In the winter of 1934, Earl Nichols of London, Ontario, was 33 years old, unemployed, and flat broke. It was the middle of the Great Depression. The economy had ground to a halt, and there were no jobs.
Nichols borrowed $150 from his mother and set up a small restaurant at a corner of what was then the main road between Toronto and Detroit. He called it the Three Little Pigs “Pentry,” after the popular Disney cartoon.
Its menu featured hot dogs, hamburgers, a drink called Orange Kool, and a wonderful basket of goodies known as Chicken Pickin’s. It was the first themed restaurant in town, and it became a popular hangout for students from the nearby University of Western Ontario.
In the spring of 1937, the Thames River overflowed its banks and flooded the entire district where the restaurant was located. When the waters receded and The Pigs re-opened, Nichols had a line painted at the high-water mark to remind his customers of the trial they had gone through together. Though he died a half-century ago and it’s a Mexican restaurant now, that line is still there, 83 years later.
Two years after that, World War II started, and young men at the university enlisted in large numbers. When business tailed off, Nichols branched out into catering weddings. It didn’t make him rich, but it paid the bills. And the Three Little Pigs became more popular than ever.
Summer, 1950, saw his neighbors gripped with fear as a great polio epidemic swept the city. Business slowed again because families with young children were afraid to go out to a restaurant or anywhere else.
Nichols sent baskets of Chicken Pickin’s every week to the staff at the local children’s hospital. The gesture turned the Three Little Pigs into a community institution, and business boomed.
Life, as author Hugh MacLennan once said, is “just one damned thing after another.” The Covid-19 crisis is unquestionably the worst of our lifetime and businesses are justifiably worried about whether they will survive. But if I could offer a word of advice, it would be this: remember that you’re not alone. Your entire community is behind you and will support you anyway it can.
By joining the Exmerce Trading Community to barter your goods and services, or even temporarily shift your focus to an area more suited to the situation, you become part of a community of like minds. Ideas you once considered impractical may now be realistic because other members will go out of their way to help you.
Don’t hesitate to ask them. And don’t hesitate to help when they ask you.
Your business is an important part of the fabric of the community, and Exmerce offers an opportunity to persevere and build a loyal following.
The situation may be bleak, but it won’t last forever.