Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reinvention: Taking stock

The most obvious option in my search
for what to do next is retail. After all,
I've worked for some of the best shops
in the world and loved almost every
minute of it. I adore shopping. More
specifically, at those great, grand
department stores of times gone by.
Within was a veritable wonderland of
magical things to see and do. Locally
owned, they acted as leaders in their
communities. Innovators who brought
the world home for all to enjoy and
maybe... buy. Could that happen here?
Locally sourced
The longer that I'm here full-time in
Lewistown, the more I feel that our
primary problem is myopia. A lack
of exposure to all that's out there.
Let me clarify - there are many here
in town who have been there... done
that. Folks who either moved from
somewhere else or made sure they
got out and saw the world. Yet they
are the minority. Many locals have
a rather insular view of civilization.
And sadly, their version of Nirvana
might be the Walmart in Billings.
Vision loss
There's nothing wrong with staying
close to home. In fact, I'm rather
a homebody myself. The problem
is that you don't know what you're
missing unless you're aware of the
options. Hence most are happy with
the slow decay of our community.
Rather than encourage innovation,
creativity, and growth, they prefer
to stay with the status quo. Our
problem is that unless we evolve,
soon Lewistown could be poised on
the brink of extinction. Then what?
Outer limits
I'm not saying that everybody has to
visit Manhattan. Nor am I suggesting
that my way of life is the only path.
What I am certain of is that most are
willing to learn if someone is willing
to teach. I'm sure you're wondering
what any of this has to do with retail.
Actually, it might be the reason why
Lewistown needs more committed
and innovative retailers. There's the
old expression - build it and they will
come. The question is, once up and
running will anybody actually buy?
Windows on the world
What if someone brought the world to
Lewistown? Or, brought Lewistown
to the world? Or... a combination of
both? There are a plethora of things
one simply can't buy in town - nor
in Montana at large. While I doubt
the demand for Santa Maria Novella
lotion will ever be great, I'm fairly
certain that there are residents across
this state who desire lovely things. The
challenge is editing an assortment to
suit their wants and needs. Even if they
don't know what they want or need.
At your service
My problem is I'm not quite sure how
to physically run a store. At one point
I trained to be a store manager simply
to learn the other side. However that
was long ago and I honestly doubt that
I can remember much of anything. The
only thing I do recall is that there was
nothing harder nor more thankless than
being a shopkeeper. One has to truly
love what you're doing. So, my dream
of being a retail and cultural missionary
here in rural Montana may be at best
be a fantasy. Could I make it a reality?
Buy one, get one
I've never been a merchant and
the idea of managing my margin
terrifies. Yet, I'm quite adept at
picking stuff and fairly intuitive.
Savvy merchandisers balance
making customers happy with
managing the bottom line. One
can't help but wonder whether
my choices would appeal to the
locals. But is that enough? One
might have to cater to a broader
audience - statewide or national.
The question is... what sells?
Decisions, decisions
There seem to be so many reasons why
such an endeavor might work. It's easy
to envision leveraging most if not all
of my talents within that arena. Not
only would it be an adventure, I might
actually contribute something to the
growth of our community. That said,
I must admit it's quite a terrifying idea.
Could all of the risk not be worth the
reward? Once again, this wayward
soul has much to ponder. And you my
friends must continue to be patient.
I know I'll figure this out someday.