I continue to be amazed by the people who take a chance on my store.
We are a new concept, low-key, hard to find, and very small. I see the folks who choose to venture from their normal routine and swing through as open-minded, adventurous, or maybe just desperate. Whatever their motivation, they usually come back, which is awesome. But even awesomer are the conversations I get to have with the wide variety of Bozemanites.
Nearly everyone has a bit of advice, support, or opinion to pass along. I welcome it and maybe they sense that, but I've also learned to take it with a grain of salt. Here are some of the bits of information I've received in the last month:
I've often discussed the community support, but I haven't said much about the negative feedback. That's because I'm told to ignore it (I don't) and usually it is a lot of nonsense. We haven't actually got negative feedback from any customers, but we are aware of the haters out there. Before we even opened, I was amazed at the number of Negative Nancies who rejected or scoffed at my business idea. Sure, some folks just don't think about the people on the receiving end of their cynicism (*ahem local newspaper comment section dwellers), but others legitimately don't want this business to succeed. Whether they are bitter, insecure, or just hate local business and only want the corporate giants of the world to succeed, I know their issues are personal and not actually related to our drive-thru market.
But it is still surprising how many unhappy people there are in the world, trying to project their psychological problems onto my small business.
I am a social worker by trade. Kids and families, seniors, poverty, mental health, inner-city homelessness, people with disabilities and disadvantages and dysfunction... you name it. My desire to help others solve problems is likely a huge contributor to me running with this business idea. And my passion remains advocating for people. Even with the variety people I've worked with with over the years, I'm still intrigued by the folks that come to my window to buy chicken breast, baked beans, and bananas.
In such a short period of time (because we are so fast!), I learn a little bit about each of them. I'm also learning a lot about the people who haven't come to my window (because that's what good business owners think about), and the haters out there (because they really really want to be heard). Although Bozeman is very homogeneous at first glance, I'm pleasantly surprised at the variety of tastes, opinions, and personalities I see through my window.
One thing virtually everyone agrees on: I should sell beer.
Here's why I haven't started doing that... yet: you cannot sell beer thru a window in Montana. Not a drive-up window or a walk-up window. I will likely cave on the issue and start selling a limited variety of booze in the future, but customers will have to park, get out of their cars, and come into the building, which is something I wanted to avoid. I also want to make sure we are comfortable with our systems and procedures before I introduce another twist. But I can promise, even though you'll have to get out of your car, it will still be speedier and more convenient than the grocery store or gas station!
I'll sign off with my all-time favorite feedback from a younger customer: "these buns are good, but Bethany's buns are the best!". I can't argue with you there, kid.