An Old Hand

Tour guide, kindly face and general point of reference. Nobody knows the duties of a village salesman better than Werner Schmid. He's been in the business for over 30 years.
The bells of St. Pauls’ impressive onion-domed tower are sounding half past eight. Women hurry through the streets with their shopping baskets, tractors clatter through the village across the bumpy cobbles, and the first round of coffee  is being served over lively conversation at the local café. This is also when Werner Schmid opens up his shop, situated in the heart of St. Pauls. He knows the village like the back of his hand, because not only is he responsible for the historical tours through the quaint little streets of the village, but since 1981 he and his wife have also been running the Paulser Kunststube, a shop devoted to antiques and artisan craftwork. Just like its owner, this shop is an indispensable part of the village landscape, not just for the locals, but also for the many vacationers who have become regular patrons.


Surrounded by picture frames, upholstery and finely crocheted blankets, Werner Schmid is perched on a rustic wooden stool, dressed in a shirt and a green velvet waistcoat underneath a green loden jacket. As he thinks back to his shop’s beginnings, pensive creases appear on his forehead. “Thirty years ago there were even more shops in St. Pauls than there are now. Many have since moved to St. Michael or have been forced to close,” explains Schmid, who initially trained as an optician. The financial crisis has meant that these last few years have been hard not just for the larger businesses in the towns, but for the small village shops as well. Since time moves more slowly in the countryside and people deal with stress somewhat differently here, people still appreciate shops like the Paulser Kunststube. “Here in the village you’re not just worried about national concerns, but you also take the time to help the odd tourist out with a few hiking tips. People appreciate that,” says the 64-year-old. Expertise, friendliness and communication are, according to Schmid, the hallmarks of a country salesman.
It’s not just communication that is important for a salesman like Schmid, but also a down-to-earth connection with the locals. If you see him sitting on his stool, chatting to customers or nipping out for a quick coffee with the business next door, you will understand what makes shopping in the village so charming. A walk through the quaint little streets, a cup of coffee, browsing through the little shops – this is a special feeling that attracts many customers from far and wide. The village is in no way inferior to the town, for all the latter’s department stores and big businesses. “On the contrary,” says Schmid. “The municipality of Eppan with its numerous villages has got just about every need covered.” Local shops don‘t just provide locals with the rice and pasta. “In the little village shops you can find everything from plants and shoelaces to special adhesives, and I really do mean everything – plus you can have a pleasant chat with customers. Local shops don’t just have everything, they are everything!” grins the experienced salesman.

Published on 10.02.2016
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