A behind-the-scenes look at this roller-coaster party

A behind-the-scenes look at this roller-coaster party

Owning and operating a small business retail beer store is like riding Space Mountain. Your feelings go from apprehension to exhilaration; reactions from churning stomachs to delightful laughter. You’re sitting in the coaster seat, whizzing along in the dark, through outer space, relying on things exterior to hold you in, admiring the scenery and shrieking in delight…fear…delight…

Roller coaster at night: You can't always see what's coming

No gravity, just a safety bar to hold onto and keep me in

Sometimes it feels like everything is in float, that I’m attached by those things that preserve life. Separate entities interconnected, I am dependent on things exterior.

Breweries who don’t distribute, who self-distribute, who use distributors. How they treat and value retailers and consumers. Their product and business goals. Big growth means reaching and keeping the attention of mainstream audiences. New and small breweries seek sustainable business, to build strong loyalty.

Customers— Whim, Convenience, and Bargain Shoppers. Consumer Trends— Women, Lifestyle, Hobby, Refreshment. Moving men out of FYB, into craft. Being relevant to and of value in their lives.

As retailer, I sometimes feel ungrounded as I float up, out of my coaster seat as it zooms along the line. I hang on for dear life. I am, my business is, connected to and dependent on breweries, distributors, and customers. Riding this coaster where my safeguards are these connections. I help create and maintain beer lovers. My products satisfy cravings for refreshment and flavor.

I am constantly thinking. Identifying opportunities for growth. Creating customer loyalty. Getting out of the nonsense. Making wise decisions, recovering from poor ones. Prioritizing, reprioritizing. Finding time to do tasks, some boring but business-necessary. Talking over the issues. Sometimes I need a guide on how to deal with all this… with my worries and annoyances. I think to myself: “I am the Martha.”

Why I’m more Martha than Mary

Every time I hear about the Martha Syndrome, my mind wanders to this scene:

There’s a party. Martha is busy keeping things moving. She’s in the background, trying to make everything right. Cleaning, cooking, doing all the prep work for the party. This is where she is most comfortable. She feels a little uneasy, unsure of herself when in the thick of the party. Her sister, Mary, is a social butterfly. Mary’s out in the thick of it, partying away, listening and sharing, hanging with Jesus and his posse. Martha can hear what’s going on. She’s not totally isolated from the activities. Some of the party folk are hanging with her in the kitchen where she’s busy, happily working away to keep the party-goers fed. They include her; she includes them.

…I come out of my daydream haze to hear the Sunday speaker relay, “…Martha was anxious and un-trusting. Mary got alone with God and worshipped at Jesus’ feet.*” Yes, my daydream took me to where I could relate to Martha, distracting me from the preacher’s point. My daydream tags me: The Martha.

Not only am I floating out here — tethered to life supports: Breweries, Distributors, Customers — but I am responsible to make everything right, to keep everything moving. To find ways to keep people coming. To be a backbone for C; to rely on him as mine. To keep working when I’m tired. To be nice when I’m at my wit’s end. To become more outgoing while keeping things moving. My background responsibilities don’t fade, but I need to pay homage to the maker, the life giver of small business.

My personal goal is to live with integrity. Being a fair businessperson. Treating my customers with honesty, conveying correct information, building knowledge. Helping people find new taste sensations in beer. Pimping beer. Dealing with issues.

What am I? Who am I? Where am I?

In five years of business, coming to the realization that there are people are just mean and/or miserable and are out to tear down, crap on your stuff. Some have no idea where they are, literally walking into your shop and not knowing where they are…

  • On their way to the restaurant next door, they open our doors and walk in. A dazed and confused look spreads across their face as they back toward and out of the door and continue West.
  • Convinced that you are not who you are, and trying to convince you as well: “Where are your Malbecs? Last time I was here they were right here!” and not believing you when you say, “We’ve never carried Malbec and nary a wine,” suggesting that they “may have meant the wine store next door,” thinking: Now out of business since December 2010. The woman snapping at you, standing in your store and accusing you of inaccurate knowledge about your business.
  • Looking for liquor. As the state stores begin closure, you refer them further away. The store around the corner closed two weeks ago. I’m continually updating staff and husband of the locations so they can convey accurate information to customers. Soon alcohol will be divided, brands all over the place: grocery stores, drug stores, superstore chains, alcohol barns. Plus continuing, existing liquor stores that are going private, with so many of them branching into beer: My territory.

People talking about crap they know nothing about, talking nonsense. I am starting to become more like C. I am growing weary of the nonsense. Becoming increasingly more irritated at people like this: Unsolicited sales guy popped in this week, demanding my attention from other tasks and customers. Asking me how I-1183 would affect our business but not really giving a damn. His agenda was to build some weird rapport with me; he was trying to sell me on his company — though knew nothing about mine and obviously cared nothing about my time. I found my irritation level rising. He’s not here to be a customer, and he’s wasting my time. On top of that, his conversation is coming across like I’m a caged bear and he’s poking me with a stick. I have work to do. But if I were to kick him out, I’d be the asshole so I have to figure out how to nip this in the bud and not let him draw me into his nonsense without being perceived as a bitch.

When the person sitting next to you on the coaster is vomiting, the ride isn’t very fun.

Trusting in the mechanics of it all

As the Martha, I’m down here looking at the guidebooks and familiarizing myself with laws, in effort to keep this business up-to-code, the coaster structure itself strong. Only there’s really no single source for how to operate a business like this. Revenue and income reporting, taxes to file and pay, alcohol licensing to preserve and renew, sales and advertising laws to follow. Politics and relationships. Outside impacts: Competition, Supply, Demand. Customer loyalty and retention.

Focusing on the store, sales, customers… on getting people into products they’ll enjoy so they’ll come back again — and share with their friends. Backing lifestyles, supplying hobbyists, sometimes worrying about supporting addictions. Yes, alcohol can be an addition. My brother once asked me, “What’s it like to be a legal drug dealer?” Though you don’t need a prescription for alcohol, it is like a drug to some people — it also acts as a social lubricant and can take the edge off of life — so I understand the intent of his question. But, really, there are all kinds of strange addictions. It just happens to be that the product I sell is subject to governmental control: LCB, ATF, TTB. We are all responsible adults. My products are intended to be consumed safely at home.

Up and down, round and round, stomach turning, adrenaline invoking. It’s so fun, it’s so bad. Some days running a small business is just like riding on the roller coaster. Other days it’s all about maintaining the coaster for others to ride.


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