I made another weekend trip during June down to Baton Rouge to do more work on the condominium property where our son lives while he’s in graduate school at Louisiana State University.

It’s distressing to see the increasing number of vacant stores of all sizes that is a byproduct of e-commerce and other socioeconomic factors these days. Louisiana’s capital city is by no means exempt.

I must admit that I’m impressed with the convenience of placing an online order with a few keystrokes on a laptop computer and finding the shipment at the front door or at a local merchant within days. I have thus far only used e-commerce for items that I haven’t been able to get locally. I have also had to make several trips back to the package drop-off station with returns of garment and shoe orders for my wife and daughter.

I have heard it said that there are two items for which the traditional point of purchase with eye-to-eye encounter is indispensable – clothing and jewelry. May I propose to add plumbing parts to that list.

We’re doing a slow-motion flip job of the condominium as our son is on the home stretch of the journey to his Ph.D. Among the upgrades we did was taking out the dilapidated laminated plastic counter tops with plastic drop-in sinks in the bathrooms. We replaced the old tops with cultured marble tops with integral sinks that my enterprising wife found online within driving distance at bargain prices.

To my dismay, the twin sinks in the replacement six-foot top were a couple of inches closer together than in the old top we removed. I had been to big-box home improvement stores, as well as a nationally franchised plumbing supplier, to get parts that would not work out to bridge the gap below the sink with a hookup that wouldn’t leak.

I ended up taking a picture of my dilemma with my phone to present to the sales staff at the local hardware store that was tucked away in a neighborhood a few miles from the condo. The friendly grandfatherly salesman took all the parts I brought and studied the pictures on my phone. In a minute, he matched up replacement parts in blister packages that got the job done in short order.

Our conversation ranged between topics of my experiences along the learning curve of remodeling to his frustrations in finding young help from the college during summer break that is willing to work.

The extinction of the old-fashioned work ethic has been voiced to me before as contributing to the demise of many family-based small businesses forced to shut down as owners retire and don’t have another generation willing to stay home and carry on.

House (and condo) flipping has given me a renewed appreciation for hometown business where eye meets eye and hands feel the merchandise prior to purchase. The experience is often broadened and flavored by something else that modern technology is robbing from us – conversation with our mouths rather than with our electronic devices.

John Ward is a staff writer for the Monroe Journal. He can be reached at john.ward@journalinc.com.

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