By Dan Pool
As I was out and about last week, handling “essential chores,” I noticed a group of people quietly going about their work, who have not been given the credit here they deserve. It’s America’s small businesses and their employees, many earning entry-level wages that are keeping our modern life from completely falling apart.
If Ingles, Cherokee Closeouts and Walmart, and the convenience stores had locked their doors, saying their employees would be staying home too, it could lead to panic in the streets. Farfetched? When you cut people off from food, things get crazy.
Our small businesses and their employees dealt with an unprecedented challenge and kept us all with our basic necessities. Maybe not ideally (and we are not out of the woods yet) but no one ever saw completely empty shelves for long.
So, here’s to you, everyone manning a check-out line, putting toilet paper on shelves as quick as it arrives and helping customers. Especially to those in your group, which seemed to me to be the majority, who were going about their daily tasks with good cheer and making the best of the pandemic’s social distancing rules.
It’s surely a psychological salve for anyone venturing out to have a friendly person handing you your change. Perhaps those little displays of confidence did more than we realize.
Among the places I visited on my chores last week was Walmart, which is certainly a local business as it provides local jobs to local people. The checkout clerk cracked a joke about my supplies and seemed to be taking all the rigamarole over quarantine rules in stride. A shopping trip to Ingles Sunday saw plenty of eager teenagers at the checkout lines. Whether it’s kids earning money for college or just starting in the workforce, they were literally taking care of business.
A stop at Garner Ace Hardware for some projects found the store hoping with family owner members seeing that all of us stuck at home get the right kind of washers and paint. Was it really essential to buy paint? Hardly, but when you’re stuck with a captive labor pool of family, you might as well be productive.
Some automotive work done during quarantine at Roland Tire probably does qualify as essential if we were going to get papers to the Post Office and store racks. They had adapted to a drop off system where we discussed the work and paid only by phone. Ingenuity at the basic level.
It is these businesses, both large and small, that form the backbone of a small community. From the owners down to the teenagers soldiering on at the cash registers, they deserve recognition.
Added to this list are all our community’s bankers, who have found themselves with a new playbook and a whole lot of frantic customers. If it wasn’t for the staff at Community Bank of Pickens County helping with our Payroll Protection application, we’d still be wringing our hands deciphering what was required.
When people run thank you’s in the Progress, they usually include “and also to all those others too numerous to name.” So, we’ll make sure to note that there are plenty of additional businesses going about their business - the ones we mention are just a few examples.
In this pandemic, like all of American history, small businesses shows it is the backbone of our communities. Let’s not forget that with our spending.
P.S. There is an essay (I saw after completing this editorial) from The Atlantic ranking high on online news feeds from a grocery store employee refuting this kind of praise. In a nutshell he challenged, how dare people call us heroes and not take notice that we are the lowest paid workers. People gushing with praise want to make their own consciences feel better while putting low paid service employees at risk, he argued very convincingly.
While the Progress still wants to acknowledge our local stores, we’d agree that he has a point.