Luke squinted at Prakash. “Just how did you get to be such an expert? Not a challenge. Just a checking of bona fides."
“I grew up working in my father’s tobacco store in Rajasthan, India.” Prakash said.
“Tobacco is valuable, light-weight and easy to steal. The only way any tobacco store can stay in business is to keep an eye on the merchandise.” Prakash said.
“That is not a very efficient use of my space.” Luke noted. “I won’t have any shelving in the corners.”
Prakash replied instantly “Put tables for potatoes and other bulky, low value goods in the corner. Also a good place for consignment goods.” as he noticed that Luke also had areas for that.
“Any advice about what to put on the other shelves?” Luke asked.
“Yes.” Prakash said.
|Prakash sketched this out for Luke. The corner by the store-room door was reserved for bags of grain and the grinder.
“Put mirrors above the front door. That way when you are looking at people coming in the door you can also see behind you. Thieves often wait until somebody is coming in the door before slipping things in their pockets. They know the shop-keeper is distracted.” Prakash said.
“Put your highest value, easiest to pocket merchandise INSIDE the checkout island. The next most valuable merchandise should be between the cash register island and the back wall. That way you can see them in the mirror AND they have to walk past you to get back out the door.” Prakash said.
“Valuables that are difficult to pocket to to the sides and impulse buy merchandise goes between you and the door.” Prakash finished.
Luke shook his head as he visualized how the store would be set up. “That is not going to work. I won’t have enough shelving for my merchandise.”
“If you don’t change your shelving you won’t have ANY merchandise.” Prakash answered dryly as he looked at the sparsely populated shelving.
“It really isn’t so bad.” Prakash said. Most people don’t look at the bottom two shelves or at the top shelf when the shelving is this tall.”
“Cut the shelvings in half, height-wise. Then raise them up so the bottom shelf is about this high above the ground.” Prakash said as he held his hand about knee-height above the ground.
Luke visualized what Prakash was saying. Cutting the shelves in half height-wise meant they would only be three feet high. The tops of the shelves would be a little below the height of Prakash’s shoulders and the bottoms about 20” off the ground.
“Why so low?” Luke asked.
“Twelve-year-olds.” was Prakash’s answer. “Thieves aren’t always adults.”
Luke’s resistance was that he was going to have huge amounts of shelving left over after the change and he had invested significant amounts of “trade” into building them. He would have so much extra, in fact, that he could populate two more stores.
And that is when he felt the clue-by-four hit him between the eyes.
“Say,” Luke said, his voice suddenly changing. “would you be willing to work in a store?”
Prakash assumed Luke meant as an assistant.
Prakash looked around the store and demurred. “I don’t think you have enough trade to justify paying me to work here.”
“No, no. That is not where I am going with that.” Luke said. “We need to open some stores between here and the river and finding people to run them is likely to be the hardest part.”
“If we found a building, supplied shelving and gave you a line-of-credit for some trading goods, is that something you could see yourself doing? Luke asked.
Prakash looked down at his hands. His fingers were so thin as to approach transparency. He remembered country-folk back in India, with sun-blackened fingers, thick and scarred from field work.
Prakash had been an auditor for a healthcare concern before Ebola struck. His work had been to sit at a computer in an air-conditioned room and audit the numbers of medical supplies ordered, versus the number delivered and the number used. His work for the corporation paid his salary many times over as he uncovered discrepancies. More than one light-fingered employee had been uncovered and terminated based on his work.
Running a store was something he knew how to do and he knew how to do it in excruciating detail. Pulling weeds in fields under the blazing sun held no appeal to him.
“You said ‘some stores’ as in ‘more than one’.” Prakash said.
“I am living with my brother’s family. His name is Satish.” Prakash said.
Luke nodded his head. Luke thought of him as “Steve” but the family resemblance was unmistakable.
“Would you consider Satish for a store, as well?” Prakash asked.
Prakash had a very practical outlook on life. You had to take care of family first.
“If you work out I am willing to consider Satish.” Luke said.
“What is it going to take for me to get this ‘franchise’?” Prakash asked.
“Work with me for a week or two. Help me get this store changed around to meet your satisfaction...just the way you described.” Luke said. “Then we will go looking at properties the first Sunday the weather is decent.”