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My favourite on-line business coach asked a question the other night: What are you reading right now?

I sheepishly answered that despite my usual day-to-day diligence and determination to stick to business and improvement publications, I was reading a trashy novel. I haven’t read a trashy novel for years, so why now?

I am not big on shopping so I don’t often stop and browse the stores downtown. I was on my way to somewhere on the weekend, however, and had to cruise straight down the main street. Balloons and a big cake give-away caught my eye. They were right outside one of our local bookstores so I noticed the signs. Last day of business – today – all books free! I parked.

Now this bookstore has been an institution in this town for as many years as I can reasonably remember. It is a used book store with a variety of books, and a big one at that. There always seemed to be people in it – you know the type: browsers, bookaholics, people who just love peeking inside for any number of reasons. So why was it shutting down?

Rumour has it the rents in our local downtown area are getting out of hand. We are not a major city with any number of big stores longing to get a toe in the door. Those stores seem happiest at the mall or on the outskirts of town. Our downtown has always been a funky collection of mom-and-pop stores and cafes – according to everyone I speak with that has been its primary attraction. Our downtown has never been a clone of every other town in Canada.

My town has a population in the range of 25,000 people. The entire region (about 625 sq. km.) sits at about 55,000 so we really can’t be considered a metropolis. So, if the rumour is true, why would commercial property owners need to continue to raise rents so that the lessees could no longer stay? There doesn’t seem to be many business owners waiting to claim the empty spaces. Perhaps the municipality decided to supplement the coffers by raising taxes on commercial property. This is all speculation but it is easy to see how the spiral starts and the ending is usually unfortunate for some, perhaps many.

This scenario is yet another reason I have my business on-line. The real estate is pretty cheap, all things considered. My clientele can find me from anywhere in the country. In this day and age, it is a win/win situation.

So, back to that trashy novel… our local bookstore was pretty picked over by the time I saw the sign. I found a few books for my grandson and a few Bryan Adams cassette tapes (the advantage of driving an older vehicle!) and then I ended up at the trashy novels. These much-maligned books were always the brain-dead entertainment I relaxed with when I was camping years ago. When I saw them I realized I have not had a camping holiday in years and, seeing as how the books were free, I could take a brief virtual holiday by cracking one open. And the deed was done.

Before I close this post, I want to address (just briefly) the increasing trend we are seeing for brick and mortar businesses, especially the mom-and-pop ones. These labours of love are getting scarcer and scarcer as their cost of doing business goes higher and higher. As an infrequent shopper I do not do my part to help. Except when I do need to shop – then I love the small shops. The small shops where the owner wants to know about you, and knows exactly where inside the store the products are, and happily helps you. What I do is best done on-line but hopefully mom-and-pop will consider taking just a bit of their business on-line so they can maintain the storefront I do love to (infrequently) visit.

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