Fred Needs A Writer: Chapter 5. The Chamber Breakfast
Our story so far: Small business owner Fred needs a part-time marketing writer for his floor installation business. After advice from his friend, he put an ad on Craigslist and got a variety of responses. He asked for writing samples specific to his company; he received some, but his first choice of writer refused to do one for free. He interviewed several candidates. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and he’s not sure which one will be the right fit. He hires Brianna. At first he’s happy, but lately, he feels like she’s not giving him the time and attention the job needs.
Fred sees the email about the local chamber of commerce breakfast. He hasn’t gone to any events in over a year, although he keeps up his membership. To him Chamber of Commerce membership is a responsibility like voting and serving jury duty.
Kurt and Sandy are going, so at least he’ll know someone.
Fred is surprised by all the new faces, and people of all ages. Even at this hour of the morning, there are lively conversations and lots of laughter. The spread looks pretty good, too. It’s at a local restaurant. Fred’s known the owner, Bart, since they were in school since kindergarten together, and his wife Muriel since she married Bart.
Fred goes over to say hello. “This place looks great,” he says. “You painted? And is that a new logo?”
“We did.” Bart grins at him. “Same good, old-fashioned home cooking, but we freshened the look of the place.”
Fred thinks back to the past few weeks. “You know, I noticed you’re all over the papers. Margaret showed me the article. My daughter said you’re doing a lot on social media.”
“We hired it out,” says Bart. “I can barely Facebook with the grandkids. I don’t enjoy it, and don’t want to make the time.”
“Who’d you hire?” Fred asks. “I hired someone recently, but I think I made the wrong choice.”
“Some of your posts have been a little strange lately,” Bart agrees. “Muriel saw them. Said they don’t sound like you, and were confusing.”
“We were trying to be relevant,” says Fred.
“It seemed more like trying for irony, but came across as sarcasm,” says Bart. “Let me introduce you to the team I hired: Jenny Cotter and Gretchen Rojas. Jenny writes and handles all the posting. Gretchen does the graphics. They’re not cheap, but they’re worth every penny. They’re over there, talking to Jillian.”
“Jillian, of Jillian’s Treasures?” Fred asks. “That new store on Commercial Street?”
“Same Jillian. She’s new to town. Just opened at the start of the season.”
“I see her ads and her logo everywhere,” says Fred. “My wife and daughter kept seeing her name, and started shopping there. Now, they won’t stop.”
“Everyone’s heard of her thanks to Jenny and Gretchen. Come on and say hi.”
Bart introduces Fred to Jillian, Jenny, and Gretchen, who are having a lively conversation. Fred suddenly realizes this is the Jenny whose writing he liked so much, the one who wouldn’t do free samples.
“I wish I’d hired you,” he blurts out.
“You still can,” Jenny smiles at him. “Gretchen and I are a good team.”
They set an appointment to meet at Fred’s showroom.
Fred fills his plate at the buffet and joins Kurt and Sandy. “Don’t see why Bart’s wasting so much money on advertising when the food’s the same,” Kurt mutters.
“The food is good,” says Fred. “Now more people know about it, that’s all.”
“And the locals won’t be able to park and come in for a good meal,” Kurt frets. He changes the subject. “Does Margaret know you’re flirting with younger women?”
“I’m not flirting.” Fred turns red, because he was tempted to flirt. A little. “Jillian has a nice new store that Margaret and my daughter both like. I told her. Jenny and Gretchen do her marketing, and they’re doing Bart’s, too.”
“I don’t know where that Jillian woman gets off thinking she can come here and take over,” Sandy sniffs.
“She’s not your competition,” Fred points out.
“Of course she is,” says Sandy.
Fred has no idea what she means.
“All that over-priced eco-feminist stuff.” Kurt shakes his head. “Waste of money.
“Are you sure you mean eco-feminist?” Fred has no idea what Kurt means.
“Can’t say anything these days with all this political correctness,” Kurt moans. “You can’t mention color. You can’t mention sex. You can’t mention nationality. What can you talk about anymore?”
Fred thinks it has to do more with being a decent human being than politics, but changes the subject. “I made an appointment with Jenny and Gretchen.”
“Both of them?” Kurt snorts. “They’re taking you for a ride, buddy. You don’t need two more women working for you.”
“One writes, one does graphics.”
“Find someone who does both. You save half.”
“That didn’t work so well this time.”
Kurt shrugs. “Your money to waste.”
Fred starts to feel like he’s wasted a lot of time over the years with Kurt.
As they eat, the head of the chamber greets them, and then invites everyone to say a few words about themselves and their business. Fred enjoys listening to the people who run the businesses he uses, and he enjoys listening to the new people. He think Kurt sounds a bit bombastic, and Sandy a little desperate.
When it’s his turn, he feels shy. He tells an anecdote about his father’s time building the business and how his father always said, “You have to stand on something. It might as well be both sturdy and pretty.” It gets a decent laugh.
Jillian’s presentation is charming. Jenny and Gretchen do theirs together, and it’s funny and smart. Fred thinks it’s wonderful. Kurt looks annoyed, and Sandy bored.
He can’t even get near Jenny and Gretchen after the presentations, but waves in their direction as he leaves and looks forward to their meeting.
“Want to play a round this afternoon?” Kurt asks.
Fred shakes his head. “I’m on my way out to a house at the waterfront. They left the slider open on the deck in the storm last week and the floors buckled. I suspect the builder put in something cheap, so we’ll rip it all out and put in a good hard wood.”
Kurt is disappointed. Fred would rather talk flooring with a new client than listen to Kurt moan about the breakfast for 18 holes.
Besides, once he gets back from the client meeting, he’s going to fire Brianna.
Do you attend Chamber events? What is your experience? What advice do you have for Fred?