First Call Trucking & Courier is a family company that was purchased by my dad and then succeeded to me when his health began to deteriorate due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (the “honeycombing” of the lungs). From its inception, First Call has been a small company that has known both its customers and vendors well. Because of the intimate relationship with the people with whom we do business, there is a high level of accountability. I know my clients and I want to do “right” by them. We are not the cheapest trucking company. Nor are we the most expensive. Our services are typically priced out in the sweet spot where the two meet – the place that I like to call “value”. Not too long ago, I had an experience that taught me, as a customer instead of business owner, the value of doing business with small, family-owned companies like my own company. This is that story.
As most beer aficionados know, ‘Sip of Sunshine’ IPA, a craft beer bottled in Vermont, is extremely difficult to find stocked at your local “packy”. The beer, which is sold to liquor stores in limited quantities, sells out soon after it is delivered, meaning only the hard core “Sunshine Seekers” are able to purchase it. My husband loves this beer, but he would never wait in any considerable line to purchase it. Nor is he going to track and follow its local delivery like the “Sunshine Seekers” whom I reference above. Because of its scarcity, I felt a large level of self-satisfaction when I was able to gift him a four-pack of this oft coveted beer as a token of my appreciation for a weekend he spent working in the yard outside our office (yeoman’s work). How was I able to do this you may ask? Well it all stems back to the power of shopping local and getting to know the people with whom you do business.
After I had my now 5-month-old son, I refused to bring him to the local super market with the myriad aisles, long lines, and massive parking lot; instead I would shop at a very small, specialty grocery store within walking distance from my house. I was there almost every day for both standard and exotic provisions. Was it more expensive than the chain super market accessible from the highway? You bet it was. But because I was there so much, I started to develop a friendly relationship with the owners, specifically an Indian woman named Artie. There were a couple instances when I, a sleep-deprived new mom, didn’t realize I had left my wallet at home until I was at the register. On these instances, Artie or her brother let me go with my groceries knowing with confidence that I would pay the next time I came in (likely later that day or assuredly the next). On more than one occasion Artie has watched my son while I filled my coffee cup, or scrambled to grab a few items before he, an extremely colicky baby at the time, started to “fuss”. Similarly, Artie’s nephew has helped me carry my groceries to the car on days when I had more than I could handle with a kid in a car seat in tow. Artie and I commiserated over root canals when we bumped into each other at the endodontist’s office. We shared the trials and tribulations of self-employment and motherhood.
A few weeks ago, I discovered that in addition to owning Woodberry Food Market in Beverly, Artie’s family also owns the small liquor store down the street. Oh, I asked with a smile, “do you ever get shipments of that beer called ‘Sip of Sunshine’?” Artie’s sister in law, who runs the liquor store, told me that they do but it sells out almost immediately because she posts of its arrival on their Facebook page and soon thereafter the “Sunshine Seekers” flock to the store.
A few weekends ago, when I stopped in at Woodbury’s to pick up some of the cookies my husband loves so much (they are baked on site!), Artie told me that they had recently received a shipment of ‘Sip of Sunshine’.
“It’s there now?”, I asked.
“Yes, we put a case to the side for you. I will call and tell them you are coming.”
“Perfect timing! I owe my husband big time because I have engaged him in hard labor for the day.” (kidding, but not – yard work is no easy task)
“We do this for our special customers, Nancy.”
Now there’s some things that money can’t buy: love, gratitude, happiness. Sometimes, money can’t buy ‘Sip of Sunshine’. But when it does, the other things that money can’t buy: love, gratitude, and happiness, can be found in abundance as the act of obtaining and then giving this symbol of that which is coveted yet unobtainable is worth more than the item itself. Shopping local allowed me to show my love and gratitude to my husband. This made both of us happy.
The moral of the story: Shop “local”. Know the people with whom you do business. Support family-owned companies. Find the value in your own consumptive habits.
Local more. Chain less. Small more. Big less.