I got the following e-mail, yesterday.
I lived in the Old Bend for the first 13 years of my life. I was a baseball card fanatic back then so I used to come into your store a fair bit in my childhood. We left and moved overseas in 1989 when it was still a charming small town but held on to our house in Bend.
Having had a chance to come back a few times in the intervening 19 years, it always amazed me how much things had changed. New freeways, new big box stores, new developments, etc. The New Bend. A lot of the friends that I grew up with there and their families have moved away. At this point I would have no desire to come back to Bend.
We eventually did sell your house last summer just before the market completely froze up and we made some money. But it still saddens me to see what happened to my hometown. It's good to see that there are still some bastions of Old Bend left. Good luck with your business.
Name withheld until I get permission."
Couple of numbers really leap out at me, and explain the genesis of the letter. First, that he was 13 years old when he left. Back then, I had a whole lot of 13 year old customers -- and obviously, based on the thoughtful e-mail, I'm guessing he was a thoughtful kid.
Now? Not so many thoughtful 13 year olds, some but not many.
Secondly, the 1989 date. That was the last year of the "Golden age" in baseball cards. The very next year, it started going south. Another year or so, I was having knife fights in the alley with many of the 'baseball card fanatics', of which I still bear the scars. By 1992, I was pulling the plug on cards, because we were well past the "Greed age" in cards, and on into the "Ragamuffin phase."
I came up with the idea that there are only two reasons to do something in business; either because it's fun (but maybe doesn't make money) or it makes money (but maybe isn't fun.) When it is neither fun nor makes money, get out!
I've also always said that 1989 was the last year before the big box invasion. The last year when local businesses were filling most of the niches. The last year that most newcomers were still trying to fit in instead of overwhelming us. (Linda says: they just overwhelmed us, they weren't trying.)
Anyway, it was a nice reminder of a more innocent time.
6 hours ago