Well, well, well—lookee here. If it isn't a small, family-owned retailer. How quaint.

Pretty nice shop you got here. Okay if I take a look inside? Don't mind me. I won't be long. Neither will you, but that's a story for another day.

I'm sure you must be real busy, but if you have a minute to spare, I could use a bit of help. I was hoping to buy the new Alan Jackson CD, but I'm having trouble finding your music section. I'd also like to pick up a bottle of scented bath gel. What's that? Really? Just a hardware store, huh? Well, I'm sorry. I do apologize. Seems like it'd be a whole lot more convenient to go to a single store for all of my needs, but what do I know?

My, oh, my. I really like what you've done with the place. It's so old-fashioned. Kind of cramped, but I guess you did your best. Takes a lot of persistence and elbow grease to keep a place like this open for... 53 years, you say! My, my, that's impressive! It's too bad how things will end up. Real shame.

Bet you're real proud of your little store here, the way it's passed from one generation of your family to the next. Must mean a whole lot to you and your little lady and your two kids. How's high school going for those kids, anyway? Good to hear. Education is key. Incidentally, here's my number. When they graduate, have them call me. I'll see if I can't get them a job.

I love looking around these mom-and-pop places. It helps me get a feel for a town's local flavor. Just out of curiosity, what do you tell your greeters to say around these parts? Oh, you don't have greeters? Then who greets the customers? Interesting. That certainly is one way of going about it, I guess.

It's also very novel the way you meet your customers' parking needs. Your customers must really get a kick out of jockeying for available spots on the street. I'm sure none of them would be interested in the convenience of three football fields' worth of parking. Then again, what use would you have for all those spaces, anyway? This little store probably couldn't handle more than three or four customers at a time, now, could it?

I see you have some nice items on sale there. A Black And Decker two-speed power drill for $23.99? Lowest price in town. Bet you can hardly keep them in the store. Hmm, I wonder how well they'll sell when some other store in town starts offering the same drill for $19.98. I wonder. Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Say, why do you charge so much for your products? Silly me, how could I forget? You pay wholesale, then mark up from there. Have you ever considered buying everything at prices well below wholesale? Not the only way to do things, I admit, but it's what we do. Just one of the benefits of being the biggest retailer in the world.

But biggest isn't always best, they say. People probably love the character of this neighborhood store, how cozy it is. I just wonder if people will still want to scurry around this little shack after they've pushed a cart through our 48 spacious, well-lit, air-conditioned, perfectly organized, fully labeled aisles.

But you have a real nice line of goods in here, too. Very select. Probably picked it yourself, hmm? Must've been real tough deciding which handful of things to keep in stock. Now, just what are these handmade cards on the counter? The girl down the street made those, and she's selling them to make money for her cheerleading uniform! My goodness! And you get nothing out of the deal? How sweet. Do you think she could make 10,000 cards a month? Why don't you ask her and get back to me? If she can produce, I might know a retailer that could help her and her team out.

Yes, sure would be a shame if you lost the tiny, local customer base that's kept your store in business for half a century. I mean, how would you pay your mortgage? Where would that leave you and your family? Just what will you do to survive?

Loyal customers, you say? Loyalty is a funny thing. You never really know what people are going to do until they're tested. I guess we'll see soon enough. Personally, I don't know the people of this little hamlet too well. I'm new here. But if they're anything like the people of the 8,420 other small towns I've seen, I expect to see quite a few of them at our grand opening in four weeks. We'll be handing out free balloons and soda pop, you know. Hot dogs will be two for a dollar in the deli.

Well, I honestly hope everything turns out well for you. I like you. It'll pain me to see you out of work, but what can I do? I can't force people to keep patronizing your little shop. I can't convince people to slog from one specialty store to another when they can find everything they need conveniently located in one place. I can't make customers pay anything more than the lowest price.

If I could, believe me, I would.