My daughter wanted to go back to a store in Fenwick to get a sweatshirt she'd been eyeing, so I asked my husband to drop me off at the small shops on the way so I could check out a little boutique I loved (that would be of no interest to anyone else in the car).
It was pouring when he dropped me off, so I dashed to the store, only to discover that it was closed. Out of business.
I stood there under the overhang processing my disappointment (which, I am sure, did not come close to rivaling the disappointment of the owner who'd had to make the decision to close) before dashing across the brick sidewalk to the store across the way. I wandered for a few minutes before making the decision to go with Plan B.
Before we left the condo, I'd tucked a notebook into my purse in case I had down time. There was a small bookstore and coffee shop next door -- The Book End Cafe -- a cute little spot I'd noticed on previous visits but had never gone into. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
It was charming. Open and clean with a relaxed, spacious feel and tall (okay, tall to me from my towering perspective of five feet zero inches) shelves of books tucked throughout, it was the perfect rainy day respite. Iced chai tea latte in hand, I settled at a circular table built around a column and opened my notebook.
Starbucks back home, but it had an atmosphere conducive to quiet contemplation. No music played, there was no line at the counter (a mixed blessing, given the fate of the boutique across the way) and the singletons at other tables were immersed in their own work. Food and drink were available (for a price, of course) and it was easy to settle in to read or write.
I know it's easy to romanticize small businesses, conveniently forgetting they're fraught with peril for the owner with a dream who takes a chance. The day after we returned home, I discovered that a small bookstore not much different from this one -- one that had been an institution in our town -- had closed its doors for good. My guess is that much like The Shop Around the Corner in the movie You've Got Mail, it just couldn't compete with the big guys whose big volume can afford to pay big overhead.
Unfortunately, I'm as guilty as anyone else of choosing price over principle, especially when it comes to getting the book I want in my hands. When the appetite is voracious, the temptation to squeeze every last drop out of the budget is great. But part of the beauty of vacation is visiting the small stores that make the beach -- well, the beach -- and enjoying the opportunity to spend my money in little places that make a big difference.
No matter how often I return to The Book End Cafe, I know I'll remember it as my port in a storm -- one I look forward to returning to even when it's not pouring down rain.
|Photo courtesy of sussex.org|