Why did I close the store?

The official letter is here. This is my personal reflection.

I had this romantic notion that running a brick and mortar locksmith shop would be this classic 1940’s sleeve garters, apron, and jeweler’s loupe with customers saying things like “fine job young man, you have my business from now on” over the steady ding of a cash register, and once in a while, it was.

More often than not it was a circus with me or Maria being a captive audience for anyone wanting to try their latest Jerry Springer audition out on us. . . or solicitors, or people asking for donations, or the all too common It’s-How-Much-Jesus-I-Only-Want-A-Key-Not-The-Whole-Car “customer”. That may sound harsh, but odds are anyone you ask who runs a retail business will share those frustrations.

So after a lot of soul searching and analyzing my career the way Marie Kondo analyzes the contents of a stranger’s closet, I decided the shop was no longer bringing me joy. Just after 5 p.m. on Friday, March 15, 2019, I locked the front door, scraped the hours off, and took down the neon OPEN sign that’s hung there since the day I opened in 2003.

The decision was made months before. I posted a sign saying we were closing. I shot a short video explaining why and posted it on social media. I wrote a letter and placed it on the counter for all to read, and told many of our regulars in person or by email. It was, by no stretch of the imagination, a surprise when the day finally arrived. During the months and weeks leading up to the date I never felt sad about it. Stressed sometimes, and sometimes overwhelmed trying to get everything done that needed to be. . . but not sad. Not until the day of. I mentioned that to Maria when we were getting the store ready to open.. . “Don’t worry,” she said, “sometime today you’re gonna get a call or a walk-in and remember exactly why you’re doing this”.

I blocked my schedule so I’d be in the store all day so I could be there to personally say goodbye to our customers, and Maria. 

Jess, my amazing wife-to-be, joined me in the afternoon (she works half a day on Fridays). She brought cake, which we shared with our customers and friends who stopped in.

Predictably, we did get a few of the little brown envelopes from ebay passed across the counter. . . along with the also-expected “you’re closing? but where will I go if you’re gone?” cries of desperation. It’s hard to answer that question sincerely when the very thing you’re being asked to do is what’s killing your business.

Wasn’t all that bad. We did get a couple of regulars, neighbors, and another local locksmith we’re friends with stop in and hang around for a while. 

Yesterday was the first day working without Maria. Store is still base for me but it was incredibly lonely stopping in yesterday morning to grab stuff for the day’s jobs. 

After the (in hindsight, predictable) fiasco that was Friday I equated closing the shop to getting out of a bad long-term relationship. You know it’s for the best but it still hurts.

After having the weekend to collect myself I think it’s more like saying goodbye to an old friend with a terminal illness, but while they’re still upright and kicking. So you throw a party, and it’s awkward, and fun, and sad all at once.

While I have both benefited from and been hurt by the now widespread trend of ‘wholesale to all via internet sales’, I am legitimately concerned for the future of commerce if it continues. Many small specialty stores simply can’t compete and have closed as a result. I don’t have a solution other than to encourage you, my neighbors, to give the small shop a chance to provide both the service AND materials for whatever task it is you need. When the last small business closes its doors and all that’s left is Amazon and big box stores, where will you go when you need something serviced?

All of us live on this island.