[bct] Re: Candy store

  • From: "jeff" <j1armstrong@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 17:19:33 -0600

Hey Jo,

No, I closed it down in 99 because it wasn't doing much business. It's complicated but basically, I work in a state building in Minnesota where blind venders have a "priority" or first right of refusal. When I started there we had 4 blind people working in the building. Three were filling and servicing vending machines and one ran a candy store at the Dept of Motor Vehicles. The store did well because the public was forced to wait on line for long periods of time and they would buy chips and candy or popcorn and so on. He also sold cigarettes. Over time, the DMV decided to leave our building and get their own space. So, little by little they removed people and services from the building and of course, the public interest in our building dried up. I was one of the three vending guys. One guy left for a better job. There had been a drop in sales and therefore profits so we did not replace him but resplit the business 50/50 and there was the candy guy in the store earning less and less over time. Then my business partner turned 65 and announced his retirement. Again sales and profits had dropped and we did not replace him either. Now I was the sole vender in the building. 3 years later, the DMV along with the State Patrol and other Public Safety offices left the building and several floors were closed for remodeling, one being the one with the store. At that point, the guy running the store left for another business. They gave me a choice, take the store over or let another person come into the building and wait for the remodeling to be finished. I took the first option because we had always had a contract which spelled out who could and could not sell what. Taking over the dying store allowed me to do away with that contract and sell anything anywhere. I expanded my line in the vending equipment and regained some business. The store, on the other hand kept dwindling down until they finally allowed me to close it for lack of interest. I was only doing about 20 to 40 dollars per day in sales at the end and it was almost all cigarettes. Meanwhile having to keep a full store's worth of inventory that was going out of date slowly but surely. I lost a ton of money on the outdated inventory and all the hours of twiddling my thumbs at the ghost of a store while my machines were running down and needed more attention. I even had people who would shoplift and I hated that because I couldn't get the powers that be to believe me. Finally I got them to let me close it. I sold some of the product through my machines and gave some away. I still have a collection of greeting cards somewhere around here. The remodeling took over three years and ended in 2000-2001. Things got much better as more employees came back to the building but not enough to bring my income back to it's former level. Then, a guy who ran the next building over got sick and I took over his building as well and eventually got the contract to run it permanently as a part of my business. This helped get me closer to the level I had been at. Then when "911" took place, everything changed. The State added intensive security precautions to our buildings and cut down on the freedom employees had to go wherever they pleased whenever they wanted. Now days, we all carry proximity security badges and all doors, stairs, and elevators are accessed with these badges. The public can not access most of my machines any more and sales has dropped a bit since 2001. At the same time, I have some allegedly illegal competition which is actually before the Attorney-General at this time and so I can't give details but we are looking like we will be successful in getting a ruling in our favor to stop the other party from cutting into my business. As with any other specialized program designed for the blind, there is always a fight for funding and support as well as jealousy from outsiders who aren't blind and I spend a lot of time working on these issues. I am a member of our management committee which oversees the program and helps to guide it's direction. Consider this a further chapter in my career cast but there you have it. Before this, I had gone to school for computer programming but that didn't work out. I have educated myself on PCs since 1991 when I got my first business computer which was a 16mhz 386/sx machine with 1mb of memory and DOS v3.0 which I later upgraded to Windows 3.1 and used with a TV-out video card and a 25 inch TV. After a couple of years of that, I got a 486 and a regular monitor. I bought Zoomtext and used that until the late 90's when I gave up and bought Jaws v3.x and have been able to do so much more since then that I don't even mind the forced annual contribution to the fund, if you will. What the heck, they keep us up-to-date with the latest changes in Windows and related software. I just wish that other software vendors would write their software to make it accessible, like Intuit who makes a line of nice programs but they aren't very accessible because they use graphics for some screen info rather than displaying text. I can't use most of TurboTax without sighted help. I keep writing to them to complain but they seem to totally ignore me. My latest fascination is writing Visual Basic modules in Excel. Excel is my program of choice for all things business related and I have been using it since v2.0 back when I could read a manual on a cctv. Now we're using Office-xp. Someday, I should learn to write in html, but I just don't find it as challenging as VB. My friends usually challenge me to write an app for business use that requires a learning curve on my part and that is what gets me interested. I recently wrote a system to use a barcode scanner and Excel to inventory a business and produce a finished inventory report. I also wrote reporting modules which took my book-keeping down to about 1 hour per month. That is the same part of programming that I always liked in school and on the job.

Well, there is a whole chapter.  Hope it isn't to dry to be interesting.

Jeff Armstrong

----- Original Message ----- From: "Jo and Seeing Eye dog, Pablo" <pablo32@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <blindcooltech@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2005 6:04 AM
Subject: [bct] Re: Candy store


Do you have a web site for your candy store?

Jo and Seeing Eye Dog, Pablo

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