Sunday, April 3, 2011

Welcome to my garden (or not).

I'm an early riser.  Sometimes too early so I lay in bed for an hour and think.

As many of you know, I am "moving" my store May 1st. I don't have a space to "move" to so I am going to focus on my facebook store and a service I call "My Store to Your Door." (Yes, just like it sounds AND I help you clean your closet--taking with me your donation and consignment piles.)  I have loads of merchandise coming in through September and I have to figure out how to make it available to my customers.  I am hoping for a space to open up in the Proctor district.  In the meantime, these two businesses will keep me busy.

The whole idea of having an on-line shop never really appealed to me.  I love being a shopkeeper.   Then a few months ago, something wonderful happened.  I started to post pictures of  merchandise on my Facebook page to let customers know what's new.  They responed by coming in and so did women from other parts of the country.  Enthusiastically. Orders came in and after brief chats to eliminate guesswork about sizing, I began shippping packages.  Big packages.  Fifteen and twenty items.  It was so exciting thinking about someone in Chicago being able to shop at my store!

It made me think of the following analogy.  Let's say my shop's a "garden".  I read several international fashion magazines for inspiration, much like a gardener would pour over a seed catalog.  When I have a clear vision of what I want in my "garden" six months out, I place a carefully chosen order of "seeds".  For weeks, I continue to prepare my "garden" for its seasonal debut.  I look for companions to those carefully chosen "flowers", adding some "ground cover" to fill in the gaps.  After carefully tending, I wait.  A few months later, the UPS guy brings the "flowers".  I place them in my "garden" and add "ground cover"  Then, my wonderful customers come in and "pick" from my garden.  They select things that are already in their "home garden" and this "flower" completes their "bouquet".

In a recession in the Northwest in a winter that has been particularly grey and rainy? It's not as fun being a shopkeeper.

The "seed" that planted the garden analogy came from a visitor yesterday.  She came in looking for pajama pants that have been discontinued.  She wanted those and didn't care about looking at the rest of the "garden".  She only liked "peonies" and since I didn't plant any this year, she left.  And it hit me...

The internet  allows me to connect with people who like what I "plant".  Instead of hearing "I don't like blue.  Does it come in red?" I hear "LOVE this shade of blue! I'll take it!" "Can't wait to see more pictures!"

I've had more than a few people say "you have to have a store! I don't shop on the internet!"   I have to bite my tongue when it is asked by people who haven't stepped foot in my store or browsers who haven't purchased something in a few years.  As much as I love what I do, it's not a hobby.  It's how I pay my bills.  If you are a customer at my brick and mortar store, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your loyalty, suppport and friendship.  I'd add that your support and commitment to "go local" builds a stronger community for us all. I am so grateful for being able to have a brick & mortar store for 11 years. It really is a dream come true. 

The reality is that if I want to have a viable business, I must embrace technology and how consumers want to shop.   It's just a sign of the times. So, I am hoping you will pop in this month for a visit.  Also hoping you will join me on this journey and while I am "store-less" will follow me on facebook or book a "Store to Door" visit.  My goal is to have a little studio/storefront in a few months. 

We'll see.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wing down

This morning, on facebook,  I posted a photo of a little ceramic angel I bought at Goodwill.  Had I kept last years New Years resolution #23, (learn  to import pictures) her sweet little face would accompany this entry.

Last December as I was shopping Goodwill for an ugly Christmas sweater for a party, I found this ceramic  angel in the holiday section.  It was hard to see her features, because she was covered in gold spray paint.  Something about her spoke to me.   I love a project, so at 99 cents, I placed her in my cart.  Once home, I got out nail polish remover and worked to remove the gold paint.  A few cotton balls later, the little angel was restored to her former glory.  The glaze had protected every one of her sweet features.  Pleased, I placed her near the kitchen sink to keep me company in December.

In November we moved to a new place.  The second story of a 100 year old house.  I love old.  I remember when I was doing one of the walk throughs, thinking about how great my vintage Christmas decorations would fit in this place.

On December 1st, I started unpacking decorations. The little angel was nestled in with stockings and aprons.  (When I packed her away last year, I remember thinking they'd keep her safe and warm--we had bonded in that kitchen over all those batches of cookies.)  It was hard to find the perfect place for her.  She didn't fit with the nutcrackers, or my collection of vintage snowmen.  I decided to put her  next to a pink poinsettia on a little white table.  That lasted a couple of days. I have a rearranging gene and moved her to another table where pink vintage glass ornaments could keep her company.  As I was fussing around getting the angel vignette all perfect, she slipped out of my hand and fell to the hard woods with a clunk.  I felt my heart sink. I looked down and one wing had broken off.  Only it wasn't a clean break.  Bits of ceramic pieces were strewn about.   Handy with a glue gun,  I decided I could use parts of her in a future craft project.   Then my other dominant gene (stubborn Norwegian) kicked in and I sought out the super glue.  After patiently piecing her wing together, I stood back and viola!  She was almost as good as new.  Back to the poinsettia table.

A few nights later, as Kitty was making noise for attention at 3 a.m., we heard a crash.  Kitty had knocked the table over.  Craig delivered the bad news....The angel's wing had broken again.  In the same place.
The next morning, I found the superglue and went to work.  This time I put the angel out of Kitty's path. 

Over the holiday break I spent time reading a book by Brene Brown titled The Gifts of Imperfection.  I finished the book last night.  At 3:00 a.m., Kitty did her usual bit (scratching on something to get our attention.) I couldn't get back to sleep and started thinking about the To Do list I had put off all week.  At the top of the list is putting away decorations.  For some reason, the angel came to mind and it dawned on me.

Sometimes God gives us a subtle nudge and sometimes he whacks us upside the head.  This was one of those whack upside the head moments.  The little angel was a metaphor for me. I started to think about her blonde pigtails tied with red ribbons and recalled a picture of me that was taken when I was 5.  In the portrait  I am wearing pigtails also tied with red ribbons.  Smiling sans my two front teeth, I  realize that was the age I began to fill a bag with heavy bricks that I would carry around with me until this year.  I call it the bricks of shame.  

Brene Brown defines shame as:

        Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love 
        and belonging.

From Dr. Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, Page 6.

  Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy--the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.