by Michele Zajac, Owner of The Boxes etc. in Naperville, Illinois

When you own a shipping store, you learn to deal with the unexpected. Every customer and every package is different, every day. It keeps life interesting. Maybe too interesting. Lunch time can span from a half hour of cherished uninterrupted time to a minute or two to eat and jump up for the next unexpected customer.

It was on a such a day when I tried to grab a quick lunch that I heard the distinct sounds of a car hitting a car. If you’ve heard that sound once in your life, you know what I am talking about. As I looked up towards the front of the store, I watched my front windows shatter, inventory flying and support posts flailing.

I ran to the front to check on our dog, Sookie. Her normal hiding spot is in-between the greeting card racks—in the exact spot where the windows broke. She greeted me from the other side of the store and tried to run toward the car to escape. The intruding car’s tires were still spinning fast and burning rubber smoke filled the air in the store. I motioned to my husband to grab Sookie, check her paws, and get her out of the store while I called 911.

While the driver was fine, she managed to total the entire side of a parked car and move it to the adjoining space, move a USPS mailbox 12 feet over to the front of our neighbor’s unit, and rip off the brick pillar façade before coming to rest in our store. As the store became overrun with police, fire department and city code officials, I took photos before anything (like the car) was moved, to account for any and all damage.

The nice thing about shipping is that organization is key and many people feel that I take it to the nth power. I detest chaos and disorder and this was a test to my ability to handle things. As customers walked into the store, oblivious to the broken glass and thrown objects surrounding them, I instructed people where to put their packages in the back room (normally forbidden) so that nothing would be forgotten or lost. My husband cleaned up glass while our employee arrived to keep the customers in line.

Making lists is important. As we sorted through the damage, we noted each item in a list app. As the windows were boarded, people came in in disbelief that we were still open. Some customers thought that we had simply decided to update our windows. Add to the list: a sign to put out front to let people know that we are open for business and that accidents happen.

Every day since, we work to keep our customers informed and updated. We post on social media every day to let people know we are still here, but it is just a little darker inside. It should be no surprise to anyone that our post on Facebook showing people’s photos of the accident did better than 95% of other posts. In fact, it was our best post ever! What else can you do?! What was done is done and you have to move forward to succeed—in life and in business.

This article was first published on page 14 of MBC Today Volume 21, Issue 5 (September/October 2019).