Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Adventures

Happy Almost-Spring! I've been busy redoing the shop the past month and a half. So many lovely new things! I'm having more fun than ever doing displays.

Sweet velvet bunnies.

Flowery basket nests.

Sparkly chocolate-mold bunnies.

More from my new little nook.

Our Ophelia dress form wine bottle holder is sporting the latest spring fashion...a wreath around your neck. Don't try this at home, I doubt it is comfortable.

Paper bunnies just like the olden days.

Bird-on-a-stick. (Really a yard stake.)

The view from the front door.

My new display nook in the front. More about that later in this post!

I love this fountain. I've wanted one in the store for ages and finally found this sweet fairy one! I love the sound of splashing water.

Chocolate bunnies.

Sweet little bunny with velvet violets.


Vintage bird print.

Mini postcards for your Easter tree.

Eggs eggs eggs!

Vintage ceramic birdie, love her sweet eyelashes!

Handmade pink birdie wreath.

I always miss photographing the back of the store, for some reason. (Hmn, usually because I think it's a mess? Ha.) Here is a little seashore display I did last week.

Let them eat cake!

Fabulous vintage gold cherub mirror. I have my eye on it, so hurry.

Red, black, and loooooooovvvvvvvvveeeee.

Vintage swan planter. Those roses are to die for!

Love me some vintage teacups.

Squeal-worthy vintage lovelies.

I was struggling with displays for a while and where to put all the new spring things, plus the stuff from the second shop. I didn't know what to do with it all. But one day I came in to the shop, and there was a note from Lady Frivvie, our window mannequin. She was gone! Her note said she eloped with Lord McDuff. Oh dear. I am worried for the poor girl. She didn't even give me a two week notice, either. Humph. I think Lord McDuff is a cad, and she should've come to her senses after all these years of his shenanigans, but a girl in love...what can you do? I think she's lost her head!

At any rate, I now have reclaimed her little 'room' in the front of the store, and it solved my decorating dilemmas! So thank you Lady Friv, wherever you went off to. How about a postcard at least for the gal who paid for your place all these years, huh?! And let you keep your pet crow and toad around! I will let you know if I hear from her!

I am relishing the spring light that is coming through with the lace curtain down, though:

Plus I have the whole ledge to decorate. Nothing thrills me like more real estate to decorate!

2010 is off to an extremely interesting start. I have a feeling this is going to be a year of many BIG developments. I've already been on quite the roller coaster ride! It's all good!

Penny and Nokie are right there with me on the ride...

Miss Penleope turned 1 year old on February my baby! Here she is in her pink birthday sweater. The cuteness kills me!!! Look at those wrinkles!

Nokie's birthday is coming up next Tuesday. I bought him a huge stuffed snake to play with, I can't wait to see the look on their faces when they get a load of that. They LOVE their stuffed toys, and have a veritable zoo of creatures.

Here they are on their fancy 'kitchen bed'. I ordered that for the store five years ago, but could never bear to put it out for sale, hoping one day it would be for my pug "Vinnie". Well, "Vinnie" turned into "Penny", (and Nokie!) and they love that bed so much--I'm so glad I kept it!

So there's my shopping lesson for the day: BUY WHAT YOU LIKE WHEN YOU SEE IT. Who cares if you don't know what to do with it at the moment. If you like it, you will find a place for it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WHAT has she done NOW??

I'm sorry for the long hiatus in blogging! I write great posts in my head, but never on the computer. But I thought it time I update and explain my latest shenanigans, because I am all about the shenanigans lately!

You may be reading this post because you came into the shop and I handed you a little card and told you to read all about it on the blog. Instead of telling the same story to every one who asks, why not just write it up here?

So, the major project I have been working on lately is moving out of the second store. You may have seen us hauling heavy furniture in the snow lately. It's a great workout! I wanted to explain what was up with that, because I know the gossip is goin' to be sizzling! Small towns, don't you know! For some people, what I do is akin to what Jennifer Aniston does, so I might as well dish before the paps start whipping out their telephoto lenses.

First, the background. My original shop, Frivolities, opened in 2002, in the Dexter Crossing Shopping Center. A rather unusual location for my romantic, flowery, frou-frou shop, but I liked it, and that's where I planted myself.

In early 2008, a Victorian house downtown became available, and it was very tempting. But even if I could've left the original store and the lease, I didn't want to. Good business, good parking, just all around great for my biz. I built out the store to my specifications, and I loved being there. But...that house was sooo tempting. I was reading my fave magazine, Romantic Country, and there was a feature on a store called Pom Pom Interiors that had two stores (I see they now have three!) that were the same type of store, but with different focuses, so I decided to do that! And the house was quite a bit cheaper to rent than the shopping center store.

On March 20, 2008, I opened Frivolities (Downtown)...

This pic is from August '08, after my mom put in the fabulous and very famous garden!

...and began life with two stores--which was NEVER anything I set out to do. I was like Scarlett O'Hara, torn between Ashley and Rhett. Only I got to try them both out, heh heh. But seriously, I wasn't setting out to take over the town with my shops, like a little Trump...I just ended up with two. Kinda like how I wanted one pug...but I ended up with two.

At this time, I was also pursuing a real estate career. Oh, the energy I had! Well, I was *only* 29 then. And that was BP. (Before Pugs.)

Frivolities (Downtown) was run by my mom, but I did all the merchandising, buying, etc. The sibling rivalry between stores started coming about. Which store got which stuff? Which store got Mom's time and attention?

Then you had the folks who asked if the stores were the same. And that is like the old joke of asking a guy if they have stopped beating their wife. He can't answer yes--because that means he DID beat her. And obviously if he says no, he's still a schmuck.

Are the stores the same? No. "Oh, but I like this kind of stuff", said as customer gestured at whatever store they were in.

Are the stores the same? Yes. Then people would only go to one. And even though the stores were NOT the same, we did have people who only ever went to one or the other, because they believed they had the same things.

It was the same TYPE of things. But never the exact same item.

So in May '08, I changed the name to Amber's, to make it clear they were different. Fine and well. Only I never changed the sign. Ha! I'm a funny girl like that.

At the end of '08, I had several big life-changing things happen. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. (Now cured.) My dad had a very bad brain injury from falling. I realized my heart was not in real estate.

In January '09, my dad died--actually a year ago yesterday, so I have made it through that first year, but that is obviously something that is a lingering pain for me. I quit real estate, and decided to change the second store to an antique store. I named it The Whatever Shop.

At this point, I was ready to be named The Most Commitmentphobic Woman in Dexter. But at least I changed the sign this time, woo hoo!

Mom outside of the shop in summer '09, with the summer garden.

I opened THAT version of the shop on...March 20, 2009. I'm all about the deja vu.

It was mostly antiques, but the cool kind, lots of functional pieces, furniture, fabulous china. I have antiques at Frivolities, but that let me get into it even more. I enjoyed the store, but was still having feelings of spreading myself too thin. I felt like neither store got the attention from me it deserved. I wanted to do too much. I was going home at 11pm a lot. Downtown Dexter is spooky at 11am, it's so quiet. I got a little more grounded when I got my two puggies, and could NOT work all the time, unless I wanted poo-covered unhappy puppies. They really helped change the workaholic in me. Being a 'mommy', even if your children have four legs, gets you outside of yourself for sure.

At the end of summer, I was so.tired. Too much to do, never enough hours. I was working on starting my home staging business, Stellar Interiors, and speculating that I needed a house for it. Another place to rent?! NO. In the space of about 20 seconds, I decided to change the second store into my home staging studio, and just have one store--the original Frivolities at Dexter Crossing. I am a spur of the moment kind of gal for sure. My mom did not mind, because she is a garden girl, not a shop girl. I was the shop girl.

(By the way, we have always referred to the Dexter Crossing store as Frivvies and the downtown store as Chez Friv, to keep them separate.)

With fourth quarter approaching, I was spending alllll of my time at Frivvies. I went to Chez Friv about twice a month in the fall. Usually just to pick up something for Frivvies. And it dawned on me that I was paying a lot of rent for a glorified storage space/place to take a nap. From my brief time in real estate, I had seen how prices were falling and there were some amazing deals out there.

In early November '09, I got bit by the buying bug--and I got bit HARD. I've looked at a few that weren't quite right, but once the buying bug bites...and you realize every four months worth of rent is a down payment on a house...well, that did it.

I loved my Chez Friv. I loved the garden my mom created most of all! I loved the history of the house, and my one-sided conversations with Mrs. Vaughn. But the lease was up January '10, and not up at Frivvies. And if I wanted to buy, I could not do that AND rent two properties AND be a stager AND do the online store AND have a semblance of a life. Something had to go, and it was Chez Friv.

And that is why I moved out, my lease went buh-bye on January 26th (one year after my father died, kind of weird), and I have one store--the original Frivolities, out there in the strip mall, with the haphazard hours and Lady Frivvie in the window!

I know people LOVE to speculate about businesses and why someone closes one or moves or whatever. And, of course, in these times, everyone loves to talk about 'the economy'. I gotta's NOT the economy, stupid. At least not for me. Let it be said--I did not close the second store because of 'the economy'. I closed it because I cannot be in two places at once and do what I want to do and I really want to OWN a place. There is always an 'economy' for someone, and guess what, lots of people with lots of money are not the types who spend it, anyway! I did not close it because of parking, or traffic, or because 'it was only open two days a week'. I did not close it with green eggs and ham, and I will not close it with a fox. HA. If the other lease had been up, I would've closed that store.

Now you know what I have done, why I did it, and how I did it. Hopefully that will be enough to stamp out the next sour gossip to shrill, "I knew she wouldn't make it!" as the sour gossips so want to do. :) Don't be a sour gossip, it isn't cool.

(And no, I am not getting back together with Brad Pitt.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sale is a 4-letter word

Merry Monday! Now time for a meaty post.

After your first 10 minutes in retail, you start to realize there is something up with this SALE word. I call it a 4 letter word for a good reason, and I'm going to get up on my pink soap box and tell you why.

We live in a culture that is incredibly sale-obsessed and sale-saturated. In general, I am opposed to sales. "Oh, of course you would be, you're a retailer, you want money!" you might be thinking. Nope. Although, we all want and need a bit of money, no? Why I hate sales is because they are contributing to the bastardization of American retail. Sure, everyone loves a deal. But there are deals, and then there are SALES.

Sales are becoming more and more tricks to get you to buy. You are "saving". What are you saving? A so-called discount off of an imaginary inflated price. You think the big box stores are out to help you? You think THEY are taking a hit so you can get a deal? No, they are making you THINK you are getting a deal.

There are three ways that stores can price merchandise.

  1. Set a price that is in line with current market value of an item, assuring a profit for the store to maintain operation, payment of the vendor for the item they manufactured, and payment for the shipment of the item to the location. This price is fair to the consumer AND fair to the retailer. Because of this, to have a 'sale', and reduce the price means the retailer is the one taking a hit--and it is best to avoid doing that unless the item is damaged or outdated in some way.
  2. Set a price the exact same way--but give in to pressure to 'have sales', and thus cut margins down to bare bones level, jeopardizing the health of the retailer.
  3. Set a price that far, far exceeds the fair market value of an item, take a large percentage 'off' of that price, make the consumer think they have 'saved' all of that money, and the final price is closer to what the true market value of the item is.

Method #1 is the one most favored by the independent mom-and-pop single location stores. Method #3 is the one most favored by big box mass market retailers--you know who they are. Look at your Sunday circulars for a clue.

Remember that retailers set the prices for their items. When I first opened, a local shop that was around for just a few months let me know how I should do things. I should mark everything way up and then have sales. I thought that was stupid, and I still do. Why play this game with customers?

When you're running a store for a while, you start to see that some customers expect you to play the big box sale game. They don't get it that it's a brainwashing to make you think you are saving money. Instead, if you 'dont' have sales', you are a greedy expensive store, selfish and anal. Poppycock! What happened to being FAIR about pricing? They expect you to give it all away, yet they still expect to see you there so they can come in for their fix. And who pays the rent when the inventory is given away, huh?

It's not something you think about unless you own a store, or unless someone who owns a store writes a big ranting blog post on it for you to read. I was definitely bitten by that SALE bug many times in my past. I once went to a store where it was a week before Christmas, and all their Christmas was 50% off. Oh, was I excited!!! WOW! And now when I look back on it, it occurs to me that $25 was a rather high price for a Christmas tree ornament I was happy to get for $12.50. It should've been $12.50 to start with--but the allure of getting away with getting a $25 item for 50% off was too much.

And so retailers continue to mark up to mark down. Every week someone asks me about sales. What's better--an item marked $20 on sale for 75% off or the same item marked $5? I know most people don't want to think about math when they shop, but you really need to.

I was reading our online local newspaper this weekend, and read an article about upscale retailer Von Maur. I love Von Maur, it's a lovely shopping experience, and they have great stuff, and no, you don't have to be rich to shop there. The article, which you can read in full here, says...

They’re also known for carrying high-end merchandise that doesn’t go on sale. Instead, items go through a series of permanent markdowns.
“It’s always been our strategy to price fairly and not play the (sale) rollercoaster,” said Amy Davis, marketing manager for the Iowa-based chain.

That means days like Black Friday don’t play out differently in the store, which opened at its normal time and featured fresh markdowns for customers - but none of the coupon- or sale-induced shopping frenzy that co-anchors Sears, Macy’s and JCPenney generated.

“Being non-promotional and staying true to what we do has been successful for us,” Davis said. “… There’s no need to change that strategy. We think customers appreciate that. It sounds like a simple approach, but it works for us.”

Yes! Yes! Finally a major retailer comes out and says this, and talks about the 'sale rollercoaster'. This craziness has to stop. So no, I don't have 'sales', because I don't play the game. I price fairly and if something is past it's prime, it's marked down. I am not going to take a $75 lamp, mark it at $250, and then have it ON SALE for 50% off. As we said in the early '90s, "Homey don't play dat".

Monday, December 14, 2009

At long last, after 7 years of futzing around, I have the website o'my dreams for the shop! Please visit: It has been so hard for me to come up with a style and design that I liked, and figure out the whole e-commerce shebang, but I did it. I got down to business on Dec. 3rd and decided or I would be very bitter with myself. So I toiled and toiled--and completely forgot to post here, sorry, so much for my "write every day!" plans! I am so grateful for my past life in web design, it all came back to me, and I really like how it turned out!

In spite of being a frivolous girl with a frivolous shop, I like 'clean' websites, that don't have a ton of superfluous graphics (probably because of living with dial-up at home for nearly 12 years at 24kbps!) Black and white is my favorite color combination, so I decided that with some touches of frivolous pink was the way to go.

I will continually add new things to the shop, and I am happy to offer free shipping at a $75 order ALL THE TIME, to shoppers in the lower 48 states! There is still time to ship before Christmas, the cut-off date is Friday the 18th!

I am so excited, and of course, smacking myself for not doing this sooner! My computer files are filled with half-finished designs over the years. I guess it just has to be the right time for something to happen.

Just so everyone knows, the 'real' shop will be closed December 25-January 19. No, I'm not going on an exotic vacation! This is my time to organize life, organize the shop, and catch up on sleep, family, and life. I have been open after Christmas the past two years, and I'll be honest: I hate it. It's depressing. People who rail against Christmas being commercialized must have been out shopping on the 26th. It isn't about the holiday spirit anymore. Yes, you make money, but happiness in business isn't ALL about money. After a difficult time this year losing my dad (one month after Christmas in '08), I just need some time to regroup and spend with my family and appreciate MY Christmas, not the retail Christmas life!

Of course, the online shop will be open alllll the time, and we will ship on a regular schedule, so if you need something, fear not!