My wife and I were driving up to Berkeley for a dental appointment, and as we drove into the new morning, she was noting the variety of shops and businesses along the avenue. "Extreme Pizza," she enthused. She took mild joy in the myriad of signs as we drove along by reading them aloud. "Wally's World Market." I looked out my window and watched a similar parade of storefronts roll past on my side. There was a moment when we both wondered how we had avoided all of this commerce, located as it was just over the hill from our house.
To be fair, it is a pretty big hill. And we have our own flurry of coffee shops and shops near coffee shops in our own neighborhood. We don't tend to notice them in the same way since they are part of the firmament. They are those things that are between us and our daily destinations. Every so often, one of those businesses becomes our destination, but we don't often stand outside and admire the signage before we wander in. That's not what brings us in. Suddenly, I found myself thinking about storefronts as advertising. What must go into the design and care of the entry to these places. What would I want to put up on a board in front of my business to cajole, encourage or trick passersby into coming into my establishment.
And that's when it occurred to me that I have never considered opening my own business. I may have joked with a friend about "opening a restaurant" because I was really enjoying the barbecue that night, but the idea of becoming a restaurateur is a foreign one, even though I have worked in a few. I have no interest in owning a bookstore, even though I read and I have worked in a warehouse that filled bookstores with books. I worked in a video store once upon a time, and that has been the only enterprise that I have ever considered making my own. In a distant future, after all other avenues of employment have been attempted.
I have also made a suggestion, from time to time, to my co-workers that I would like to open a bait shop in Key West. This is generally in response to a really bad day on the job, after which I imagine what a relaxing place a bait shop would be to work. Talking to fisherman in the morning before they head out to sea, then a nice long break during the heat of the day when I could refill the ice bins and catch up on my napping, and then a bit of business at the end of the day when those fisherman return to tell me tales of the catch of the day.
But not really. I know from experience in retail that there would still be inventories to do. And rent to pay on the shack. Should I sell snacks, from a stand next to the counter, that would bring in some of the foot traffic? And taxes: property, sales, business.
Suddenly, it's not so relaxing. Not like sitting in the passenger seat, reading all those signs.