As we celebrate our Nation's independence, this July 4th, I've been searching for that special something that reminds me of what makes us great as a collective group, deserving of the freedom that our forefathers hoped we would aspire to.
There are so many things to be grateful for in this country such as the men and women who risk their lives to keep us safe, nurses and doctors who perform miracles every day, dedicated teachers who help us prepare and inspire our children, and the countless people that perform the jobs every day to keep us fed, comfortable and protected.
My journey in finding that one special reminder unexpectedly took me to the local hardware store after my microwave broke. I know you're wondering how a broken appliance helps me find the meaning of greatness.
Well, here it is.
All my visits to the local Family Hardware store average about once every three months and in the 16 years that I've lived here in Cape Coral Florida, you can say I've made about 64 official trips there in search of such things as air filters, paint, keys and other everyday items for home repairs and improvements.
What makes me return each time is simply this, I'm appreciated.
I remember this one time before smartphones and YouTube when my toilet kept running, I walked through those doors and was greeted by Russ, an older gentleman who patiently listened to my distressed situation, without judgment. He set me up with a flapper kit and after three return trips back to the store because I was unable to make out the directions on the back of the package, he then drew me a full-page diagram with step by step instructions. Russ was like a wise mentor who could give advice and solved your problems with patience and a smile, especially for someone like myself who was obviously limited in fixing things. Now retired I'm sure he's sorely missed by many.
I still wish today I had kept that paper every time I think I hear the running of water.
If you take the time to walk around you'll find all the little things that solve even the smallest of problems, like where else can you find that one single cork to replace that lost soda cap?
I also remember the two young women that worked there who spent all that time showing me step by step what I needed to do with the daunting task of painting my condo. Their encouragement convinced me that I could do it and with their help I did it!!
I had the opportunity to meet Jeremy Peterson the owner who was kind enough to let me ask, "How can you compete with the big stores and the on-line competition. A confident and thoughtful business owner didn't hesitate to answer and his assessment could not have been more satisfying. He simply said, "We respect that people value their time."
I knew what he meant. When I thought about walking through those doors with an old air filter and only to be greeted by someone in seconds escorting me to the rear of the store. Yes, in and out in less than 5 minutes which included friendly conversation with the cashier.
As I walked around and found the traditional items of yesteryear, I was bewildered at first but nevertheless delighted by the engaging giant stuffed animals that parade along the isle in the middle of the store just next to the upscale walking sticks.
And imagine that you can buy a flag and you pick up a pair of his and her patriotic underwear all at the same time..
And while you shop for a new toilet seat you can pick out a new pair of trendy readers..
And in the spirit of providing real customer service when they're out of an item you'll find a polite reminder --
My time in the store fills me with memories of things past and I was delighted to find my grandfather's old fashion coin holder and a nice assortment of big clocks
There are so many things about the Family Hardware store that I like but I felt I needed a second opinion, so I asked Ron, an obvious choice my neighbor, who appears as one who frequents hardware stores. I simply asked, “What do you think? and his reply was "It's friendly, they have cool stuff, and with so many things it's like an old fashion general store."
So, what does this all mean and why does a small business like the Family Hardware represent the idea of independence and freedom?
When I think about our forefathers drafting the declaration of independence, I know they were thinking about the big issues like freedom from tyranny and the right to worship where you want. So, in the spirit of their intent and all the sacrifices made how can we live our daily lives and honor these ideals?
Maybe a good start is within our communities and the people that live and work there.
As I drive along the streets in my town of Cape Coral, I notice all the little Ma and Pa stores that are still standing. It takes courage to exist among the giants.
It takes not only courage but faith by those that want to serve its neighbors and deserving of its neighbor's support.
Entrepreneurship is the backbone of our country and local entrepreneurship is a reminder to us all about those that are willing to take great risks in giving us, in our own communities: convenience, good food, clothes to wear, items to entertain us and so much more. They do it because our country is built on the foundation that we have the freedom to and as citizens and consumers we have the right to options and choices.....
I don't know about you but I like the idea that there is a little place I can go where my time is valued. Where I can be greeted with a smile and helped all while I may get out the door in a short period of time.
Thanks to all the risk takers today when we celebrate our independence and especially to Family Hardware for helping me with all my little projects. I applaud your nerve and your ingenuity in reinventing yourself to make your business welcoming.
A shout out to Jeremy, Russ, John and all the employees who have valued my time so I can enjoy this day of independence!!!
Lastly, I'll be in for that big giant giraffe💕.
Family Hardware- 622 SE 47th Ter, Cape Coral
Happy Independence Day!!
JMD- The creator of Aging Creative
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