I thought long and hard about Debra and the mercantile, on how to make both shine. I came up with the idea of giving Debra a helper, enabling her to leave the store and interact with other characters in different locales. But something else kept nagging at me. Finally, I realized the scenes with Debra inside the mercantile were wrong, even boring, because I wasn't using both properly.
Once I was able to wrap my mind around the importance of the mercantile, I was able to make the store and my heroine shine. At heart, Debra is kind and caring. She's also the mom-and-pop business of yesterday. Her customers' needs for flour and coffee are important to her, but more important are the people themselves. Her eagerness to help others shines in the way she greets her customers, in how she takes the time to inquire after them and their families, in how she strives to ensure that everyone who walks through her door feels special and appreciated, which is true of today's mom-and-pop businesses. Now when I think of a mercantile, I imagine people who, like Debra, provided the community with more than just a hammer. I see a building and the person giving the townsfolk what they needed most--communication and a sense of belonging.