Friday, December 26, 2003

The Real Key West

There are two Key Wests on this tiny island at the edge of the Caribbean Sea. The one is for tourists. It is NOT the Real Key West. This is about the other one. It is a place where people live. They go to work, raise children, and get together with friends.

We got lucky in 1999. Our brother, Tom, gave us the opportunity of a lifetime. He asked us to move from New Hampshire, where we were living and working at the time, to operate a retail shoe store that he had opened on Duval Street a couple of years earlier.

For the next three-plus years, we got to keep the store open seven days a week, nine-plus hours a day. Mostly it was just the two of us. One of the features of running a business in the southernmost city is to discover the truth of the dictum, "good help is hard to find". So, you wind up vacuuming the floors, washing windows, arranging displays, sweeping sidewalks, and all of the other little things that it takes to get a store ready to open in the morning. Follow that with nine hours of greeting and meeting customers, trying to satisfy their wants and needs; ordering, receiving, and shelving new stock; shipping; planning advertising and merchandising; and all the myriad other things it takes to operate a retail business. At the end of the day, you regroup, close cash registers and credit card machines, run reports, and summarize and analyze, all to get ready to go back and do it again tomorrow.

Don't get me wrong, that's not a complaint. It's what you are willing to do for the privilege of living in your own private paradise. And it was fun, dammit. We met interesting people from around the world, and people even more interesting who were your co-inhabitants of this two-by-four mile island at the tail-end of the Florida archipelago, ninety miles from Cuba.

Come along with us now. We're back in New Hampshire almost two years, and we're getting ready to move back to our island home. We'll introduce you to some of our friends and family, show you how you might do what we've done (if you've a mind to), and tell you where to go for information and advice about KW, whether you're a visitor, a potential co-inhabitant, or already a resident.

We expect to post something new here about once a week, on average. Give us a temporary bookmark, check back in occasionally, see if we're up to the task.

We'll be watching for you.

Bob & Janet

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