The End of The Ma and Pa Era

Randy Blair, whom I call a friend, sent this post to a group on Facebook. I contacted him and obtained permission to reprint the article in The Communications Factors blog.

I was born in a smallish town, called LaPorte, Indiana, in the mid 60’s, and yes, I did walk everywhere I went. Down the street, on Pine Lake Avenue, was a quaint little store owned by an older couple my kid sister and I used to call “Fred and Barney”. To this day, I don’t know what their real names were. But “Barney” was kind of a strange name for a cheery corpulent woman in her 60’s.

Their little corner store had anything you wanted in it. At least it seemed like it. My dad, a pipefitter by trade, once went down there for some supplies so he could “sweat copper pipe”, and Fred always had what my dad needed.

I bring this up because it represents a time in my life when there was no Wal-Mart, no superstores, and it was perfectly acceptable to hang out in the store and chat with the proprietors, without it being considered a waste of time. And Ma and Pa always made you feel welcome.

Here in the present, there are a couple of hardware stores I frequent, when I need stuff for home repairs or whatnot. These are ma and pa operations, and they know me by name (indeed, they should, as I have sold them my MLM wares for their businesses).

Today, I needed some hydraulic fluid for a log splitter I borrowed. (I was too sore to be a man and whack the wood with maul, sledge and wedges, like I normally do.) So, I went to my local haunts to get some.

Guess what?

They didn’t have any!

Why?

Because they couldn’t compete with the “bigger hardware stores” like Home Cheapot. Hydraulic fluid just wasn’t a big seller, and they had to trim costs. I was devastated.

Forlornly, I drove to That-Other-Place, a ten-spot frustratingly crumpled in my fist, to be greeted by…

Oh wait, I wasn’t greeted at all. In fact, nobody seemed concerned that I stood in the main aisle looking like a child who had lost his mama. It was surreal.

Eventually, I found what I was looking for. But it got me thinking, on the way back home. Are Ma and Pa truly dead?

Essentially, becoming an entrepreneur is harder now than it ever has been: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies pitching the same products and services we are pitching. The mega-giants make it virtually impossible to come out of the gate and make a profit within the first couple years of business.

How ’bout it?

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