I'm diverting away from my typical BEER talk today to tell you a different kind of story. This one is about FEELINGS...hahaha don't worry, we won't be analyzing your inner child, just wanted to get your attention :)
Mark and I had the chance to take a stroll along McRae and Elizabeth Street in downtown Okotoks on Tuesday afternoon...something we aren't able to do often given we are still employed full time in downtown Calgary while we aggressively build our business and brewery. Fortunately our work allows us the ability to work from home from time to time so we were able to experience our beautiful town in the middle of a bustling work day.
What I realized short into our walk, was how much I enjoyed going into stores like Oil and Vinegar and School House Pets...two adorable little shops on our way to one of our two meetings in town that day. As we pa-roused the wares in each, I found myself WANTING to buy something...was it because they had superior products? Well, they were great products...but that's not why. What I was feeling was supportive...not something I feel in every place that I shop, which is why I wanted to share it with you.
Many of us feel a sense of community when we shop and eat in the local, independent, "mom and pop" shops, because the experience is so different from hitting up COSTCO or some other big box store. Am I against COSTCO? No way! And anyone that knows me knows I likely pay at least one or two of the employees wages with the groceries we buy weekly for our herd of kids!
But...going to COSTCO often feels stressful for me, with the number of people I am dodging (it seems I'm not a great shopping cart "parker" either so that gets me into some trouble hahaha) and although the checkers are super friendly, they don't have time to know me or remember me which means I remain a sales number. I don't take it personal...but I sure notice when I'm no longer a number.
On Tuesday, in storerooms barely larger than the average living room, approached with the warmth of a relaxed and welcoming conversation, I realized I felt like I was spending time with a friend or even a family member when employees talked with us. There was no up-sell and no scripted "so, do you have any other plans for the evening," that the big box stores know WOULD make people feel good, if they were sincere. Although well intended, those moments just aren't natural and cannot elicit the feelings like we had when going through Okotoks' downtown stores yesterday.
That "we are all family here" feeling didn't even stop at the downtown shops...we spent some time with Pamela and Stephen at the Eagle 100.9 radio station and Robyn and Clint at Two Birds Furniture later that day to experience the same thing! We seemed to spend more time getting to know each other than talking business. In fact, each was looking for ways to help the other with opportunities for collaboration...each helping the other reach their goals. When was the last time COSTCO reached out to help you with your goals?
THAT is the feeling that made me WANT to buy something at each store I was in yesterday! And when I couldn't find what I wanted at one store, I continued to think about what I COULD buy...because I felt supportive. Am I a weirdo? Am I the only one that feels this way? I suspect not...
I can't say the prices in Okotoks are better or worse because seriously, I have no idea...it never crossed my mind. What I know is those store owners will remember me when I go back in. They will remember the name of my dog Maggie and go out of their way to find just the right food for her allergy issues. Shopping in Okotoks' shops like these is about the experience and it's something that can't be wrapped up and sold for the lowest price :)
Ok, that's it...no more feelings...time to head over to John Henry's for a pint of our favourite local IPA. Hope to see you there!