Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Shrewd King 3.4: Now, a place for Satish

The second location Prakash selected was three miles south of the first location.

He hopped into the wagon and suggested they travel at least a couple of miles south before he started looking for the next location. There was no point in putting the stores so close together that they competed for the same customers.

After walking for more than half a mile Prakash came to Columbia road. There was an old church and a small shed on the southeast and northeast corners respectively.

Neither were what Prakash was looking for. The Shah brothers had agreed that they wanted a lockable, metal storage building separate from the actual store building. They took the risk of theft and fire seriously. The height and age of the church suggested it was a fire trap while the shed would be absolutely impossible to secure.

A quarter mile farther south Prakash found what he was looking for on the east side of the road a few hundred yards north of a cemetery.

After trying to get the attention of the occupants, Di drove the wagon back to the first house that had signs of life. The occupants of the house verified that the house with the two outbuildings was vacant. Furthermore, they verified that nobody had died in the house. The last thing Prakash wanted was to put his brother’s family in a house that was contaminated with Ebola.

Prakash asked Di to drive the wagon back to Columbia Highway and then east to the bridge. It was just a little bit less than a mile.

Prakash looked at the narrow band of water beneath the bridge. It did not seem like much of a barrier and he said as much.

Milo snorted. “Don’t worry about that. See how there is hardly any current? A narrow river with almost no current means that it is deeper than hell. Nobody is going to wade across that river or carry anything back across.”

“Fact of the matter is that you ought to be thinking about stocking fishing tackle for big fish like channel cats and northern pike.” Milo said.

Prakash had accomplished everything he had set out to do that day. He had found and secured two locations that were about a mile from bridges that connected the new territory to the outside world. The locations were close to the road and were located near knots of population that bode well for walk-in traffic.


Prakash and his wife did a second drive-by the next day. Pareen, Prakash's wife, found the house they were going to be moving into. She chose an older house that had been built in the vernacular style on a hill. The rooms were narrow and had windows on opposing sides for a cross breeze. It also had mature shade trees and a hand pump that worked.  It was minute’s walk from the store and the previous occupants left kitchenware, bed linens and a freezer full of decaying food.

Prakash hired some kids to haul the freezer out of the basement and dump it downwind of the house.

Prakash’s store was over-run with customers the first two weeks he was open. There was a huge amount of pent-up demand.

Prakash offered credit. He closed the books on the last day of the month and the customers had to pay-in-full before the end of the next month. He knew that he was going to get stiffed by some of his customers but he had the option of refusing to do business with them in the future. It seemed likely, to him, that they would be forced to settle-up and make him whole as there were very few shopping options.

Prakash could have gouged his customers. They were on the verge of starving to death. He could have gouged them but he didn’t. He followed Luke and Kate’s pricing policy of charging twice his cost. He had to charge more than Luke and Kate because he had to pay hauling fees to Di or Kelly but nobody else was going to be able to undercut him because he hired by the full wagon or gassifier-truck load.

A major conundrum that he had to work through was to figure out what he would accept in payment. That is where communication with Luke and Kate paid off.

For instance, solar panels became very, very valuable. A healthy man would be lucky to do half a kiloWatt-hour of work in a day. A hundred Watt solar panel could produce twice that amount day-after-day-after-day and they did not require one day a week off to recover.

Prakash kept the first three panels that came his way. His arm had about fallen off the first two days as he ground corn and wheat for customers. Life was much better after he cobbled together a high duty-cycle 24V motor, some belts and pulleys and the grinder.

Kate also suggested that Prakash hire people to bang together some food dehydrators. She anticipated that much food would be wasted once the harvests came in. She envisioned buying surplus garden goods inexpensively, dehydrating them and then reselling them in the winter when people craved greens and tomatoes and fruit.

The electricity generated by the solar panels could run fans when the power was not needed to grind grain. Heat was easy. Dark, metal panels were easy to come by. Simple two-by-four frames were constructed and faced with the metal panels. Placed in the sun, cool air went in one end and hot air came out the other.

Prakash objected to the labor required to dehydrate food but Kate reminded him that many people were not capable of doing heavy work. Kate doubted that he would have any problem finding the right person to manage the food dehydrating business.


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