…the fat lady sings!”, a quote most often attributed to New York Yankee great and Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. While comical at first hearing, the meaning is much deeper. In baseball, a team has 27 outs and until the 27th out has occurred, the game is not over. This past year has been troubling with the pandemic and its effect on the economy as a whole and in particular, the thousands of small businesses that keep small-town America vibrant.
America’s small businesses are closing at an alarming rate due to restrictions based on halting the spread of the pandemic. Small town main streets look like ghost towns as the fabric of their economy is shuttered. Restaurants and diners, retailers, pubs and grills, ice cream shops…most everything are closed. A few diners have managed to stay afloat by switching to curbside or carryout service only. Small town retailers that have been slow to move to eCommerce or online shopping in the past are closed, and sadly, will remain closed after the pandemic is over. For many businesses “the fat lady” is walking on stage.
The vast majority of America’s workforce got our start working in the diner or ice cream shop, our uncle’s gas station, our aunt’s retail shop, our Dad’s heating and air conditioning repair, and countless other small-town American businesses. These businesses rewarded the many who took the risk and reached for the American dream. These examples provided encouragement to many, myself included, to start our own businesses and to help others achieve the same.
In today’s hard times, it is easy to remember that those same businesses were there when we need them. A place to eat lunch or dinner with the family, a quick cup of coffee with our friends, grab a new pair of blue jeans and catch up on the latest town news, after-school ice cream and soda with our friends, memories buried deep in our past. I would encourage all to dig deep into those memories and envision small-town America without those businesses for our kids and grandkids to enjoy and remember.
Over the next two weeks and into the new year, I would encourage all to shop the small town business as much as possible. Christmas presents may already be purchased, but maybe not. Give the local retailer a call and purchase something, I am sure they will gladly meet you outside to deliver. The same with diners and restaurants, the family is busy cooking for the Christmas dinner. Give everyone a break and call the diners for a carryout order, they will gladly deliver curbside. This is our chance to pay back the small businesses that we too often take for granted.
Let’s not let small-town America and its small business fail.
Dr. Lawson is an executive coach and a Professor of Economics and Strategy. He writes on business issues, education, and developing today’s modern executives. He can be found on Twitter @dplwsn and #TMIBS.