Evergreen’s small businesses are losing an important resource and, worse, an old friend.
After 15 years providing efficient and personalized service from her Evergreen North Shopping Center storefront, D&J Office Supply owner Lori Mason is folding up her tent and moving on. To understand why, one need only look to the usual suspects.
“Business was good until about the time the big-box stores started delivering up here,” Mason says. “When I bought this business, I never dreamed I’d be fighting big-box stores in this area. What happened is Office Max and Corporate Express took all of my business accounts, and I can’t survive on my smaller accounts and walk-in business.”
Indeed, the ability of major office-supply retailers to deliver bulk merchandise at rock-bottom prices can be a boon to sizable concerns. Smaller enterprises, on the other hand, have always found a more personable — and flexible — supplier in D&J.
“There are a lot of small businesses and home businesses up here, and they don’t always need a case of padded manila envelopes or a case of pens,” says Mason, a soft-spoken, thoughtful woman who never hesitated to make her customers’ challenges her own. “We’d break into a case of anything and sell just the quantity you need at individual prices. You could spend a dollar or two instead of $30 or $40.”
Another of D&J’s small-business-friendly hallmarks has been special orders. Can’t find ink for that Pleistocene desk-jet you’ve never had the heart to scrap? Mason had your back.
“When people came in with special orders for unusual items, we’d go through every catalog in the store and contact every resource we have until we found what they needed. My customers have always been what I liked best about D&J, and making them happy made me happy.”
Sadly, a proven record of outstanding service is little defense against the economic fist of a national franchise. Things have been tight at D&J for the last couple of years, and getting tighter all the time.
“I’ve been fighting it, and I’ve cut back on things I probably shouldn’t cut back on,” she says. “I haven’t been drawing a paycheck, either, and that doesn’t help. At this point, I can’t cut back anymore. If I stay in business, I’ll wind up in real financial trouble. I’ll be gone for good by the end of March.”
An uncertain future lies ahead for Mason, although her two staunchest employees — a mini-Dachshund named Otto and Contessa, an affectionate Cairn terrier — seem optimistic. Still, for Mason, losing D&J means the end of a long-cherished dream.
“I thought I was going to retire with this store and pass the baton to someone else, but I guess it’s time to move on,” she says. “I’ll have to get a job, but right now I have no idea what it will be. Whatever it is, it won’t take the place of my customers.”