I used to dread going shopping.
Seriously. I’m not a “shopper.” I’ve never been the type of person who relished the experience of slowly wafting through aisles, perusing every available trinket to see whether it might match my bathroom counter, or loading four sweaters, three skirts, and eight pairs of jeans into a cart and planting myself in a dressing room, coming out after each quick change to twirl and titter with my shopping girlfriends.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, at all. I just didn’t want to do it. Maybe it’s because I never had any decorating sense, and I couldn’t figure out which hand towels went with which soap dishes. Or, maybe it’s because I never liked to try on clothes, because the dressing rooms always smelled funny and I always felt weird about standing on those box store floors in my sock-feet, praying I wouldn’t catch a disease from the commercial rug that had clearly not been vacuumed enough.
Or, maybe, it’s because I always felt like a cog in a wheel, or an order number at a fast food restaurant. Shopping always made me feel like the Lone Ranger — off on my own in a big, dangerous world; It was me against them, and I had to fight my way to the products I needed, while somehow managing to stay on budget. Any assistance I asked for from an employee seemed to be viewed as a nuisance — like I shouldn’t be there in the first place. The employees usually made it clear that they didn’t know the answers to my questions anyway, and they certainly didn’t want to be working there to serve me. They were just there to pay some bills, and I was in the way.
Driving from store to store, which always seemed to be a necessity, felt like being a calf being shunted into the squeeze with a million other cows, except with the addition of honking horns and exhaust billowing from the car in front of me, as I trudged from one chain store to the next.
Then, I discovered what shopping in a small town was like.
Somehow, I no longer felt like I was in a cattle line. I no longer felt like a nuisance. In fact, more often than not, I’m greeted by name by the shop workers, whether owners or employees. I casually peruse merchandise while chatting about mutual experiences of holiday dinners, the weather, or something funny our kids did the day before. I usually find what I need, and if I don’t, it’s politely suggested that I try the store down the street instead. I don’t have to fight the traffic masses when I get back in my car. (Even summer construction pales in comparison to waiting in a four-hour delay on a five-lane interstate because of a fender bender inside the highway tunnel).
Whether it’s a personal conversation with Norma at Clover and Co. while buying a last-minute gift, or the Far North staff ensuring that they make it right if the wrong size pajamas were purchased at Christmas, or a cheerful smile early in the morning at Yoder’s while running in for a quick burrito before school, I always know I can count on the shops and businesses in Bonners Ferry to provide a great shopping experience.
Maybe it’s not every small town. Maybe it’s just this small town. Maybe we’re spoiled to live in the Friendliest Town in Idaho. All I know for sure is that the business owners and managers in Bonners Ferry know what their businesses are all about—they’re about the people. Without our customers, we’re nothing. Without our customers, we don’t put food on our own tables, and because of this, our customers are important to us, and it shows.
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Nancy Croll is a representative of the Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Boundary Consignments.