The enterprising young brother from Burkina Faso who used to work at the 99-cent store around the corner from me has just unveiled a 99-cent store of his own, across the street. He once offered to help me do my laundry back when I wandered into his/our old stomping grounds as often as possible to play with the big, black cat that lived in the aisles. But the store eventually outsourced the cat, and then it got rid of its New York Times stand, so I’ve been forced to move on.
It’s lovely to see that this guy has moved on, too. However, thus far, all his new joint has going for it is the owner’s dynamic personality and winsome smile. It’s only slightly more spacious than my bathroom and I’m getting weird excuses about why the man in charge can’t be bothered to carry Mountain Dew or extension cords. He’s revealed that his ultimate goal is to be in a position to sell “cheeses and turkey” one day. I can picture and taste it already – clearly so can he, based on the faraway look that overtook his eyes the instant he brought up the idea (in the mid-1990s, a guidance counselor at my high school advised that a personal dream is more likely to come true if you regularly envision exactly how you’d want it to play out in your head).
Since there are many other, virtually identical shops in the neighborhood, an uninitiated outsider might think this latest fledgling small business owner is setting himself up for failure. But the West African immigrant community in this several-block radius goes out of its way to take care of its own, and would never let him go down without dignity. Even the non-immigrant locals take care of good people who establish any sincere roots in the area. I see customers jovially coming in and out of his small space all the time. I stop by a couple times a week to check in about how much longer it’ll be before the cheese-and-turkey operation gets off the ground or to buy a roll of paper towels that I could get cheaper farther down the street. I’ve also volunteered to help him set up a speakeasy in the back room.
A dynamic personality and winsome smile can be the only business plan some people ever need.
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