Business à la Woodstock

Photography: Juanjo Photography

Photography: Juanjo Photography

Once a upon a time before the big corporate fishes ruled the sea the world was a breeding ground for small businesses and shops. I always marvel at how my local baker managed to rear two PHD holding doctors from a tiny shopfront. He never adapted, never moved with the times he is to this day baking the same 1970s reliable, coffee slices and cream doughnuts, if you want to see him get angry ask him for a novelty cake and he will show you the Time yellowed magazine clips when every wedding cake was the same orange blossom scented shape.

I don’t ever want it to change and it won’t until he decides that he has enough of looking out the floured dusted window at the sunset and quietens down that industrial oven burning flame.

It is the only place where I get called Ms Ribeiro and I kind of like it, he asked me the first time I went into his shop if I preferred Mrs or Ms, that would be the time when I was in tears because my cheap Xmas tree had just collapsed and he lent me one, it was white and light like a feather boa installation flashing into the night.

Stories like my local bakers are part of Disney movies now, they don’t exist anymore and that is why his survival is so special and he will retire before his last old school customer dies so for Mick the backer things won’t change much.

Everywhere else the uniformity and the lack of originality drives me CRAZY, I will always despise Cinema omniplexes I love small, I love an underdog and the only chains that I fully appreciate are the ones that sparkle around my neck.  Is there no alternative, do we all have to be painted en masse with the same brush? Do we all end up on a semi identical finishing line with a limited portfolio of experiences because the non-prescribed ones, the ones that had no marketing campaigns simply cannot survive?

Yet like stubborn weeds around the cracks in the pavement there are new businesses ventures that are working within the principle of one of the first things we try and teach our children, sharing. It is actually so basic and simple within its concept that we keep thinking there must be a catch. There are several of course, not all merchandise can occupy the same space in harmony for the sake of sharing rent bills and as well as the amount of hours you are present in your shop. The load must be even but you must also feel represented in your side of the shelf.

I came upon such a shop by accident, I had just seen an independent small theatre production so I suppose it was just fate that I walked into this ample and bright space, full of beautiful handmade things that for the first time did not all cost the earth. As my daughters and I looked at funkiest kid’s clothes the shop lady came over and told us she was the seamstress who designed and made the clothes and that she made things to measure. She told us how she shared the shop with other designers , from silversmiths, potters and knitters and how they made it all work. She ended up saying, I feel very lucky because I do what I love and I have my own shop without the 24/7 commitment and sacrifice.

I bought a modern piece of jewellery a fancy copy and a book and all those pieces have the freshness and individuality of a human hand behind them and I already have written customer loyalty across my heart. I will go back because I was asked my name and my children’s, because she reminded me of my grandmother’s dressmakers , of trimmings and Antwerp lace, she gave me attention and time In the midst of her quaintness side by side with futuristic versus cubic design, in that shop front she gave me the nostalgic customer care of my past. I hope that this innovation to Entrepreneurship and business will give way to many little communes and co ops. It does not matter what we call them as long as we continue to grow and sustain our communities we something we have designed ourselves.

Janica Ribeiro.