The shuttered shop: A dream has been lost


A small business closed in our town the other day; and while the modern temptation is to blame someone, to foam politically, to snarl at some official or other, I suspect the reasons are the usual ones, having more to do with income and outgo being slightly disproportionate. And it was a small store, not a vast entity, so it will not make the front page of the papers, and occasion comments both sweet and crazy when the article appears online.Brian Doyle

Yet the quiet death of a small store in our town seems to me a great loss; a thread that binds us has snapped, and we ought to pause a moment and mourn the broken connection, and celebrate the hard work and endless hours that the young couple put into their work, work they did while often carrying their new baby hither and yon inside the store. More than once I saw the husband dandling his child as he added up a customer’s purchase, or the wife humming to the baby on her hip as she thrashed flour into what would be the most delicious bread, and one subtle loss of the store’s closure is what might have been the delighted child running here and there in the store in years to come, and learning to make bread, and proudly selling the tiny loaves she made her own self to grinning customers like me more than willing to overpay for the privilege.

But no.

I admired their work ethic, this young couple, and how they stitched their lives into their work. They were always friendly, no matter how weary they were. Their door was always open, and I can remember only once that they closed early (and that was to go work a picnic). They added open hours, even though they had a new child and surely wished to go home after 10 hours and nap and watch a movie and not think about income and outgo. They never complained or seemed at all bitter even as in recent months even I, not the most perceptive business observer, noticed the lack of traffic in the store. Their products were superb; their service was prompt, honest, friendly and genuine; and yet the store did not make it, and one evening when I stopped by for a loaf of their most delicious bread, the store was dark, and there was a note on the door and that was the end of that.

But someone among us ought to sing their effort for a moment, and sing the quiet hard work of all the businesses big and small in our town. A town is not so much streets and buildings as it is people and dreams; and when three among us have to shutter their dream, a little of the light of the town dims also. It’s totally natural, it happens all the time, it’s the normal and usual cycle of a capitalist society, and chances are good that the young couple and their small child will land on their feet and soon enough conduct a successful enterprise. But this morning, thinking of that sad handwritten note on the shuttered shop, I say thanks to them for their dream, and thanks to all of us who savor and appreciate the dreaming of so many among us. The dreaming is who we are at our best.

 Lake Oswego resident Brian Doyle is the author most recently of the essay collection “Grace Notes.” His novel, “Mink River,” was the 2012 selection for the Lake Oswego Reads program.