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December 23, 2019

Priceless: Finding Passion & Fullfillment in Supporting Small Shops.

Generally, I dread holiday shopping, but that all changed for me the other day.

I just supported a small business that filled some sort of void in me—like an unfulfilled need I didn’t know existed.

Maybe that statement would sound peculiar if it was said over 20 years ago. Yet, it seems to make perfect sense with our trending online consumerism and instant gratification.

Maybe you’ve noticed how easy it is to feel like a commodity in those big retail stores, malls, and dehumanizing online marketplaces.

However, walking into this little shop wasn’t like that at all.

I felt more human when stepping through that door—feelings of fulfillment and wholesomeness showed up to greet me at the entry.

This small 10-year-old candle company resides in western Massachusetts, located right across the street from another local candlemaker, and just 30 miles from the giant Yankee Candle Company.

I wanted to know what it is that makes them, in particular, stand out.

I opened the vintage, wooden door and stepped inside. The delightful interior of the store looked like Main Street. Coming from the cold outside air into this cinnamon spiced warmness was immediately refreshing.

Despite that the space is small and quaint, there was a lot to take in. Each wall is a facade of various New England-style buildings. Even the carpet is painted as a cobblestone road; the ceiling is painted as a cloud-speckled blue sky.

The store was empty on a Friday afternoon, which felt so foreign to me in contrast to the hustle and bustle of commercial behemoths. My introverted side welcomed the solitude. This was far better than playing bumper carts in crowded aisles and feeling like I’m always in the way.

The little bells on the door summoned an older man who came from the back of the store wearing a flannel shirt. Flecks of plaster ornamented his shoulders. My guess was that he was the owner, and in the middle of remodeling.

He greeted me, introduced himself as Jim, and then hung back while I took the whole lot in for a bit.

It didn’t take long before I had questions about the interesting displays, and Jim seemed most pleased to fill me in. I was impressed by his creative flair as he spoke about the design of each “building.”

One would find it easy listening to the stories he told of the many crafts placed throughout the shop. He talked of a bottle of fine whisky, emptied, cut, and filled with wax; scents that bring back memories; the myths behind soy candles burning longer than any other type.

As I chatted it up with Jim, I felt personally fulfilled and unified rather than disappointed in having failed to connect meaningfully with a clerk in some department store, or while mindlessly scrolling through the available merchandise of an online retailer. Most local business owners, like Jim, seem so happy to give of their time, and talk about the work that they do.

One can hear the passion coming straight from the depths of their souls.

To be honest, I began to feel a bit envious of the courage and determination that small business owners possess. They stand up against the odds and live their purpose, leaving little room for excuses or apologies.

We can honor them by showing a sincere interest in their work and returning to their business as often as possible.

Let’s be inspired by local artisanship.

Stepping into this little creative world made my desire to start a side hustle even stronger. It’s a much-needed reinforcement that good people are out there doing great things in small ways, even in face of the odds that are stacked against them.

And no, there’s nothing wrong with having an online business. It’s the way to stay competitive in a time when more and more people are looking for the convenience of not leaving their home. Entrepreneurs and artisans can sell online and still provide that small business feel. It’s those little, additional touches that count. Maybe it’s a thank you email, or that little heart drawn on the shipping package.

I don’t recall ever feeling the gift of fulfillment or wholesomeness when seeing an exhausted Amazon driver deliver a package, or hearing a bored store clerk mention how they can’t wait to go home.

So, if you, like me, are looking for something closer to the heart, check out the local shop or the artisans on Etsy or down the street. I even challenge you to have a conversation with a shop owner, or to respond genuinely to a thank you email.

It’s damn near impossible to miss the human connection when we slow down and start to notice the passion in people’s hearts.

After all, what better time is there to find a little passion and community if not during the holidays?

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