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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Shop owners work many hours
To the editor:
I found Jeff VanDerford’s article (Dec. 30), headlined that Langley merchants discourage Whidbey shoppers, to be a shallow and ill-informed cheap shot levied at a very hard working group of independent business people in general and one business in particular.
Did Mr. VanDerford believe that by singling out Lowry-James Rare Prints and Books in Langley for opening later than the posted hours that he had uncovered the secret reason why some businesses (not Lowry-James) are suffering economically during these trying times? What does one shop on one Sunday morning at 10 a.m. after a very busy holiday shopping season prove in the bigger picture of the Langley business climate? The implication of his reference to “island time,” as some sort of local business credo, is that small shop owners are lackadaisical, unprofessional or worse, lazy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Most of the shops in Langley, Coupeville and Clinton are sole proprietorships, and a great many of those shop owners do not have employees, which means those owners are on duty six, sometimes seven, days a week for eight to 10 hours a day. Most of those shop owners have families, many with children that have music lessons, dentist appointments and the occasional medical emergency that require the sole proprietor to be away from their shop. It’s part of the day-to-day life that the small business person lives with, especially here on the island. Did Mr. VanDerford check with the shop owner to see if maybe there was a medical emergency? Or that the owner who does all her own professional framing (off-site) might be cutting frames for a customer’s purchase? Of course not. It was easier to shoot from the hip — to make a superficial point — at the business owner’s expense.
Perhaps instead of taking a cheap shot at Lowry-James, which for 22 years has attracted thousands of high caliber clients to Langley, Mr. VanDerford could have spent some quality time profiling an extremely successful, nationally recognized print dealer as to the “secrets” of her success in Langley. If he had, he would have learned that some of those secrets include working six days a week, often until 7 p.m., presenting her inventory at numerous off-island exhibitions, getting published in national trade publications and traveling the country acquiring inventory that her customers desire. Instead of offering another small business some useful information they might use to perhaps improve their business, Mr. VanDerford chose to denigrate and shed a negative light on a thriving businesswoman because she wasn’t open at 10 a.m. on a Sunday after Christmas. Mr. VanDerford’s shallow exercise in unearthing the root of Whidbey’s economic malaise was not a constructive way to improve the business climate on Whidbey, in Langley, or anywhere else for that matter.
Gregor Rare Books