are places where ones list can be completely crossed off in a short amount of time.  Small Business Saturday is designed to introduce people to the small local businesses that carry many of the things on your list, but not everything.  For that you will have to visit a few places.  Most of the time, when you are only looking for that one particular thing, a local, non-national store will have what you are looking for.

Supporting small, local businesses keeps our money local, and not in a bank in Bentonville, Arkansas.

We try to do a lot of our regular shopping locally.  For those things that aren't offered up the street, we do stray to a large chain as much as we want to support the small businessperson.  Somethings just can't be had at the local business level, but for those things that are, we're all over them.

We have been looking for a new washer and dryer for sometime.  Each time we are in Home Depot, or Sears,  we look over what is offered, and remember the prices.  We don't intend to buy a big ticket item there, but will take the information with us, and shop locally.  I did that on Friday at Whitco in Spencer, and yesterday Mary and I went over there again to check out my choices.

She was pleased.  (whew)

Sometimes a local business can't compete with Sears for big ticket items like a snow blower.  The local dealer may be able to offer a snow blower for less than what it usually sells for if offered on sale, but you can be sure that the big store will offer it for far less.

What does one do?  $1250.00 vs. $825.00 for similar machines.  As supportive of local business as I am, the answer is clear, I will go with the significantly lower price, provided the quality is similar.  Last month, I did just that, and went to Sears and bought a Craftsman snow blower on sale.  This time the national guy won my business.

Keep in mind, I'm a yankee, frugal by nature, and although supportive as all get out for the local guy, I am a bit more supportive for the little guys in my wallet, like Franklin, and Jackson.

Yesterday, after leaving Spencer we planned on driving up to Gardner, Mass, to check out the furniture stores in "Chair City".  Gardener, long known for furniture manufacturing, sells a lot of furniture as well.  This would be my first time shopping in Gardner.

We had been to all the local shops, Charlton furniture, Sturbridge Furniture each time it opened and "closed forever" over the past couple of years.  Rotmans in Worcester, Bernie and Phyl's,  Bob's, and Jordans Furniture we hit last, and sometimes several times, but we still did not find what we were looking for.

So, off to Gardner, an hour north.  The drive was nice, and the first store, Rome's, was easy to find.  Family owned since 1945, our salesman, Bob, was very helpful, answered our questions, and stayed in the background as we looked for the items that had been eluding us forever.

First up was a living room chair, a Queen Ann type, that slightly reclined.  Most that we had seen were ugly, too big, and offered in only one color.  This store had several, good looking ones that came in any fabric or color we wanted.  Choice, quality, non-ugly furniture, and it was a family owned small business!  We found one, put it on the list, and then went looking for an upholstered chair for a bedroom.  Not far away, and after several months of looking, we found not one, but two!

We were striking gold.  The variety, amount of inventory, and choices this store gave were beyond what is offered in Worcester, Shrewsbury, or Natick.  Amazing for a small business.  The big ticket item was a dining room set.  Rotmans had mostly, if not all veneer top tables, and although they are pretty to look at, they aren't meant for everyday use, and could be easily damaged.  The solid wood tables were priced beyond reason, and the store offered little choice.  Same at Jordans, and Bernie and Phyl's.  This store, Rome Furniture Center,  offered many sets, and although we found two excellent ones, the price was a bit beyond our budget.  The salesman then referred us to another store in town, The Factory Coop, their sister store around the corner.

At the Factory Coop we found a solid wood set made by Amish furniture makers in Ohio, and the price was half of that offered by the large stores.


We spoke to the salesman, Kevin, and the stores manager for a long time, and they assured us that our preferences for color, wood, and style would be adhered to, and they went to extraordinary lengths in writing up the order.

So, this weekend we supported the small business person very well.  Our choices were better, and our prices were much better.  Quality, and service were just as good, if not better than the big boys.  All in all, we were very pleased, and I strongly recommend Gardner to anyone looking for furniture to check there first, and Spencer if you are looking for appliances.

Word of mouth can either grow a business, or ruin it, especially small businesses.  When all things are good, and separating ones self from ones money isn't painful, and filled with remorse, then the word of mouth can only be good.

One more thing.  We worked up an appetite  shopping most of the day, and were talking amongst ourselves about looking a place for lunch after we closed the furniture deal on the table and chairs.  The salesman overheard us, got up and walked across the office and returned with a brochure for a local restaurant in Westminster, The Old Mill.  Each of the people in the office said it was great, and run buy the same family that started it in 1946 just after WWII.

We went to the restaurant, and the ambiance with the brook running around the building from the mill pond right outside its front door, to the excellent food within were well worth the trip.  Put The Old Mill in with those other recommendations.  You will not be disappointed.

Local small business supporting local small business, and both reaping the benefits, and both very successful.

It works for the consumer as well.

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