Small Business Spotlight: Perseverance and Adaptability
3 Doors Down is the name of an American rock band and also happens to be the location of a smallish shopping center next to theHistoric Bagley Inn, home to my day job. Since I started this new endeavor and expressed a desire to help promote small businesses and individuals that are struggling with the pandemic shutdown I have been noodling with the idea of interviewing small business entrepreneurs to tell their story and see if I can help them spread the word that they are open and working hard to serve their customers.
I have been confessing a lot recently in my writing and I find myself compelled to express again how misguided and simple minded I have been with my thinking and understanding regarding a few fantastic small businesses next door to my office. I did not truly appreciate the hard work, perseverance and adaptability they have endured during the past several months to remain open and spend whatever hours are necessary to serve their customers. They are hopeful. They would like to come out of this horrible economic shutdown in an improved financial state and see their customers returning in large numbers. Let me just state for the record, I was extremely impressed by their work ethic and the optimistic attitude they exhibited last week when I had a chance to sit down with them and listen to their stories.
Take yourself back to January 2020 when the economy was good and optimism from a business perspective was fairly strong. Bloomfield Deli, a family owned deli-style store that has been in the Bloomfield area since 1992, was expanding their micro market kiosks rapidly and looking forward to a great year from an operational standpoint. Joe Atto, owner and operations manager, said the pandemic hit them hard, crushing their corporate catering business and walk in lunch crowd big time. The micro kiosk format that was ramping up quickly to serve neighboring office buildings literally ground to a halt as nobody was coming back to their offices. Remember, this was occurring over many months and Joe had to consider his staff, family, and operational details, as his business dropped 80-90% from the strong 2019 sales volume. He told me, “Bro, look at that parking lot across the street. Tell me, how many cars do you see? I knew I had to do something new to generate sales.” Showing real moxie and adaptability, Joe, with his family and staff, introduced a Mexican food take out service, Los Gatos Tacos, in May, as an addition to his deli. The new business, open for take-out three nights a week, has been growing smartly on a month to month basis due to online ordering and reliably great food. Joe’s drive and energy combined with his compassion to serve his customers is incredible and I have no doubt he will come out of this tough and difficult time stronger than ever. P.S. I tried the tacos last week. They were fantastic!
Next door, Joe Simon, who owns and operatesPearl Cleaners,has been focused on keeping the lights on since business shut down ‘practically overnight’ in February. As he told me,“Rog, all I can do is ‘keep on pushing’. Keep waking up early, come in here and do whatever I can to keep my employees and pay my bills.” Joe is optimistic about the future, which I find amazing given the dark and tough times he has endured during the last several months. Think of an eighty-person law firm around the corner that told their employees to stay home at the peak of the pandemic. Today, that law firm has approximately half their attorneys and staff working at home. That is still off 50% from the business volume he had in late 2019. You only get this next point if you are running a small business. Joe told me,“I don’t really look at my books every week. All I’ve got to do is look at my morning cleaning basket over there. If that baby is only 25% full, that tells me all I need to know.” If there is a silver lining, it is that Joe just paid off his debt in April from purchasing the cleaning store five years ago. He has tapped the Federal Paycheck Protection Program to keep paying his two employees and just got approved for a new SBA loan that will help him stay in business if conditions remain tough in coming months. He remains motivated and is working with his bookkeeper to maintain his cleaning equipment and putting in a much needed upgrade to his point-of-sale computer system. Again, unbelievably impressed with his optimism and do-whatever-it-takes attitude that will pay huge dividends when his customers come back in droves.
Finally, a special word about Chelian’s Salon. I have walked past this salon hundreds of times as I pick up a sandwich or drop off some shirts. When I stopped in the other day to talk about his shop, I was so impressed with John, the owner and main stylist, as he shared his story. What a great guy. John has been operating his salon since 1974 and has a loyal customer list that includes Detroit Red Wing hockey players, Ford, General Motors, and Delphi executives along with hundreds of female customers he didn’t feel comfortable naming. His business took a big hit during the worst of the pandemic. “Our business was practically closed for 90 days. I was overwhelmed and didn’t know how I was going to stay open.” He told me that he has seven stylists working at the salon today after operating with eight last year. That sounds pretty good except for the fact that he lost one stylist due to illness and had to drop back to four as business dried up to nothing. John told me, “I have many contacts and relationships in the community. My business was given a life-line in July when another local salon closed and I picked up three chairs in my salon. That saved me.” Today, business remains down 45% from last year and he hopes the government provides some new stimulus soon to keep small businesses operating, including his salon. Again, John is determined to do whatever is necessary to stay open and serve his clients. All I can tell you is that sitting down and listening to a great guy tell his story was motivating. I would say, he picked up a new client whenever I choose to get a haircut. My wife tells me all my hair is shifting from the top of my head to my face. I don’t think that is a compliment.
These guys are awesome in my eyes. Working twelve hour days to do whatever it takes to keep their stores open, supporting their families and employees. Sitting down with these gentlemen made me realize that this is happening all over the country. We all know businesses that we frequented every week when times were good. Maybe, we should all stop and think about our favorite deli, dry cleaner, salon and other small businesses that are just getting by in these horrific economic conditions and do whatever we can to pick them up. Give them a little inspirational support and business if they are working in your community.
One of the attributes I have expressed many times in my investment life is that perseverance is one of the best characteristics an investor or business person can have in dealing with difficult conditions. Thinking forward and working hard for a better day is sometimes all we can do and more times than not it pays off handsomely in the end.
A short fable I have used before with clients and family makes the point:
The Crow and the Pitcher
Once there was a thirsty crow.
She had flown a long way looking for water to drink.
Suddenly she saw a pitcher. She flew down and saw it held a little water, but it was so low in the pitcher that she could not reach it.
“But I must have that water,” she cried. “I am too weary to fly farther. What shall I do? I know! I’ll tip the pitcher over.”
She beat it with her wings, but it was too heavy. She could not move it.
Then she thought awhile. “I know now! I will break it! Then I will drink the water as it pours out. How good it will taste!”
With beak and claws and wings she threw herself against the pitcher.
But it was too strong.
The poor crow stopped to rest. “What shall I do now?
I cannot die of thirst with water close by. There must be a way, if I only had wit enough to find it out.”
After a while the crow had a bright idea. There were many small stones lying about.
She picked them up one by one and dropped them into the pitcher. Slowly the water rose, till at last she could drink it. How good it tasted!
“There is always a way out of hard places,” said the crow,
“if only you have the wit to find it.” - Aesop
Check out the enclosed contact information if you live in the Bloomfield Hills area and you have a hankering (Oklahoma lingo) for a great deli sandwich or tacos, professional cleaning service, or a friendly and safe environment to keep your hair looking good.
71 W Long Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, MI
For online ordering: www.bloomfielddeli.com
Owner/ Joe Simon
65 W Long Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304
77 W Long Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304
Ask for John: Cell phone 248-345-1918
Question??? Did you actually think I would leave you hanging with my 3 Doors Down music lead in the first paragraph? Not a chance.
I realize none of us are Superman (Ha-ha) on this planet and it takes all of us to make a difference in this crazy world. For music enthusiasts you might remember the band’s The Better Life album in 2000 and their #1 hit for fifteen weeks ‘Kryptonite”. Check out the first three versus. I think it may have relevance to 3rd Act and our mission to help others.
Kryptonite: 3 Doors Down
Well, I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time
But I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon
I feel there’s nothing I can do, yeah
I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon
After all I knew, it had to be something to do with you
I really don’t mind what happens now and then
As long as you’ll be my friend at the end
If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?
If I’m alive and well, will you be there and holding my hand?
I’ll keep you by my side with my superhuman might