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Open for business….

“I know, let’s open a book store !”

Back in 2012, my wife and I thought with this much passion for the written word, owning and running a bookstore made way too much sense.

It’ll be so much fun! This was one of our first forays into small business and we thought we had it all figured out. Spoiler… we were done in six months.

Capitalism turns out to be a harsh mistress… some times were exhilarating and intoxicating. But other times were just as painful and disappointing. For sure, once the bug bit, we were hooked.

We thought for sure there would be hard work ahead of us when we first got started. Adrenaline and coffee would push us through any headwinds. We had a lot of fun and it was an exciting ride. Evenings filled with passion, excitement, some definite frustrations, new friendships, new foes, but man we learned a ton. Many experiences that continue to influence much of how the two of us work today. …


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Keeping that streak alive in ‘41

1981 was a hot summer … and it was even hotter inside the George Washington Motor Lodge, packed wall to wall with sports cards, memorabilia, and the fans that seek them. My best friend Tim and I were wide-eyed and manic. We were both 10 and not under any adult supervision for the afternoon. Better than Christmas really… tables filled the hall with halfway organized displays of 3 ring binders, plastic cases, and envelopes filled with sports cards. Mostly baseball but a few devoted collectors were showing off old football, and even hockey cards.


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Small town Ohio — tucked nicely in between several hills with one road running through its even smaller town center. It resembles an island, or more like the Native American reservations out west in its isolation with the rest of the world. Much like those reservations, this small town of about a thousand people is surrounded by nothing, almost literally. Sure, there’s farmland for tens of miles in every direction. But there is one lonely road linking them to the next rural reservation, which is still many miles from any type of mid western-like urban center.

Only jobs in the town are the local 3-person run grocery and general store, the donut shop, several back and front yard mechanics, someone who does nails out of their living room… A few handmade signs adorn the side of the road advertise services like small engine repair, house cleaning, and handyman help. …


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“I just want to be off this shit…” A lot of my clients distressed with opiate addiction wear these words out worse than the polyester carpet in an ER waiting room. Their deep-set eyes roll up to meet your gaze from a beaten body posture that screams exhaustion — both physically and mentally. Some clients are new to this rollercoaster of dope-sickness but many have paid for the ticket and can’t remember standing in line or even what solid ground felt like. …


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I hear it from clients over and over, “why can’t I just smoke pot?” I get it — it’s not heroin… but this subject is debated and questioned and analyzed daily between all walks of life in all corners of the opiate epidemic. The point of this article is to spur thought and conversation. I’m not favoring any particular type of treatment over another — just trying to exercise the idea that marijuana could just as easily be viewed as an “exit drug” than its current reputation as a “gateway drug.”

From a harm reduction model this seems to make sense. People are always rationalizing to me — weed, or alcohol, or nicotine, or even caffeine and chocolate will kill you much more slowly than heroin. “Once I’m off the junk, then I’ll focus on getting off that stuff.” It really DOES beg the question; why not use any of these to help cope with the drowning misery from opiate withdrawal? Isn’t the point to just get off this crap and move on with your life? By any means necessary, right? Well, marijuana use is still illegal in most states in some form. So that sort of makes that treatment method a bit risky, and it doesn’t sit too well with the local probation/parole departments. …


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The Canal Street Diner inn Bolivar Ohio, is one of several small businesses on the six block main drag. It’s owned and operated by several local women — even the pies come from a local woman’s kitchen. The Diner is hugely popular with the locals — strictly first names here. Along the counter and by the register are ads for everything from dog-washing to handyman services. The windows are plastered with homemade posters for local fundraisers and festivals.

The manager Barbie states “We shop locally for our ingredients and buy our produce from the farm down the street because we know they’ll be spending that money here in town, to include here. …

Brian Strawn

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