Independent local businesses walk a high wire without a net.


Most of these words were written in 2012, minus an ill-advised reference to corporate gift card swaps, and although I’m currently transitioning away from independent local business ownership, there is an “indie-anonymous” aspect to the process of disengagement.

On one hand, the better “craft” beer biz is my natural milieu. On the other, as presently constituted, it’s a scrum of fear, loathing and Philistinism, one I’d rather take a break from trying to influence from the inside until things shake out, and the pendulum swings back around.

In fact, I’d far rather act to influence the pendulum from a different perspective, as color commentator of sorts. Will there be other independent business opportunities in the future? I don’t know. Start-ups are a young person’s game, and perspective usually easier for the ones with ample scar tissue and time to think.

As any of this pertains to local independent business prospects in a place like New Albany, only one message continues to ring true through the passing years: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin said it, and it applies to New Albany’s indie business community in the year 2015 just as much as when Franklin uttered it during revolutionary times.

You may or may not enjoy this snippet of where “my head was at” three years ago. How much has changed?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

It’s simply a fact of life that almost every single working day during each calendar year, independent local businesses walk a high wire without a net.

Engorged corporate franchise teats for suckling? We have none.

Massive federal bailouts, available as soothing stress relief? Not exactly.

But hardly a week passes without various levels of government merrily providing subsidies for the very same multinational monoliths best placed to decapitate the independent business segment, as procured by the same lawyers and lobbyists we cannot afford.

On and on it goes. Money inexorably hemorrhages out of the local economy, until it reaches terminal gravity at whichever offshore tax havens offering the best terms to the coddled white-bread one-percenters of our era.

But you know what?

Digressions, rants and bitterness aside, I’m generally firm in the belief that most indies wouldn’t have it any other way.

The only true bottom line for me is moral justification. Getting out of bed each morning, safe in the knowledge that whether or not I get it right 100% of the time, I can still go back to sleep with my standards and integrity intact … well, that’s always been enough in my world, and enough for many others, too.

We sink, and we swim. We win and we lose. Often we’re too exhausted to know the difference. Bruised and battered, arrogant and triumphant, and every conceivable emotion falling between these extremes; small business people have felt them all, and the adrenaline rush we cherish when all the cylinders are hitting is enough to overwhelm those pesky, nagging problems – a Band-Aid here, another digit in the crumbling dike there.

And while I’m at it, this independent local business roller coaster ride has very little to do with money, at least in my case. We’ve always rolled most of the scant profits back into the business in an ongoing effort, admittedly scattershot, to continue improving it.

In personal terms, whenever I’ve had money, I’ve just gone and spent it, and usually had a whale of a time doing so, because I shan’t be taking it with me when I die, anyway. Personal financial gain is barely relevant, and most of the best things aren’t really that expensive, anyway: Books, music, a bicycle and a BLT when the local tomatoes are in season.

The real point in life is to beat both the bad odds and insufferable bastards stacked against you, and to do so as often as you possibly can before crawling back to the table to spin the wheel yet another time. It’s addictive that way.