July 19, 2012

Perks of Being a Regular

by: Ryan Glass

1 Comment

Today’s post is by contributing writer Ryan Glass:

Supporting “Local” goes beyond Small Business Saturday

We’ve all seen the commercials, “this is the power of us”, illustrating how great small business are and how AMEX customers joined into a massive 1 Million people who chose to shop somewhere other than a big-box retailer or Amazon.  Holy cow, imagine what could happen if we only spread the word!!

But, I know that on this note I’m preaching to the choir here.  I’m sure each reader already has their own favorite local coffee shop (Lola on Roosevelt used to be mine), and I’m sure everyone reading this has recommended a small business to a friend at some point (“How have you not heard about Smeeks?  Oh man, old-school candy cigarettes are the best for smoking on the job.”).

So what’s the next step in supporting the small business that make up your community? Easy, become a “regular” at one.

Regulars don’t exist, that’s just a lie ‘Cheers’ told us

Not only do “regulars” exist, but business-owners love them, and our patronage is integral to the launch of any new or transitioning venture.

Last weekend I did my own version of GTL, Haircut-Comics-Icecream, and remembered that as much as I like Butterscotch Dipped cones from DQ, I’d just gotten an email about a new Froyo place down the road and went to check it out.  I walked into Twirl and behind the counter was Dana from Hula’s, giving me a mental high-five and the “welcome, brother” I was used to. Talking to him about this recently opened venture, Dana commented on how great it was to see his Hula’s devotees coming over.  Now if only he’d hurry up and make a Mai Tai froyo, so I could have the best of both worlds.

Catching up with the always frenetic Jeff Kraus (of Truckin’Good Food & Crepe Bar), I asked him what his regulars mean to a transitioning business. “I’m grateful that I get to do what it is that I love to do. If it weren’t for my ‘regulars’ I wouldn’t be where I am today”.  Certainly switching from a mobile food truck to pop-up/catering to a new brick-and-mortar has meant a lot of changes in expectations and also a lot of need for alteration/innovation. Jeff wrapped up with “It’s the regulars that keep me and my concepts ‘alive’”.  Between the apparent passion for sharing new creations and concepts that involve revolutionizing breakfast burritos, you can’t help but be on board.

One of my favorite stories of someone being a “regular” is posted up at Cheese ‘n Stuff Deli.  Haivng read the snippet in a publication years ago, I’d forgetten about it until I was waiting in line one afternoon and saw the clipping pasted up on the deli case, recounting a young athelete’s obsession with the N. Central fixture leading to repeat visits and a life-long customer:

I ate it at the gym before my match. Then again before my next. I went the week after that, twice. Then I quit wrestling, and on good weeks had it every other day. I ate it before the first concert I drove to with friends, and on graduation day. After a few months, I didn’t have to order anymore. Just enter and smile, a nod between priest and supplicant. Or call first, get Stan’s daughter on the phone — ”Tell your dad Tyler’s coming in, okay?

A Quick To-Do List on Becoming a “Regular”

1.) Pick out a place you like
2.) Go there a lot
3.) Don’t creep out the help (if you go there a lot AND you’re creepy, that’s a problem)
4.) Talk to people, be friendly and tell them how awesome their coffee/tacos/piano strings are.
5.) When they finally ask “Would you like your usual” say “Yes” before doing your celebratory dance.  You’ve made it!

On that last item, I learned the hard way that when the owner asks if you’ll take your “usual”, that’s not a good time to throw them a curveball.  Sorry Ernie, I just really wanted a waffle that day.

I suppose the final step in the process would be if you had a menu item named after you.  We all have our goals right?

So many good local businesses, how can I save them all

In all seriousness, I love local business, but even I know I can’t support them all on my own, and/or they don’t always meet the needs of the community they’re trying to serve.  The best thing to do is to something akin to the 3/50 project.

I first noticed the 3/50 Project after seeing the badge on a blog I read years ago and instantly it resonated with me. Get on board with a few businesses who agree with you, your lifestyle, your expectations, your “tribe”, and show them some love today. It’s as simple as shifting my discretionary spending away from the impulse buys at a big-box retailer and over towards an outlet that will keep it in our community.

Long story short, support local business and they’ll support us. Don’t be the guy commenting in the “XYZ business closes” post next time.  Be the guy who’s there this week, and good owners will reward your faith in them.

(Final note – Fair warning, the title was not intended to be a coffee-shop pun, but if it gets me free lattes, I might say it was.)

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One Response

  1. jose602 says:

    I think it’s awesome when people become regular patrons of a local establishment. It’s also great when you walk into a place and you see familiar faces and everyone gives a collective hello in the “NORM!” fashion.

    One thing that I think is important, though, is not getting too entrenched in our routines and to occasionally stir up the adventure by checking out other places and being aware of them as options.

    For example, Lux is great, but within a mile or two of it, there’s also Citizen eBar, Pink Spot, and Urban Beans (among others), all of which are good places to meet folks in central Phoenix. I feel like there are a quite a few places (not just coffeeshops) that get forgotten about just because they’re not the popular local default or because they’re not the new hot thing. It’s great to have regular haunts, but it’s nice to have variety, too.

    The other upside of occasionally stepping out of your comfort zone to check out the places you might normally go to is that it makes being a regular somewhere even more special. Taking a short break from a place you frequent allows you the time and space to catch up with the folks you might see regularly which can be different from your daily check in.

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