Madi Lou on Working at Tenni-Moc's
The impact and importance of small businesses was lost on me until I walked into Tenni-Moc’s. It was a random Tuesday in September (prior to knowing what the “Sam Would Hate This” Sale was all about) and tables lined the front of the store. A pair of silver rain boots stuck out to me in the drought of California, nostalgia laced into sheepskin innersoles that would have kept me warm in the Portland weather I had left behind in college. I was seated with my dad and brother across from an intimidatingly large wall of New Balances–the men in my family’s favorite brand–and instructed to kick off my shoes by a friendly face I would come to call my friend and coworker, Alyssa. The conversation we had has since left my brain, though I remember the tenderness and calm of Alyssa’s tone as I proceeded to rip the heel tab from the rain boots I planned on buying with a *pop*! She swiftly whisked the shoe away to the back and, in what seemed like seconds, returned with it newly intact. As we checked out, I noted the “Job Opportunity” sign in the door with curiosity. I texted the number before the register became occupied, and promptly asked the new woman standing in front of me when I should expect to hear back. She introduced herself as Alex, the owner of the store as well as the phone number I had just texted. Without missing a beat, she asked what I was doing the following day; “Nothing, beyond working till 9:30.” “Perfect, you start at 10 am tomorrow!”
One of the benefits of working in a small business is an intimate staff that, to me, almost immediately emulates a family (it helps that two of them are married and two of them are cousins). I value a setting like this deeply, being as my transgender and queer identities often don’t lend themselves to immediately meshing with folks of dissimilar backgrounds. This was not at all a problem among our team, though I would say there is always a language curve with things like new pronouns (I personally use they/them) and talks around my degree background and personal identities in Sexuality, Gender, & Queer Studies.
For a city of almost half a million people, Long Beach feels small. I spent the first 18 years of my life here, and all the connections that I’ve made can’t compare to the system of familial ties within Tenni-Moc’s customer base. Having a father that was born four years after the Tenni-Moc’s Shoe Store opened in 1962, my family has been customers since these doors opened. I am so thankful to be able to give back to the community that has raised me and continues to shape me as a person. Tenni-Moc’s may be a small business, but its’ heart and soul are huge.