Wednesday, 19 April 2017
I like the cut of their jibs
Two stories from our little town to share with you today. In both cases, admittedly, there was enough money at hand to make things happen, but the money isn't the point here, it's the attitude.
The first involves our neighbour, Mike-next-door (so named to differentiate him from Mike-down-the-street).
Mike is a middle aged family man, living in a modest bungalow (long since paid for) with the world's tidiest yard (and yet he puts up with our wild yard without question, bless him). He's not long retired from the pulp mill but lost his pension when that mill went belly up. Things were a little tough for them for a while. But "Mike is no slouch" (as Paul puts it) and he now has a whole lot going on; he makes and installs ponds in people's back yards. Not just any kind of ponds, but aerated and stocked with fish (trout, usually), some with waterfalls or fountains, some with patios. They're gorgeous. He also makes miniature buildings; houses, windmills, barns, for which he makes every single brick by hand. He's a very talented man. Here, go see for yourself at his site.
Well now, this past couple of winters, Mike's been mightily displeased with the snow clearing on the streets of our town. He himself has a little side business in the winter, clearing the parking lots at the local school and daycare, meaning he's been dealing with a lot of snow. He's been using what is essentially an ATV with a plow on the front, so what happens next makes some sense .. so ticked is he (or, as he puts it "fookin' fed oop") with the unreasonable amounts of snow the town plows have been leaving behind for him to deal with that he's gone and bought himself a brand new tractor! Snow blower, plow on the front, the works. "I'll clear my own fookin' snow, fook 'em" he says. (LOL! he's a character, our Mike).
Which works out nicely for us, as of course he will clear our excess snow, too (we'll pay him whatever he asks!). There are plenty of people here who had issues with the snow clearing, especially the berms they kept leaving in the driveways and on our lawns (and pushing into the parking lots he clears) and if we know one thing about Mike, it is that he will do the job of cleaning up after them meticulously well. There's no way he'll recoup the cost of that tractor just from snow clearing, but he's doing it anyway, because he can.
Next up, Christina. We first met this girl when we were still living in the city and coming up on weekends, back when we only had a cottage a few miles north of here. She was just a teenager with sparkly blue eye-shadow, working the cash at the "depanneur" on the highway. A depanneur is the Quebec version of a general store, but this being Quebec, you can also buy beer, wine, your hunting license and your baloney all in one place.
When the owner, Kevin (also the fire chief of this county and the neighbouring one, and a helluva nice guy) decided to sell up and semi-retire, Christina bought the store. Oh, and the rather profitable "snack shack" attached to it that runs in the summer, too. She's been renovating, making improvements and doing quite well.
Recently, the local grocery store downtown went out of business, so her depanneur had to take up a lot of the slack. It was a good thing for her - but a lousy thing for the town. It's not that it was a great grocery store to begin with (in fact it was pretty awful, they never did figure out that vegetables should be fresh ..) but it had a really good meat section. We do most of our shopping in the nearest big town, but always bought our meat here at home. That butcher really knew how to cut a pork chop, the quality of all the meats was good, the variety was good and so were the prices. The housewives of this village (and the surrounding villages) have really been missing that meat.
In a surprise move, in addition to her depanneur and snack shack, Christina just took out a lease on the old store (or part of it, there are new walls so it's smaller). Seeing the anouncement in the local weekly paper, we made sure to be there on opening day to see what was up, and what was up was the old butcher, the same beautiful pork chops and fresh, plump chickens. Yum. There was Christina at the cash, beaming happily. When I told her "thankyou so much for this, I've been so missing the butcher shop!" she answered me "yeah, so was I. I was always forgetting to take something out of the freezer in the morning, so I was shopping here every day and I loved that meat".
See? Smart young woman, and just like Mike, she's seeing a problem and fixing it herself, because she can.
If the business catches on, Christina plans to hire back a couple of the old cashiers, too, so not only is she making life better for the housewives, but restoring (some) of the jobs lost when the grocery store closed down. She'll break even in the process, but I doubt she'll rake in much profit, this is a sparsely populated area. I think mostly she's doing it because it needed doing.
Now for the 'small town moment' - we had no cash on us that day; we'd been assuming we could use our bank card to pay, but she didn't have the technology in place. We were embarrassed, we really should have known better, but she was apologetic too. "Oh, I'm sorry!", she says "we haven't had time to get internet hooked up .. but don't worry about it, you can just pay for this with your card next time you're in the other store. No rush!". (Of course we went right over to the depanneur and paid it immediately.)
Don't let anybody ever tell you country people are bumpkins! They're pretty smart if you ask me. Nice, too.