What’s it like to own a small business?
Once Upon A Time bookstore in Montrose demonstrates the challenges and the joys of running a business
May 30, 2020
Once Upon A Time has been a Montrose resident for quite some time now. It’s been named the oldest children’s bookstore in America
The store first opened in 1966 by local mom and artist Jane Humphrey. In April 2003, Humphry wanted to retire after owning her bookstore for 37 years. However, when it was announced that she was selling the store, no one wished to buy it. It was doomed to go out of business.
The Palacios family, including daughter Jessica, a Clark alumna, had been loyal customers to Once Upon A Time ever since the early 2000s. After noticing the shelves were getting empty, the family was wondering what was going on and received the news that Humphry was retiring.
Nine-year-old Jessica Palacios later went home that day and sent a letter to Humphry asking, “Where will I find my fifth Harry Potter book if there is no Once Upon A Time?” Her mother, Maureen Palacios, didn’t know about the letter until the Glendale News-Press called to confirm that the letter was written by a nine-year-old girl.
Knowing that they couldn’t sit around and do nothing, Maureen and her husband, Jorge, bought the store from Mrs. Humphry and decided that Maureen would manage the store while Jorge would continue working at his day job. Now grown-up, Jessica, a Clark alumni, manages the store along with her mom, Maureen.
Owning a small business is no small task, and Maureen will agree. Busy days include book signings, the weekend rush, or any sort of event happening in Montrose. She says that it takes work and patience owning a small business.
“It’s fun, but in a small business usually you have to have more than two hands [working on the clock] and sometimes you’re not able to do that and have to just be extra nice with customers,” Palacios says. She thinks that is the hardest part of owning a small business, and she is not wrong, according to many small business owners.
Many small businesses don’t have a set schedule that repeats every day at work; every day is an adventure. “There really isn’t an average day since we don’t work regular hours like other businesses. We don’t sit and read a lot; a lot of it is moving stuff around,” Palacios says.
In addition, nearby Montrose business owners have said that their favorite part of owning a business is the interaction with the customers and having the freedom to express their own creativity through their products.
Owner of Copy Network, Andre Ordubegian, says that along with interacting with customers, his favorite part of owning a small business is being able to connect with a community such as Montrose. He also says that it’s nice that small business owners in Montrose always try to help and support one another.
Many business owners would think that there are many good things that come with being an entrepreneur and owning your own business. For example, they have the ability to make their own decisions, the freedom that comes with owning a small business, and working with different people in their community.
However, there do come some downsides to owning a small business. Many owners put in more hours than regular employees do, sometimes working over 40 hours a week. There also comes the feeling of stress when things get really busy or difficult to handle.
Many small business owners have said that persistence is what helps them go through the ups and downs of owning a small business. It takes a lot of guts to open a small business, and even more to actually make it grow to be successful.
It isn’t only persistence that makes a small business successful, small businesses grow when they support each other. If they are in the same community, it’s easier to gain support and help one another
“It’s very important for small businesses to support each other because they are the backbones of many giant corporations,” Jessica says. They also create more opportunities for entrepreneurs and give their employees greater job satisfaction for helping out. In addition, small businesses contribute to local economies and support local neighborhoods in their community.
This is especially true for small business owners in Montrose Shopping Park. In the words of Maureen Palacios, “one feeds off the other.” When one small business is doing well, there is a higher chance of another one to gain more customers.
She says that due to their current location in Montrose, it was easier to gain more customers due to the numerous events that take place throughout the year. For example, there is the annual Wine Walk where people over the age of 21 are given a map and go to different stores in the area to taste wine. This has been one of the ways to bring in more people to small businesses they have never been to.
Maureen has made multiple events sponsored by Once Upon A Time to get people in different areas. They have events with Montrose’s pet store, Anderson’s Pet Shop, and have their own events in the summer such as “Here’s Harry.”
Instead of Where’s Waldo, it’s called Here’s Harry so that people who are fans of Harry Potter can get a passport where they go around Montrose Shopping Park to look for Harry Potter based off the map they’re given. People go to different businesses that they might have never been in, which encourages customers to shop there, and search for hidden items in the store.
“It’s important to support each other,” says Jessica, “because then the community benefits as fellow small business people.” She also says that if people ask questions about other businesses in the area, it’s good for them because that business gains more customers for them to appeal to.
There are also national days called Shop Small Saturday, where people are encouraged to “shop small” and support local businesses near their communities. Although it is only for a day, this does give exposure to many small businesses since they would get lots of walk-in customers and even online orders if the store offers it.
Clark alumna Isabel Lawler, who has worked at Once Upon A Time for a couple of years, thinks that small businesses are about community. “It’s about humanity and kindness and taking care of one another,” Lawler says. “Especially now because the world is so out of touch with everything and angry, and small businesses really do get into the core for individuals doing things for one another.”