I stopped into Wayne’s World BP Station on the corner of Mooring Line Drive and Tamiami Trail in Naples, Florida because I needed to fill-up with gas, – and because it was next to the PGA Tour shop where my next “errand” took me. I got a lot more than a full tank of gas that day when the station attendant said to me, “Would you like a little donut? They’re delicious.”
“What?” Was my reply. By then my friend who was running errands with me was already out of the car and had gone into the station. Before I could process what the relationship was between filling up with gas and “little donuts,” he was walking out with a little donut, telling me:
“These are delicious!”
I filled up the car with gas and then went into the station. There on the inside was the “American Entrepreneurial Spirit” alive and well and hard at work. Half of the interior of the station was dedicated to a donut shop named: “Peace, Love, and Little Donuts.” If you are from Pittsburgh, this may not be news to you because I have learned there are three such shops there.
What most impressed me about this one was that it was staffed by the owner, Mark Couch, whose enthusiasm about his products was infectious. Not only was there a cart full of the most delicious looking little donuts, but Mark engaged me in making my choice and encouraged me to try a cup of his “Intelligentsia” brand of fresh roasted coffee. It’s a little expensive, he said, at $2.00 per cup, but it’s really good. “So are the donuts,” Mark told me with a proud smile. He was right. The coffee was great; so were the donuts.
What was even better than that was the feeling I had at seeing this former military and commercial pilot having fun, building his own small business.
I didn’t talk to him long enough or dig hard enough to see whether the shop was making money or not. (Mark Couch licensed the use of the name and the concept, but it is not a “franchise” shop. Mark continues to fly and instruct pilots, which he also loves.) I was too delighted to see how a solo entrepreneur doing what made America great—building a business around a creative idea—and better yet, partnering with a complementary business—a gas station on a busy highway.
Maybe not everyone in America can do something quite like this, but the point is, that this is America, and here, Mark could do it and so could millions of others. Instead of whining, complaining, or hoping for some government largesse, there was a young man, “doing his thing, and loving it.” I’ve said for a long time that the future of the new middle class in America will not be the old model of factories and factory workers (even though there will still be a lot of those jobs).
The new American middle class will be startups that grow. Small businesses that thrive and get bigger, hiring people who care enough to be loyal and do a good job. This country can thrive again. All it needs is for big government to get out of the way and let the people make “Peace, Love and Little Donuts.”
If you are in Naples, Florida, stop in for a donut and some gas—but first go down the street a few blocks (on the other side of the street) to Pastrami Dan’s, the absolute best pastrami sandwich shop I’ve ever been in. But get there at the right time because Dan and his family run it and it’s only open (and mobbed) between 11 AM and 4 PM.
God bless these small business people and entrepreneurs and God bless the USA for making them possible.
Donuts Photo via Shutterstock