Memories of a Shop Owner
I had always wanted my own shop. After many years, I finally had the opportunity. In a quaint little section of town, I found a store space up for rent. The more people I spoke to about the place, the more determined I was to rent the space.
“No one stays for more than two months there.”
“No one makes money there.”
“That place is haunted. It scares away every person renting it.”
I had to make that place work for me somehow. Not just because it was my first shop, but also because so many people kept telling me how this was the worst spot for a business.
That first day, I walked in and realized how unkempt it was. It had been empty for two years already. I reminded myself there were a lot of cobwebs to get through before I could really see the state of the floor, walls, and cupboards. It took me a full day to clean out the cobwebs alone. Then I washed the ceiling, the walls, the floors. Every cupboard, every closet got scrubbed down. At the end of the week, I stood in my shop and smiled. Already, it was so much better.
There were some huge scratch marks on the floor. I tried stripping the wood floors and re-waxing, but the marks were deep. I couldn’t decide whether I should replace the flooring or accept it as part of the shop’s character. While I debated this, I realized the walls had the strangest indentation in it: four feet long, five inches deep with a slight curve to it. At first, I thought it was the previous owner’s idea of decoration, but then I realized it couldn’t have been, unless he had no particular sense of design, patterns, or art. I filled the indentation with plaster and painted all the walls while I continued my debate about the floor.
One week down, three to go before I opened my shop. Not bad. I could get this done in time. So, I decided to take one day off.
On Monday, I walked into my shop with lots of new flooring to put down. I walked in and stopped in my tracks. Massive cobwebs greeted me. The dents in the walls had returned. I took a deep breath and did the only thing anybody else would do. I hurriedly cleaned out the cobwebs, re-plastered and repainted the walls, and got to work on the new flooring.
By the end of that second week, my shop looked really nice. I just needed one day to find the new shelves, counter, and storage I would use to showcase my wares. I found them all in half a day. I was so happy. I’d be able to put my shop together maybe a bit faster than originally planned. That would be fantastic!
I went back to my shop, with an assortment of carpenters and workers to help finish the task. I opened the door and couldn’t move. The cobwebs! They were back! The walls showed their deep lines even more clearly. I ran to the area where the original flooring had been scratched up. I cried when I saw my new flooring so badly damaged. I just lay there, stroking the floor, crying.
“I told you this place is haunted,” stated one of the carpenters, as he brought in the supplies needed to build the storage bins, the shelves, and the counters. “I’m not working here.”
I looked at him in disbelief.
“Yeah, nobody’s been able to do anything with this place for years,” another carpenter chimed in.
One by one, they finished bringing in the items I needed to finish building my shop and left.
I couldn’t believe it. Two weeks left to finish putting this place together by myself. No one would help. Two weeks and the cobwebs would return daily, the deep indentation in the walls would reappear, the scratch marks would find a way to resurface over any new flooring I put down. That much I knew.
I decided I would succeed—one way or another. I decided I would sleep there if I had to. And that’s exactly what I did.
I woke around midnight that first night to a scritch-scratch-scritch-scratch-bang. I stayed put on the floor and watched in the darkness. Five little lizard-like creatures were stretching like cats, digging their claws into the floor. Then they ran and flew about, sometimes crashing into each other. Once, they crashed into a huge creature. It opened its wings and squawked loudly as the smaller ones crashed the large wing into the wall. The bigger one blew a small flame and the little ones started to settle down.
Then the larger creature stomped toward me. It sat down.
“What you doin’ here?” it asked.
“Me? What am I doing here? What are you doing here?”
“I live here. What’s your excuse?”
“This is my shop.”
“Your what?” it bellowed.
“My shop. I’m opening in two weeks.”
“Shop! What you plannin’ to sell?”
“Well, stationary, of course.”
“No, no, no. If I have to share my home with you and you’re runnin’ a shop, stationary is no good.”
“You’re bound to go up in flames.” It sat down beside me. “See, I’m an Urban Dragon. Flames is kinda part’n’parcel o’ that. You gotta find somethin’ else.”
I sat up. “You’re a—”
“Urban Dragon, yeah. Now, if you insist on doin’ it your way, your shop won’t be ’round long. How long you plannin’ on bein’ in business by the way?”
“Oh, um, I dreamt of the next fifteen years or so I’d—”
“So, if you really want your shop here, you’d best listen up. Stationary is out o’ the question. Grocery, too. The little uns’ll raid your food nightly. How ’bout rocks?”
“Yes, rocks. Smooth rocks. Big rocks. Little rocks. Soothing rocks,” it smiled.
“It’s not the best for human sales,” I retorted. It narrowed its eyes. “Unless we sell something along with the rocks,” I interjected.
“Dragon food,” it blurted.
“And where would I—”
“If you’re willin’, I’ll supply it. You’d be surprised who’d buy it.”
“May as well sell dragon T-shirts and baseball caps.”
“Better yet: dragon sweatshirts that really make you sweat!”
And so, we spent the rest of the night talking and talking.
The first of the month, my shop, Dragon Rockland, opened. Every day, I had customers. Some were just curious to know what I carried; some really knew what it was they were looking for. At the end of each day, I’d close up and head home. At the start of each week, I had to clean out the cobwebs. The wall indentations became part of my décor. And the scratched floor became the focal point of many discussions.
For most items, I managed to find my own suppliers. For others, they just showed up whenever I ran low. It must be my silent partner, the Urban Dragon.
In any case, it only goes to show that just because someone says, “Don’t do it” or that some place is “haunted”, you should never run away. Check it out. You never know. It may be just what you are looking for. After all, thanks to the Urban Dragon, Dragon Rockland has been operating for more than twenty years and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.
Witness: Caillou Rocher