Jennifer Coates

Business Spotlight Writer


My journey as a spotlight writer began nearly ten years ago in the backyard of a longtime friend.  That day, a conversation with the former spotlight reporter launched me on a journey of discovery, knowledge, enduring friendships, and wonder. Let me explain.

In her book The Moment of Lift, philanthropist Melinda Gates defined the word “wonder” in this way: “Wonder has two meanings for me.  It can mean awe and it can mean curiosity.” 

As I have interviewed the owners of local businesses throughout our whole region, I have been filled with wonder ~ the kind that fills you with awe and the kind that feeds your curiosity.  “Awe” because I have felt the passion of each business owner for what they do.  “Curiosity” because I could never learn enough about each business, even the ones that seemed at first glance to have the least appeal. 

One example of this is an assignment I had to interview the owner of a shop that sold propane.  The shop’s office was shabby and worn-out, reminiscent of some long-forgotten roadside gas station on a deserted highway.  The owner of this 50-year old business was equally as “rough around the edges.”  Like with every interview, I paused and took in the whole scene, gleaning what I could from the cues around me.

At first, I could only think of two questions to ask him about propane, a topic that I immediately thought boring, at best.  Once I got talking to this business owner, however, that impression changed immediately.  He became animated and excited talking about how his family got in the business over half a century ago and about the many uses and benefits of propane. Our interview lasted nearly an hour as I was caught up in his enthusiasm. What I came away from here was that sense of wonder that Melinda Gates described – awe for this man’s pure passion, and a curiosity about something that I had once known little about.

This one interview has stuck in my mind over the many years that I have been writing for Beacon Communications.  It is emblematic of how virtually every story has begun and ended for me.  I have learned how much these businessmen and women love what they do, no matter what it seems like at face value.  Most have invested their every penny into their product or service.  Most have sacrificed everything to be successful, and many have survived natural disasters and even pandemics. Yet many have also failed, and I have felt a deep pang of sorrow when I drive by their shuttered stores or offices, knowing that what was lost was so much more than a business, but rather a dream, sometimes a lifetime of dreams. 

What will keep the dreams and goals of these many diverse business owners alive is your continued patronage.  Shop at your local stores.  Support your local, family-run restaurants, salons, service stations, retail stores and propane dealerships!  They need you to stay alive.  We need them to thrive. 

It has been the greatest privilege of my life to tell the stories of these friends and neighbors.  I hope you will get to know them as I have, and to be filled with wonder at all they do and all they are.


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