I learned the scuttlebutt at the elementary school. “Did you hear about Paula?” another mom asked. “She slipped in her kitchen and broke her pelvis.”
Oh no, I thought. No no no.
There is never a good time to break one’s pelvis. If you’re the owner of a toy store, however, the week before Thanksgiving may claim top prize as worst timing ever. Wish lists were about to get thrown down. The electrifying rush of Small Business Saturday, not to mention the rest of the holiday season, would shortly be unleashed. Paula Bolte, who owns Imaginations, the toy store in Blacksburg, was now consigned to watch it all from a wheelchair.
Utterly justified in holing up with some self-pity, Paula showed up in her store just a few days after her accident for the annual Imaginations Christmas Window Reveal Party. “How are you doing?” I asked.
“A little loopy on painkillers,” she replied, stretching out her arms for a hug as her husband maneuvered her wheelchair.
The pain (and the painkillers) keep her on a tight leash, able to endure only a half hour or so of the gale-force wind that is the toy store at Christmas. So Paula is learning to let go and trust her employees. That evening at the store, it was clear they’d come through for her. So would her customers. After the butcher paper was torn from the store window, Paula held court while friends and neighbors one by one lamented her sad story and wished her well.
Before writing about Imaginations and other local businesses for This Is Where You Belong, I really didn’t understand how a person who sells you stuff could become your friend—or why you’d want her to. Just ring up my purchase and I’m out of here, I thought.
But I’ve been the beneficiary of Paula’s graciousness and loyalty for several months now. A few days after Paula’s accident, I mentioned in this very newsletter that my 15-year-old daughter had opened her own Etsy shop. Who but Paula immediately ordered two art prints? And asked for Ella to deliver them so she could make my girl feel like a celebrity for a few minutes?
Buying local isn’t always easy or cheap. Yet somehow it always makes you feel richer. So here’s my challenge: This season, try to shift at least 10 percent of your holiday shopping to locally owned businesses. You’ll make your Christmas merry—and theirs.
7 items of interest
1. The obvious way to make your city better: put googly eyes on it.
2. A cheaper city can let you do what you love.
3. Want to spend more time with friends and neighbors? Embrace the 5 rules of the crappy dinner party. (Rule #1—Don’t clean.)
4. Real estate developments with food!
5. “This is an invitation to think about Columbus.” How declining cities woo Millennials. (P.S.—My family talks up Columbus all the time. That zoo won me over.)
6. This Is Where You Belong was one of Planetizen’s top 10 books of the year!
7. If I move again, it’s either Denmark or Iceland.
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