I had my eyes opened tonight.
After logging 606 relatively easy highway miles in our 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan, my daughter and I finally arrived at our stop for the night: an historic and quaint inn located in downtown Walsenburg, Colorado.
Before settling in for the evening, we walked around downtown Walsenburg. We noticed several shops offering antiques, clothing, gifts, and even an H&R Block. Sadly, we were past closing time so we were not able to venture inside. We also noticed several vacant storefronts. We enjoyed our walk around town and I was pleased that my daughter found the town as intriguing as I did. After our walk, she wanted to relax in the room and I wanted a glass of wine. We both had the same objective, just in different forms!
After safely settling my daughter into our room*, I headed downstairs and took a seat at the small and nicely stocked bar in the lobby. At first I was alone, but soon a few others entered and took seats at the bar. One gentleman mentioned the meeting tonight, to which the manager responded, “tomorrow is a holiday and you have a meeting?”
“Yes. We need it.”
I learned that each of them owns a small business in this quaint little downtown. Their discussion quickly turned to a building prominently located on Main Street. As they described it’s teal trim and salmon color I remembered walking by it just a short hour ago. The building’s owner had recently ordered one tenant to relocate; now they had heard that the antique store occupying the majority of retail space in that building had also been ordered to relocate. Once the antique store leaves, there will be two prime retail locations on Main Street completely vacant.
The antique store quickly became the focus of the conversation. “People from all over come to visit her. Then many of them visit me. Is there a suitable space for her downtown? Where will she go? What if she just gives up and closes her business?” I gathered that the building’s owner is not from here.
As I nurtured my glass of wine, I looked at the people seated around me and I felt empathy with them. This is huge. This development, completely beyond their direct control, could significantly impact their businesses. Their concern was evident; hence, the Independence Day Eve meeting of downtown business owners.
I have always had an appreciation for Small Town, USA. That appreciation was one of the reasons I chose this particular inn for this particular stopover. Tonight I looked the backbone of America in the eye and had my eyes opened. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have a clue about the issues facing small business owners across this great country of ours. And I question seriously whether those in power at the state and federal level have a clue, either. Yes, this is a local issue. But this local issue reaches far beyond the confines of Walsenburg, Colorado. This town depends upon the success of these businesses; so does the state of Colorado and so does the United States of America.
As I finished my wine and paid my tab I found myself wondering how many similar conversations are going on in small towns across the country. As I type this, the meeting is going on downstairs. I can’t stop thinking about these people. What can I – a person who lives in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area and who works for a major corporation – what can I do? Well, I can support small business owners – the backbone of this great country. And so can you.
Tomorrow is Independence Day. On this Independence Day Eve 2013 I pledge to do my part to honor the people I met this evening by supporting the backbone of America – local businesses – at home and on the road. I invite you to do the same.
I wish the people of Walsenburg much success.
*“Room” is not a fair word here. We have what amounts to a suite with separate quarters, each with a queen-sized bed, and a shared bath. Nicely decorated, incredibly comfortable, and priced lower than most major chain motels the inn offers a great value. I highly recommend it.