What struck me most by Verna Clow’s presentation is the great fondness that the audience of almost 100 had for Verna and her family’s country store, many of whom were customers or staff of this family business that is into its 77th year. Others were recalling the community stores that they grew up with. As much as Costco, Walmart, Sobeys and Superstore promote their level of customer service, they could not come close to the responsiveness and devotion that Clow’s store has provided its clientele over the years.
It’s clear to see why this store has survived along with the few other country stores we are lucky to find in communities. It’s an abundance of commitment. It’s long, long hours of hard work, flexibility to change with the times and a decent amount of good fortune. Of course, it helps when the next generation is keen to take over, and with that comes new and modern ideas. The generations of Clow children were raised in the store and given responsibility. They were made to feel vital to the store’s success. As much, the older generation knew when to stand back and when to offer support as the kids took the reins.
I am still smiling about the time when Bobby expanded the store, he found out he had encroached on the neighbour’s property, but as these matters are settled in the country, the Clow’s just gave their neighbour a piece of land off another boundary and instructed the lawyers to revise their deeds.
It’s not difficult to tell that Bobby married well. Verna said that they were 20 and 21 years of age when they got married and started their life off together working in the store. She’s seen a lot of changes. They went from not having to worry about such things as taxes and regulations. She says it is so much more complicated now, and administration has become a huge task. She recalls Bobby’s father just pulling the receipts out of the chest pocket of his overalls at the end of the week to review the week’s sales with his wife when they were still managing the store.
Verna says she still goes in a few days a week, as habits are hard to break. But there is another reason. It is what I saw on the faces of the folks in the room. These people, their parents, their kids – they grew up with the Clow family. It’s a precious memory and bond from their youth that still exists. It’s that level of customer service that you could never learn in business school.