Survival Depends On Patronage

“We are not busy.”

That’s a bad statement, and a terrible feeling, if one is in business and finds such to be the serious predicament. A customer said those words to us more than a year ago, and the comment stuck like a thorn and stayed with us. We’ve thought of it many times since.

Frequently, that situation has been seen in our lifetime, when a small business, or even major operation, does not have regular patronage. To pay the overhead and make a profit for livelihood, one must have customers.

Many small communities have felt that terrible crunch over the past five decades, and what were once thriving rural main streets are now ghost towns. Within our own county, a grocery store, a lumber yard, a café, an elevator, a service station, a bank and schools kept no less than six towns alive, plus the county seat.

But times were tightening. One by one, storefronts were slowly vacated, and then education overhead demanded school consolidation. Within a few years, some communities were completely nonexistent. Those surviving are hanging on by a thread, maybe one or two businesses, and the situation worsens.

County seats are struggling for life as well. Our hometown had eight grocery stores, of which our family was included, as we were growing up. Now it has one. Same story goes for other businesses, while there are no men’s clothing, shoe or jewelry stores.

Now, the sudden change in the economy over the past nine months has further tightened the pinch on small businesses throughout the state and nation. Such privately owned companies have always had low survivorship and rapid turnover. Everybody wants to have their own personal operation, and it’s not hard to start.

To continue is the seemingly impossible part, and as difficult as this has always been, now it’s tougher than ever. When the lights are on, and the door is open, the proprietor had better be busy, or the entry will soon be locked and windows barred.

A sound reminder is issued: if a rural business is still open, everybody must patronize it today, instead of going to the city 15 or 25 miles down the road. If they don’t, there will be no store tomorrow, and a dead community the day after.

Warning was given in Ezekiel 27:33: “Everything you’ve bought and sold has sunk to the bottom with you. The buyers and sellers of the world throw up their hands: This horror can’t happen. Oh, this has happened.”

Thankfully, relief is promised in Matthew 10:22: “But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors. Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”