Two’s a Crowd

Our new “book nook,” which also features Gilly’s pillows, made from old t-shirts.

Before I attempt to garner any sympathy, I am aware that this exceeds the pale of any “first-world problem,” but sometimes crowding and where and when it happens absolutely befuddles me.

Fresh off the Pandemia version of Not Night of Lights But Come Shop Anyway, it was my turn to work the Saturday shift at Pat’s. Gilly takes half the turns; the rest of us trade off the remaining half, so my Saturday obligation occurs about once every other month.

Before we go much further, I should tell you how high the bar is set for retail at Pat’s: if we don’t have a $100 day, I make Gilly make up the difference. (Relax: I’m just joking. She only has to come up with the money if the monthly average is off.) Retail is just not our bread and butter, and good thing: except for Gilly, and perhaps James, the rest of us are not at our best at retail service.

In fact, Kara and I spend our Saturday shifts hoping customers don’t come in so that we can get owner-type tasks done for the screen printing that does provide the butter for our bread.

Santa granted my wish today. Other than a screen-printing customer who was picking up, and my friend Lindsey, who used some of her Gunnison Greenbacks to make some gift purchases —

[Every holiday season the chamber of commerce offers a sale on money: you give them $80 cash American, and they give you $100 in Gunnison Greenbacks, redeemable almost anywhere in town. It’s like getting 20 percent off your local purchases, but last year somehow they didn’t sell out. I don’t know how this year’s exchange went, but we have taken in Greenbacks from two customers so far. This year there’s also an additional program specifically to help the restaurants, and there your American money nets you a 50 percent savings from your favorite local restaurant.]

— other than those two, I only had two other people in for my entire four-hour shift, and neither of them bought anything. Not even the mail carrier stopped in.

Gilly and I did have one evening shopper on Friday, and I’m happy to report she bought two books and a CD set from our newly-revamped corner of pre-owned merchandise. It’s practically paid for itself already!

Thus, I was able to get the credit card reconciled Friday evening, and caught up in Quickbooks most of the bills and some of the deposits this morning. So a quiet, productive Saturday, with one retail sale to show for it, which seemed like a win to me.

But then Oz and I closed up shop at 2 and tried to head home. Pat’s Screen Printing may not have had crowds, but for some reason the sidewalks, and street, between Pat’s and my dented car were awash in people.

Here’s where I understand that if you don’t live in Gunnison, your idea of “awash” might be different from mine. But in general I can walk, on a weekday, from Dierdre’s house the five blocks to my shop, and not see anyone until I reach the food pantry and my bank’s walk-up window.

When I leave at lunchtime I am generally fine to remove my mask as soon as I’ve reached the first corner, because the likelihood of running across someone is very low. So today, at 2 p.m. on a day with very limited retail traffic in my shop, I went outside, locked the door and pulled my mask down. Then loaded up my hands and headed for my dented car, parked two blocks away in a county parking lot.

Only to encounter an absolute obstacle course of people. I mean, good for the second-hand sporting goods store, I assume, but I had no way of pulling up my mask without letting go of either Oz’s leash or dropping a video camera, and I didn’t want to be “that person” walking past these mostly-masked people with my face uncovered.

So instead of walking right by the two men looking at bicycles — I just read in our local paper that the not-used-bike stores in town are having a horrible time obtaining inventory — I steered Oz out into the street. Where two cars immediately got in our way. (One of them must have been using their bluetooth incorrectly, because the entire car was broadcasting some phone conversation for all the world to hear, like it was on a loudspeaker.)

We crossed the street to the Catholic church, only to encounter a woman coming toward us on the sidewalk. I never run into people outside the church, ever. Back toward the street, but here came more cars — and more sporting goods shoppers. We veered back toward the church, circling around the woman — but coming from the direction of the library on the opposite corner was yet another pedestrian. People, people everywhere. At 2 p.m. on a sleepy Saturday.

My next stop was the health food store, and my route took me right past the newest coffee place in town. I doubt very much I would have noticed this, despite driving past it on a daily basis, but our lone Friday evening customer had been discussing it with Gilly.

I don’t know about your household, but here’s how conversations go in mine:

I came home Friday night, driving past the brightly-lit but rather empty new shop, marveling at people’s optimism in the face of a pandemic that has severely limited restaurants’ ability to make money. And said to Lynn, “There’s a new coffee shop. It’s Coffee Trader, from Montrose.”

To which Lynn said, “Coffee Trader? That’s sounds familiar. Oh, I know: it’s in Montrose.”

So, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a branch of Coffee Trader opening up here in Gunnison. Just like in Montrose.

This now puts the number of coffee places about on a par with Mexican restaurants, and this one is located a hop, skip and not even a jump from Mocha’s, which may be our oldest coffee shop, now owned by our neighbors’ son. I hope it doesn’t impact him and his wife: they bought Mocha’s shortly before Pandemia reigned, so they’re already on an uphill trajectory.

I found a surprise waiting for me at the health food store: Burnell’s, once upon a time a food truck where we met with our peeps for Sunday brunch, has set up shop (as of yesterday, according to the sign) in the store’s commercial kitchen, operating 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sundays through the winter. I can get my breakfast sandwich again!

The health food store will continue to operate its deli Monday through Thursday, but this seems like a good co-use of space and a means for the Burnell’s owners to try to recoup income lost with a lack of catering this year.

I wanted to talk to Kevin or Denise, owners of Burnell’s, but guess what? There was a crowd. 2:30 now on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, and six people ahead of me waiting for food. Maybe I’ll just try for a sandwich in the morning.

In the meantime I am home, away from the madding crowds that somehow — happily — didn’t find their way to Pat’s today. I didn’t make our sales quota, but that’s okay: I’ll just take it out of Gilly’s paycheck.

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