The Parable of the independent retailer nestles at the bottom of “Illustrated Train Garden No1.” and is reproduced here in full.
THE PARABLE OF THE INDEPENDENT RETAILER
There was once an old bread shop that had been in the town for as long as anyone could remember. It was owned by an old couple who had baked the bread in the bread shop for as long as anyone could remember. It was very good bread, made by hand in a very special way every single day, and the towns people had bought and eaten the delicious bread from the old bread shop for as long as anyone could remember.
There had once been many such bread shops in the town, and they had all made delicious bread. They were all owned by people who had made bread for a very long time and were very good at making bread. They were all different from each other because they all had their own special ways of making bread, and the people of the town came to know all of the different but equally lovely sorts of bread that they could buy.
Over the years all the other bread shops had stopped making their own bread. The truth was that it was hard work making such lovely bread, and soon all the other bread shops were owned by a big factory that made the same bread for all of the shops. The big factory was outside of the town and it made its bread in big machines and had it freshly delivered to all of the shops in the town.
One day the man from the big bread factory came to the little bread shop. He said how much he liked the look of the shop, he admired the beautiful window display. He said how much he likes the smell of the fresh bread and he said that it must be awfully hard work for the old couple to make such lovely bread for the people of the town every day. He asked if they wanted to sell him the shop but they said no!
Business was Good for the little bread shop. More and more people came to buy their bread from it because they did not really like the bread from the other bread shops in town. Their bread all tasted the same, it was bland and flavourless and limp and soggy because it was all made by machines in the big factory that now owned all of the shops, and the shops now even looked exactly the same as each other. But it was getting very hard work for the old couple who owned the little shop. Sometimes they would even run out of bread early because it was difficult to make enough.
The man from the big factory came again to the little bread shop. Once more he admired the little shop and he said how much he liked the old fashioned sign, and the shops quaint old shopfront, but mostly he said “how hard it must be for you working such long hours ” and “wouldn’t you like to take things a little more easy, now that you are both getting older”. He then offered them a large amount of money for the little shop, but still they said no!
Life was becoming very difficult for the old couple, it was harder work than ever and their backs were aching and it was hot in the bakery, and they had to get up very very early in the morning to start making the bread. They dreamed of having a holiday and visiting all of the interesting places they had heard about but had not visited because they both had to work so hard.
Once again the man from the big factory came to the little shop. This time he didn’t stop to admire the little shop but he just said “how hard it must be for you both working all these long hours in such conditions at your age.” He noted that they were “looking very tired” and, “wouldn’t a nice long cruise around the world visiting all of the interesting places that you have never seen before suit you both right now”. He showed them a brochure with pictures of a ship and pictures of far away cities. Then he offered them a very large amount of money. Reluctantly, very reluctantly the old couple said, yes they would sell him the bread shop. They took the good advice of the man from the big factory and the big envelope full of his money and set off on a six year long cruise around the world.
Now the big factory owned all of the bread shops in the town and they were very happy. The people of the town however were not very happy because now all they had to eat was the flavourless limp soggy bread that was made by the big machines in the big factory. But slowly the people began to forget about the bread from the little bread shop and they became used to the bland limp and soggy bread from the big factory and in time they could not even remember what the lovely bread from the little shop tasted like.
After six years the old couple who used to own the little bread shop came back from their holiday. They were eager to see what the man from the big factory had done to their little old shop. At first sight it still looked the same, it still looked quaint and old fashioned, but gone were its lovely window displays, gone was its nice decorations and gone was its old fashioned sign, replaced by an ugly new one, just like the ones on all the other bread shops in town. Worse than this though, the lovely bread had gone and in its place was the bland limp and soggy bread made on the big machines in the big factory. There was nothing that the old couple could do though as they no longer owned the little bread shop. At least the old couple could still make lovely bread for themselves.
Next morning as the people of the town were going to work they noticed a wonderful and familiar smell. It was the smell of the old bread shop, but it was not coming from the old bread shop. The people had almost forgotten what a lovely smell it was. So on this morning some of the people did not go into the bread shops owned by the big factory but instead followed their noses to the kitchen of the house of the old couple who used to run the little bread shop. “Please please can we buy some of your delicious bread?” they asked “as all we have now is the limp bland and soggy bread made on big machines in the big factory “.The old couple had made too much bread for themselves to eat for breakfast and were happy to sell some to the few people who had followed their noses to their kitchen door that morning.
The next morning the old couple baked some more bread for their breakfast, but by now the word had gone around town that the old couple were once again making the lovely bread. This morning when the people in the town were going to work they were once more overwhelmed by the smell of freshly baked bread. They snorted up the delicious smell. They wanted to taste the lovely bread again as they remembered just how much they had missed it. As the old couple were about to sit down to breakfast they were interrupted by knock at the door. Outside were nearly all the people from the town, Forming an orderly queue stretching to the fields far beyond the houses, all asking if they might Please please buy some of the delicious bread once more.
All the towns people wanted to buy the lovely bread, and as much as the old couple would have loved to bake the lovely bread again for everyone, the situation was hopeless. The old couple were now much too old to be working at such a hard job. Perhaps the man from the big factory had been right. They should be taking life a bit easier now, everyone could see that. After all the towns people could always eat the bread made in big machines from the big factory.
But something had changed for the people of the town, having once again smelt the wonderful smell of the lovely bread it had made them want it more than ever. “No! We won’t go back to eating limp soggy and tasteless bread made by big machines in the big factory”, They said. “If we can’t have the lovely bread then we will not eat any bread. Besides the big factory is responsible for there being no little bread shops anymore “. So the people of the town stopped going to the bread shops that were owned by the big factory and that only sold limp soggy and bland bread, and they started eating other things instead.
Soon the big factory was making too much bread because nobody in the town wanted to buy it anymore. Soon it had to close some of its own bread shops that only sold the soggy limp and bland bread that was made on the big machines. After a while without any customers it had to close the rest of its own bread shops down. Finally it had to turn off all the big machines that made the tasteless soggy and limp bread and it told the people of the town, most of whom now worked in the factory that there was not enough work to go around anymore and that they would no longer be needed to work in the factory.
Now the people in the town were very unhappy indeed, they no longer had any bread, they no longer had any jobs and they no longer even had any money. It seemed as if they had all made a terrible mistake. If only they had listened to the man from the big factory, If only they had kept on buying his tasteless soggy and limp bread. If only they had just taken his money for working in his big factory then at least now they could have afforded to buy the tasteless soggy and limp bread that they had once made on the big machines.
The old couple saw all the unhappiness in the town and felt very sad for all the people. They felt sad for the people who had worked in the bakery’s that only sold the big factory’s bread that were now closed. They felt sad for the people in the big factory who had lost their jobs. They felt sad for themselves as they thought they had let all the people down by not making their own bread again. But what could they have done as they were getting very tired and very old,. They even felt a bit sad for the man from the big factory.
But then they had a good idea. They called together all the people of the town and they said. “It seems that everyone in this town has forgotten how to make bread! It seems that you have all spent far too long making bread on big machines in the big factory and now you can’t remember how to make good bread! We are too old to make bread for everyone anymore, but we do know how to make the lovely bread. We will show you all how the lovely bread is made, and then you can once again make good bread for yourselves.”
And so, after a time the people of the town started making their own wonderful bread again. Some of them even opened bread shops. They all sold delicious and different types of bread. Not all of the shops looked as grand and old fashioned as the little bread shop that was once owned by the old couple. In fact some of them looked very modern and some of them even looked quite ugly, but it turned out that t did not matter after all what they looked like, because so long as they were all different from each other and they were all selling lovely and different sorts of bread bread then the people of the town were happy.