Part 9: Don’t Give up on Small Business

I got my work ethic from my father.

My Dad worked hard every day while I was growing up.  He never complained about it. He never made excuses.  He never questioned his day-to-day routine.

In 1968, my Dad stepped down from a corporate job in Chicago, to move our family to California, where he built, sold and operated dry cleaning stores.  As the dry cleaning business faltered, my Dad (and our family) ended up owning and operating a handful of dry cleaners.

My Dad would head to our main business, Daisy Cleaners in Anaheim every morning, Monday through Saturday, first thing in the morning.  You have to start early, since the heat from the steam boilers make working and running the equipment late into the afternoon unbearable.  That is why many mornings, he would head out of the house by 4:00 or 5:00 AM.

Running our dry cleaners was a family business.  During our high school years, my sister and I would head to the dry cleaners after school and work at the counter and on Saturdays, I would do the pressing.

A few years into our work at Daisy Cleaners, a customer stopped in and asked if we dry cleaned draperies.  Of course, my Dad said we did.  She asked if we had a pick up and delivery service, as she managed many apartments.  And, of course, although we had never done before, my Dad said we did.

From there we started a drapery service that later included drapery manufacturing and sales of all window coverings.

These were not glamorous industries.  But this was my family business experience.  My father was a businessman, some might call him an entrepreneur.  But that title would be too flashy for him to accept.

When I first ran for the State Legislature in 1988, I was at a reception with other Assembly members.  One Assemblyman’s wife was making small talk with me and asked what I did for a living.  I said that I worked in our family drapery and window covering business.  She said, “Oh, well I guess somebody’s got to do that.”

And from that exchange, be it a fair conclusion or not, it was obvious to me that many people elected to state office are not entrepreneurs nor do they understand small businesses.

Sure, there were some other business people I served with in the Legislature.  But most of those were white-collar workers – lawyers, accountants, insurance salesmen, financial managers and the like.  Very few, if any, were what I would call small business people, people who worked with their hands, in manufacturing or service business.

As we slowly inch back toward restarting our economy and opening up our community businesses, I think of small business people, all over America, here in California, and in our own neighborhoods, facing the hope of opening but realizing the daunting impact to their budgets and their lives after weeks of pandemic-induced closure.

I don’t doubt that all businesses are facing uncertainty.  But because of my background, I have a greater concern about those individuals who put their heart and their soul and their entire wherewithal into their business and are eager to open, but fearful that customers may not be lining up for their goods and services.

So, I think we owe it to these beauty shops, these barbers, these nail salons, these restaurants, these retail boutiques, these service businesses, and these dry cleaners, to name just a few, who don’t have the financial backing of a larger corporate partner, but rely solely on you, their customers.

Now is the time to support small business in America, and in your own community.

I question if our government leaders really know what is necessary to revive these businesses and restore these people, who like my Dad, work everyday to make an income for their family out of their investment of time and resources. There are no paid holidays or sick days for small business owners. In fact, they often care more about taking care of their employees and the people who depend on them rather than themselves.

So as a son of a small businessman, and a business owner in my own right, I realize that in the end, it won’t be the government that restores these businesses, but the marketplace.

Let’s commit to shopping ‘small’ over these next few months — igniting a ‘Neighborhood Business Revival’ – to strengthen the health and well-being of communities we live in.


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