Other Voices: Back-to-school shopping trip proves lesson in character | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Back-to-school shopping trip proves lesson in character

I feel compelled to relate an experience I had with my children during the recent back-to-school madness.

Armed with two lists of stationery, we left our house headed for the closest big box store. Due to the recommendation of my progressive teenage son to shop local, we veered off course and went straight to Williams Stationery in Grass Valley. He seemed OK with using a little more gas to accomplish our small business experience.

I use Williams for almost all my supplies at my business, but hadn’t considered them in this moment, mainly focused on speed and cost, not on my commitment to be sustainable and local whenever possible.

Since we have used Williams for years, we knew to use the rear entrance. All three kids (4, 10 and 13) and one friend from out of town (also 10) were impressed and excited to be entering through this mysterious door. The creaky wood plank floor and low light of the back room added to the ambiance. Dave Williams and his mother, Helen, instantly greeted us – their family has owned and operated the business in that same location for 59 years! (They will be celebrating their 60th anniversary April 1 of 2009).

Dave was definitely in his element, deftly locating each and every item on the list, while thoughtfully recommending alternates to some of the goods. I was dually focused on the task at hand as well as taking in the historic and local black and white photographs of boxers and baseball players, hoping to find a family member or someone I may have known. All in all we were able to purchase what seemed like hundreds of items, none of which we were forced to buy in bulk, and we spent less than $100 for both of the kids’ items combined (not to mention a couple of things for the house).

Kathy Goldie from the Center for the Arts up the street walked in to pay her bill while we were checking out. Always the promoter, I put on my Board President hat and hit up Dave for an ad in an up-coming program. Dave has been a committed supporter of the Center for quite a while.

With a friendly smile and a handshake, we were on our way, Dave and Helen both thanking us for thinking of them on our back-to-school adventure. The kids all wanted to talk about what their favorite part of the trip was on the way home. Theo liked the smell of the old place and the creaky wood floor, Trey liked the pictures of the boxers, Kaia (our friend from out of town) liked that we were the only ones there, and Miles (the one whose idea it was in the beginning) said he really liked how it made him feel. I have to say it made me feel really good, too.

Richard Baker lives in Nevada City.

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