Jennifer Coates

Sharing the stories of Cranston’s local businesses

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My journey as a spotlight writer began ten years ago in the backyard of a longtime friend.  There, a conversation with the former spotlight author led to an opportunity that would introduce me to a whole world I had had little knowledge of.  That conversation, on that day, launched me on a journey of discovery, insight, enduring friendships, and wonder. Let me explain.

As I have interviewed the owners of local businesses throughout our whole region ~ from the far reaches of North Smithfield to the small neighborhoods of South County, I have been filled with a sense of wonder – the kind that fills you with awe and the kind that feeds your curiosity.  “Awe” because I have grown to admire and respect each individual business owner and to feel their passion for what they do.  “Curiosity” because I could never learn enough about each business, even the ones that seemed at first glance to have the least interest. 

One example of this is an assignment I once had to interview the owner of a shop that sold propane.  The shop’s office was a bit shabby and worn-out, reminiscent of some long-forgotten roadside gas station on a deserted highway.  The owner of this 50-year old business was equally as aged- looking ~ he was weather-worn and rough around the edges, but I knew he had a softer side when I saw the photographs of his grandchildren hanging on the station’s walls. 

At first, I could only think of about two questions to ask this business owner about propane, a topic that had little initial appeal to me.  Once I got listening, however, that impression changed immediately.  He became animated and excited as he talked about how his family got in the business over half a century ago and about the many uses and benefits of propane. Our conversation lasted nearly an hour as I was caught up in his enthusiasm. What I came away with from here was that sense of awe for this man’s pure passion, and a curiosity about something that I had once known so little about.

This one interview has stuck in my mind over the many years that I have been writing for Beacon Communications.  It is emblematic of how virtually every story has begun and ended for me.  I have learned that these businessmen and women, whose walks in life are each so different, love what they do.  Most have invested their every penny into their product or service.  Most have sacrificed everything to be successful, and many have survived natural disasters and even pandemics. Yet many have also failed, and I have felt that deep pang of sorrow when I drive by their shuttered stores or offices, knowing that what was lost was so much more than a business, but rather a dream ~ sometimes a lifetime of dreams. 

What will keep the dreams and goals of these many diverse business owners alive is your continued patronage.  Shop at your local stores.  Support your local, family-run restaurants, salons, service stations, retail stores and propane dealerships.  They need you to stay alive.  We need them to thrive. 

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