Moms and Pops

In my online search for writing fodder, I learned that today is “National Mom and Pops Business Owners Day”.

Have you ever heard of this before? I’m guessing not. I hadn’t either.

Finding out about this national day made me think of my own “mom and pop”. I know I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that my parents, Bonnie and Babe, were small business owners for many years. A women’s clothing store, to be exact.

Prior to my parents ownership of the business, it had been known as “Kay’s Clothes Bar”, on account of the building’s history of housing, you guessed it, a bar.

The name, of course, was changed once my parents took it over.

A keepsake

How the store became theirs is remarkable.

When my mom, at 42, was gabbing with her girlfriends one day in 1979, one of them posed the question “if you could own your own business, what would it be?” Bonnie responded with “I would own Kay’s Clothes Bar”.

That was on a Thursday.

While out and about on that following Saturday morning, my dad called my mom and asked if she was serious about wanting to have a clothing store, and she said yes, she was indeed. Dad had learned that morning that “Kay’s” was up for sale.

So together they forged ahead with becoming small business owners. Dad was on strike from his job at the mining company at the time, so this venture was a huge leap of faith.

Me, at 16, posing in the store

Though Dad had a great mathematical mind, he hadn’t gone to college (neither did Mom). Fortunately that mattered not, because his pragmatism, work ethic, and desire to keep Mom happy worked in concert with his accounting skills to see them through 15 years of being successful small business owners.

One thing that Mom took pride in was her ability to remain current. I think she was a young soul, really, because of her committed interest in staying on top of things. On top of fashion trends, on top of the news of the day, on top of whatever was going on in our little town. She didn’t miss a thing.

She was a social being who was happiest among others. She loved visiting with her customers, creating beautiful displays to “wow” them, and sharing her fashion expertise.

I very much relate to these aspects of Bonnie. So much so that as I sit here writing this post, I’ve been periodically glancing out the window at our “man cave”, (the name will be changing to something that’s not a cliche), thinking up ways to decorate and furnish it as it is to be (at least in part) a fun gathering spot for neighborhood parties and family get-togethers.

Yet lately I’ve started day dreaming about what kind of business I could run in this space. You see, I’m slowly but surely honing in on what it is I’m going to do, work-wise. And there’s so much potential, right here. I could section off a portion of the building for an office for myself to pursue paid creative writing projects or open it up as a non-profit food pantry. Or do something altogether different with this space.

At the risk of sounding like a total flake here, I believe that while I fancy the notion of operating my own small business, I can’t say definitively that working for someone else is out of the question for me. For the right job, the one in which I can use the skills I possess to help others, I would consider being someone’s employee again.

Of course, that would be the easy choice. Much less risky.

It makes me wonder, what would Bonnie and Babe think?

So, I’ve given myself a project this spring. I’m having a garage sale. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been methodically going through all of our stuff and determining what we no longer need. I’ve been going on Pinterest for ideas on how to put on the best garage sale possible.

I figure this is a good way for me to practice having a small business. It also gives me something to focus on as the time I have to spend watching our grandson lessens.

But back to Bonnie and Babe.

I don’t think I realized until the last few years just how much my parents teamwork and individual contributions as small business owners shaped who I am as an adult. How I think, what I dream about, and how I want to live in community with others.

My hard-working parents had so many adventures together in mid-life on account of being small business owners. Financially, they were successful at it, putting me through college and funding their vacations both inside and outside the U.S.

But perhaps even more importantly, they enjoyed running the store together. They took pride in it. They developed meaningful friendships they may not have otherwise developed. They made a positive impact on our community.

Back when I was going through pictures, just prior to moving back to Wisconsin from Colorado last year, I came upon a treasure. It was a clipping from our hometown newspaper of an article about my parents as they were fixing to close up shop and retire.

Retirement came a few years earlier than they had planned, as a dispute with the owner of the building over the lease had developed. They came to the conclusion that it was time to close up shop as a result.

However, Bonnie and Babe retained their great attitudes, with Bonnie commenting to the reporter in the article “As unfortunate as this is, it’s not a tragedy; no one’s dying, we still have each other”. To which Babe responded “if this is as tough as it gets, we’ve got it made”.

Cheers to all of you small business owners out there on this national day. May your customers be loyal, may you stay the course, and may you flourish!

13 thoughts on “Moms and Pops”

  1. Wow – what a great story. A leap of faith for sure but it sounds like one that was wonderfully suited for them. And for you to pick it up with your garage sale – what a lovely way to dip your toe in and also build on your roots! Beautiful, Rhonda!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Wynne! Bonnie and Babe were something else. A dynamic duo for sure. I’m glad you mentioned in your comments that this garage sale endeavor can build on my roots. So sweet 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with Wynne…what a great story, Rhonda! Thank you for sharing Bonnie and Babe with us and I agree — the garage sale idea makes total sense to me…a way to begin thinking in an entrepreneurial way as you consider what’s next. I like it! (And I love the pic of you posing in the store — adorable!) 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad I put it out there now. It’ll be helpful for me to make this happen and prove to myself that I can follow through. So often I start a project and find myself abandoning it. I welcome any accountability I can get with this-whether via blogger or IRL friends!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I didn’t know there was a “National Mom and Pops Business Owners Day” but I am so pleased to learn that it exists! As you know it was those early Mom and Pops businesses that have made our country grand. Cheers to your parents for 15 years of dedicated service to their customers and the community!! I am a big believer in shopping local first and I appreciate the customer service in our local shops! Wishing you well, as you venture in to finding a career that suits you well!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comments. It is true that small businesses have really contributed so much to our country. I very much enjoy shopping local too, as well as supporting small businesses online, like Etsy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Big supporter of small businesses here. I’d much rather pay a little more and support a local shop. I may have mentioned this to you before (I know I told somebody on the blogs that lives in your part of the country), but we had a family reunion in Two Harbors two years ago. Charming place right on Lake Superior. Lots of good memories were made that week. One of the places we visited was Gooseberry Falls.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rhonda, what a wonderful story and an awesome endeavor! I’m sure whatever you set your mind to, you will make it happen! Uhm, wanna come and help me with my place? I’ve been going nuts with everything now that I can half see again! Ah well, it will all get done eventually! Can’t wait to hear how the garage sale goes. I swore years ago never to have another one because people can just be crazy. Also, theft! May the people who visit yours be honest and reasonable. Much success to you! Mona

    Liked by 1 person

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