London, Wednesday, July 7th
Josh woke up and checked the time on his mobile phone. “Hmmm, only 5 AM,” he thought. “Another short night.” He turned and saw that his wife Marcia was still sound asleep.
“Why did I come along on this trip?” went through Josh’s head. Marcia and Josh both had been very tied up in their work over the past months. Josh’s bookstore needed much more time than anticipated and the travel schedule of Marcia had become almost insane. Marcia’s traveling would need to reduce soon, given the wonderful news that Marcia was pregnant. This trip would be an opportunity to spend more time together. Which is why Josh suggested to come along on this trip, so they would have some quality time together in London.
Even though Marcia would be at the pharmaceutical conference most of the day, she needed to attend, the days ahead should be fun.
His mind went back to the previous evening. They had a pretty smooth ight from New York to London and checked into their hotel. Since the hotel restaurant didn’t look too attractive, they decided to check out a neighboring one they had spotted on their way. It was called Bread&Care and was apparently part of a group.
Their first impression was that it didn’t feel like a typical restaurant. At least not like many other places where you are seated and then served by a waiter or waitress who doesn’t really care. In fact, when they entered the place, it initially felt more like a store to them, a bakery of some sort. But then again, it was different than most retail stores Josh had come across.
Josh and Marcia looked around and enjoyed what they saw, heard, and smelled. It was busy, without being overly crowded. They were greeted in a very personal and comforting manner. Much to Josh’s surprise, the whole dining experience was like that. The staff was super friendly, connecting, and engaging.
Marcia had jokingly mentioned that Josh was great at making salads and one of the restaurant staff immediately said that he was perfectly welcome to join the kitchen team. Josh refused smilingly, but felt immediately at home. This was something quite rare for him since he just wasn’t much of a traveler and didn’t have many favorite places to eat (other than at home).
Josh Smith was born and raised in New York City and was happy there. After he’d graduated from Columbia University, he started his career at a law rm only to quickly nd out that he wasn’t going to be happy for long in the legal world. His father had already questioned why he was so persistent about studying law, yet Josh thought he knew better. How right his father had been, as many times before.
His mind went back to the 5th of June, four years ago; the day his father had died. Nobody had expected him to live decades longer, considering his heart condition. Nevertheless, his death had come as a shock to everybody.
While Josh was still in kindergarten his dad had opened a bookstore. He had always been a fanatical reader and had an incredible book collection. Josh’s mom had complained more than once that the books were simply taking up too much space. One day, she’d suggested the house looked more like a bookstore or a library than anything else and that had triggered the idea to really start a bookstore. His father had quit his job as a salesperson at IBM and built a store that was successful enough to feed the family.
As a kid, Josh had loved spending lots of time in the store. So when his father died, no one was really surprised to see him start looking after it. A real estate agent initially offered to buy the space, but Josh couldn’t stand the idea of seeing his father’s life work being transformed into some liquor store or florist. Josh had talked to the team, and they all indicated they would be able to run the store with his assistance. Martin, who had already worked with his father for fourteen years, was asked to run the store on a daily basis.
The bookstore never made a lot of profit, while there hadn’t been a single month with negative results. That is, not until just a year ago. The economy still wasn’t where it should be, and other retailers were complaining about the economy taking more time to recover than they had anticipated. There were serious concerns about the growing impact of online shopping.
Josh had noticed that Martin was really struggling in several ways. The first losses prompted Josh to think differently and look for other opportunities. He was once more approached by a real estate agent and again decided against selling the square meters on which his dad had built the store.
He and Marcia had talked about various scenarios, dinner after dinner, until one evening when Josh had jokingly said that he could give up his legal career in order to start working at the bookstore full time. Instead of laughing and ridiculing the idea, Marcia had simply asked, “So, what’s stopping you?”
It took Josh one week to make up his mind, although in reality, his heart had already decided much faster. The first years as an entrepreneur hadn’t been easy. Consumer trust was still very low, and more and more shopping was being done online. It felt like many retailers in the area were suffering. Traffic seemed to be down considerably at all stores. The sad thing was that shopping had also seemed to become less engaging in most stores. It felt a bit like a catch-22 situation. Lower results and fewer shoppers led to layoffs in retail, which made shopping even less delightful than before.
Not a good combination, Josh was thinking, while online shopping became more and more attractive. Their sites had become more appealing, and many online retailers offered a wider assortment than one could physically offer in a store.
What a difference the ambiance of last night’s restaurant could make in his store, and in many others…
Josh fell asleep again.
In his dream he saw the bookstore so crowded that his wife needed to help out. His team was very engaging and the customers were simply having a great time. The future of the bookstore seemed to be secure. Josh was also dreaming that Marcia was cuddling their baby. The thought of having a third-generation bookstore keeper brought a big smile on Josh’s face.