Carrie Yamato

When I was growing up, my dad was never the doctor, lawyer or engineer who came to class during career day.

My dad was too busy wearing the hat of a butcher, cashier, bookkeeper or whoever else his store needed him to become on that particular day.

My dad and his family owned and operated a mom-and-pop grocery store.

From the time he was in high school and even throughout college, he knew the family business was his calling.

Twelve-hours/six days a week with his parents and four siblings at his side was nothing unusual nor anything he complained about. It was truly a labor of love.

It goes without saying, therefore, that when summer rolled around, my siblings and cousins and I didn’t have to look for jobs because they found us. 

We all did our fair share of shagging carts, picking out the bad produce, bagging groceries, and who can forget the infamous task of scraping gum off the floor.

We all also did our fair share of complaining as only unappreciative preteens and teens could. 

“Why do I have to work at the store? Why can’t I do another summer job? This is not what I want to do when I grow up. It’s so unfair.” 

But we did it.

After I graduated from college, I didn’t think much about Frank’s Market —eponymously named after my grandfather of course — or the other six stores my family eventually operated, as I was busy forging my own career.

But now as my uncle contemplates the future of the last remaining store, I have more than a bit of nostalgia and have realized the root of some of my most revered lessons. 

While some may think working at a mom-and-pop store is not sufficient groundwork for the big business world, working at my family’s business was teamwork and love at its best.

I remember my dad and uncle scurrying around dividing and conquering task after task.

I also remember the friendly rivalry between my two aunts as they competed to see who could ring up the most sales (These were the good ol’ days before scanners).

Most of all, I remember at the end of the day, everyone going home to my grandma’s house where she would have dinner ready and waiting to show her love and admiration for her hardworking family.

The work ethic that I am thankful to have, I learned from those summer days at the store.

While it was easy for my friends to blow off their hostess shift at a restaurant when something came up, it’s a completely different story when you see how much your family sacrifices for each other. 

My dad’s devotion, passion and commitment to the family business was bigger than anything I have ever seen. It wasn’t always about making the most money the easiest way. It was about enjoying and being proud of what he did.

While working at my family’s store wasn’t always the popular choice, it has provided me with memories and lessons that I could have never experience working anywhere else—including the mall.  And for that, it will be hard to see it come to an end.

Some surprising facts on family businesses from Small Business Trends:

  • Family businesses account for 50 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

  • Family businesses generate 60 percent of the country’s employment.

  • 78 percent of all new job creation comes from family business.

  • 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies are family-controlled.

  • Research indicates that family businesses are less likely to lay off employees regardless of financial performance.

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