Friday, March 6, 2015

The Best Neighbors in the World - An Ode to Guy and Ronnie (Or why I support local business)

I grew up in a small neighborhood in a small town.

To put it into perspective I graduated with 85 people and we had one of the largest graduating classes. My best friend lived across the street from me and his parents were friends with my parents. When we did projects on our house, they were there. When they did, we were. So on and so forth.

Growing up in a small town, especially when you grow up far from frivolous spending and means, being a good neighbor is sort of second nature. My folks were always helping out one of the neighbors or they were helping us. Mr. Dorman, who lived next door, had the best garden around and almost every morning in harvest season we would find a small pile of fresh vegetables on our deck. He never said a word about it.

I don't think anyone ever said a word about it, yet that's how I was raised and that's how I've always tried to treat people. I should really bold and underline and italicize try because I'm far from perfect and I've been a real piece of s-h-i-t from time to time. Overall, both personally and professionally, I like helping people and I'm happy to do it. It's how I approach customer service, it's how I approach friendship and it's what I tell Mabel all the time.

I just want you to be nice.
There are a million of these things right on the internet.

Having lived in Boston for a few years and then living here in Rochester, some of the neighborliness went away. I don't think it's necessarily second nature and sometimes it's good to be reminded that it should be. We really should slow down once in a while and when we do we realize a lot about the world around us. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller:

ferris bueller's day off get over here gif
Nope, not the one I was looking for.
Here it is!

How cool is that guy?
Not all that glitters is gold, Mathew Broderick accidentally killed a couple people in Ireland one time
I think I got off track somewhere. Classic me!

So back to the task at hand. Living in the city makes it easy to move through life and focus on what you need to focus on. We bought our house almost three years ago now and when we did we inherited a couple neighbors we had already heard great things about. They were friends of friends and even the people who used to own the house told us how great they were.

Those folks are Guy and Ronnie

They are, in fact, that cute in person as well.
From day one Guy and Ronnie have been amazing. They take friendly to a new level and write the book on sincerity. This has all flooded through my head because today, while I was at work, Jenna was trying to take Mabel to one of her toddler gym classes. On her way out she got stuck in our driveway. 

I will now go one a 12 page diatribe about the weather this winter... no I won't, but I could.

Man, this is going to be a great blog because I can not think straight and I hate it already, it's not doing them justice at all, but that's bound to lead to literary gold!

Back to it... again. 

Jenna called and told me she was stuck so I started packing up and coming home to help her get out. Halfway to the door she said Guy had come out to help her. 

I drove home anyways to clear out the driveway so she could get back in. By the time I had gotten home Guy and Ronnie had already gotten Jenna out of the driveway and were breaking the ice and shoveling so she would be able to get back in. There was no question, no need to ask, it's just who they are.

This is far from the first time they have helped us and been the most amazing of people. Between borrowed tools, big projects, little projects and just general presence and concern, Guy and Ronnie have reminded me and taught me what it is to be a neighbor and a friend. Most notably, though I won't get too deep into it because it makes me cry, when Mabel got sick and had to be rushed to the hospital the day after her first birthday, it was Guy and Ronnie who saved Jenna and me (mostly me, I was a disaster). Above and beyond doesn't even begin to cover it and when you thank them they are quick to say, that's what friends or that's what neighbors are for. Thank Christ for friends and neighbors like them. 

Part II:
Subtitle A: Or why I support local business

This obviously got me thinking about much more than how great it is to have neighbors who help you out in a pinch. I thought a lot about growing up in that neighborhood. I started thinking a lot about just how it helped develop me as an individual and how that neighborly inclination has led me down my path. Is it a direct correlation? I have no idea, I was never very good at research. But, then I started to think about Guy and Ronnie again. Guy is a ridiculously talented musician and generally handy guy who also happens to be a Rochester City Firefighter. Ronnie is brilliant and multi-talented and happens to be one of the proprietors of the best god damn food truck in all the land, Le Petit Poutine.
It's even better than it looks.

I see how hard Guy and Ronnie each work in and out of their chosen occupations. Their focus is almost always on whomever they are trying to help. In life, at home, at work, probably when they're singing in their cars driving around. Some might call it good customer service, but if we're being honest they are just good people. 

That's why small businesses are amazing. The majority of the individuals who decide they're going to take the risk of starting/owning/operating a small business don't do it because they're going to get super rich right away and definitely not because it easy. They probably won't and it certainly isn't. The ones who last, the ones that leave a mark are all run by people who care about people. They've found a way to incorporate their general amazingly welcoming, loving, supportive selves into an industry that is not forgiving. 

There is a small shop, in NYC it would be called a bodega, right around the corner from me on Winton Rd across from Main, run by a husband and his wife. They have four kids running around all the time too. They are the nicest people in the world. Every time you go in they are so happy to see you. They also happen to have a killer craft beer selection and all of you should be going there way more often. I should too, to be honest. It's a tough business and I hope they make it. It's strange to root for the owner of corner store, but I am because they've made me feel welcome and they deserve it. 

I work at Marshall Street Bar and Grill part time. The owners, my friends Don and Kelly, are just smart people who know what people want and try to give it to them. Everyone thinks they are Don's best friend because Don makes everyone feel like they are his best friend. That's just who he is. They keep coming back. Kelly is out in the community constantly representing the bar and making connections. People love her. That's just who she is. She has learned and grown through Marshall Street and Marshall Street keeps getting better and better in another really tough business.
Shameless plug for Marshall Street.

The Moral of this Story

Good neighbors are good people.
Good people start good local stores.
Local stores enhance and give back to the community.
Be a good neighbor and support your community.