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Buying bread

Agriculture.com Staff 06/23/2008 @ 7:32am

Sometimes I get a little tired of pleas for people to shop in their home town out of a sense of loyalty. I think that's a mistake.

The reason to shop in your home town is because it's better.

Or at least it can be.

I was in our little grocery store a while ago looking for bread. Many years ago, I went to France and found out what bread was supposed to taste like and it kind of ruined my life -- nothing else has ever tasted quite as good. The same thing happened when I went to a seacoast and for the first time ate in a restaurant located on the water, with a dock leading from the kitchen right down to the fishing boats.

As a Midwestern boy, I grew up on fish sticks. When I first tasted real seafood, it was a shattering experience. If I remember correctly, I held up a fresh prawn and said, "If this is seafood, what the hell have I been eating my whole life?" I haven't been able to look at a fish stick in the same way ever since.

In my relentless search for bread, I wasn't finding what I was looking for. Grocery stores in small towns face quite a battle. They have fewer potential customers and many of those customers are becoming accustomed to traveling long distances to shop. They can't stock 74 varieties of olives or a meat counter that's a quarter mile long. But what they can do better than the big stores is listen.

I asked, "Didn't you used to get some bread..." It's pretty tough to find a fresh baguette within a hundred miles of my home town, but there is a bakery that sells a variety of frozen breads that you can bake at home, and our local grocery store usually stocks some for the folks who whine about Wonder Bread.

"Oh yeah, we ran out," the clerk said, "but there's some on the truck. Why don't you go have a cup of coffee and we'll get it unloaded."

I'm not saying that people who work at giant supermarkets are unfriendly, but that's not a conversation I've ever had in one of those stores that's bigger than a township.

When I got back from coffee, the box of bread was off the truck, but it had ended up on the bottom of the pile on the cart. No problem -- we heaved the top boxes off, I got my bread and left. Out of guilt for being such a bother, I bought two loaves instead of one.

If you live in a small town, that's a familiar story, in all types of businesses. And that's my point -- there's things small town businesses can do that the big ones can't. If you run a business in a small town, you can be friendlier, more helpful, and more personal in your business dealings. That's a huge advantage to have and it's also a huge mistake to squander that advantage. People will do business with you not because they feel sorry for you, but because you provide services and products that the big boys can't.

Copyright 2008 Brent Olson

Sometimes I get a little tired of pleas for people to shop in their home town out of a sense of loyalty. I think that's a mistake.

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