Arise, arise, riders of Théoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day, a red day, ere the sun rises! Ride now! Ride now! -Théoden’s battle speech, The Lord of the Rings
These days as I head into the shop, it almost feels like I’m preparing for battle. Of course, not in the physical sense – though I must admit, some days it feels like that too. No, I’m talking about being a business owner these past few years of a brick-and-mortar store located in a tourist town at the gateway of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our family business, The Highland Bard, is a dream come true. It didn’t happen overnight, and it involves a lot of sacrifices. These are sacrifices we freely make to live the life we choose to live. Living and working in a small mountain town poses a world of challenges that we navigate daily, especially in the “off-season” when cold temperatures and deep snows blanket the high elevations. Again, this is the life we choose and the life we love. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, what’s the purpose of this blog? Let me begin by saying we see a lot of visitors each year. Around 4-6 million visitors pass through out town each year. That’s a lot (massive understatement). And as of last year, that number saw a steady increase year-over-year. The stats are out there, please feel free to look them up. Even in 2020, the summer tourist season was strong. 2021? Same thing. A strong season with guests from all over. 2022? Not so much.
I’m hearing from mainstream news, politicians and some visitors that the recession is practically over. That gas prices have fallen over the past number of days. Why, it’s down to $4 per gallon! Sure. Not here so much. Not for most of the country.
Visitor trends here are down. Guests are, for the most part, driving from regional destinations. Sales stats are interesting this year. We are seeing decreased number of sales, but increased quality of sales. What does this mean? Those with money are spending more, those who have less disposable income? They’re staying home or closer to home. I have folks tell me how gas prices affect them. People come into our store and apologize for not being able to purchase anything. I always tell them that they are most welcome anyway. That our place is not JUST about selling something to them, it’s about developing relationships and sharing stories. Don’t have the money to buy something? That’s quite alright. The cost for entry is a story. Where are you from? Tell me something about you. Leave with a smile.
So, again, why the blog? Patience. I’m getting there. After all, I’m a Bard, remember? It takes me a moment to arrive where I want to be.
The ONE thing we don’t do in our place is talk about politics. We try and keep it a political-free zone. We don’t judge your beliefs or your opinions. We respect them. We may not agree with them, but at the end of the day, let’s agree to disagree and share a pint. I didn’t serve in the military and bleed for this country just to have opposing opinions silenced. The melting pot of cultures and ideas is what makes this country great. But I digress.
So, and here’s the big rub, there are changes happening all around us that affect most of us in some way. From a small business perspective, it’s an adapt to survive mentality. It doesn’t matter what the talking heads on cable are telling you, business owners are suffering the effects of this economy. Unless you’re Amazon. Not Amazon.
Supply chains are slow if not altogether broken. Costs of goods are up. Sometimes significantly. Rents are stupid high, and taxes are going up, again, for most of us. Want to debate me on this? Drop by the store and I’ll be happy to have a discussion. I bring all of this up to say just one thing:
Shop Local. Shop Small.
Your local favorite business is most likely going through a lot to keep doors open. From accounting, employee issues, inventory costs, supply lines, utilities and rent and a myriad of other concerns are on their minds daily. And yet, they do what they do because they wouldn’t have it any other way. Except taxes. We’d have that some other way, of course.
All I ask is to visit them. Share a smile. Maybe a story. Maybe buy something. Did you know that according to the US Small Business Administration in 2021, the number of small businesses in the US reached 32.5 million, making up nearly all (99.9 percent) of US businesses. Additionally, small business accounts for nearly 45 percent of the ENTIRE US economy. Kill too many and you kill the economy.
So maybe shop somewhere else other than Amazon or the nearest big box store for those gifts. The dollars you spend at a small business are going directly back into the local economy – not some corporate CEO’s pocket or pet project.
Last thing. To those of you that do shop local, and if you’re reading this, I’m sure that you do, we give a big, heartfelt thanks! Without you, we wouldn’t exist. When it comes to the economy, we truly are in this together. Stay well. Remember to smile. Give hugs. And above all else, Carpe Diem.