Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New displays! And FAQ's.

Getting ready for fall and the upcoming season always means a big shake-up of displays, which is one of my favorite things to do. Here are a few I have been working on at Frivolities the past few days. They are never really finished enough to my taste but after a while I just have to say STOP! and move on to a new one!

Love those chubby little birdies!

Damask-patterned candles and jeweled frames.

I am on a mirrored-perfume-tray kick lately. I have a bunch of fabulous vintage ones at The Whatever Shop, but this beaded one is at Frivolities.

I think this display is closest to my personal taste out of any I have ever done. I love crystals, pink and aqua, white furniture and roses galore. I could just eat this display, but it looks high in calories.

Classic black and white. I LOVE black and white color combinations in decor and fashion. It's completely timeless and adaptable to any trend and any style. Why yes, that is one of my old Vera Bradley cabinets being put to good use!
Even though I have been harping for what, the past month? about putting out fall...there is still no fall to be seen. And here it is almost August. I am still early, but this is a prime example of how long it takes after I first decide to do it! Unfortunately for me, I got some fabulous ideas this afternoon that involve moving my mammoth fireplace and mantel...ugh. I have never moved that thing--probably time to jazz it up a little. I don't even really see it anymore, and it's across from the counter.
I went on an antique-buying trip this afternoon and am zonked! Found lots of great things, most of which will be appearing at Whatever in the coming days. I find this posting lacking in my otherwise sarcastic wit and sardonic humor, and that is bothering me. So to spice things up, I thought I would post the answers to some of my FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. *applause*
I get asked the same questions over and over, sometimes daily I get them all at once, which is enough to make me want to run screaming towards the nearest Dairy Queen. I almost want to just print out the answers and tape them behind the counter.
In no particular order, I will take a stab at answering them, for the world to see!
1. How do you dust?
Oh yeah, you've probably heard me gripe about this before. Is that a real question? Does the questioner really want to know the blow-by-blow description of how I do it, 'cuz that's a pretty dull thing to talk about, isn't it? I answer differently depending on my mood and how the question is asked. Various answers I throw out:
--My poolboy does it for me. With his big feather duster. *innocent look*
--I attach a feather duster to my pug's tail and let her run around.
--Dust? I don't dust. *achoo*
I am starting to think that the folks who ask that assume I go around and dust each and every item in the store, every day. HA HA HA HA. Yeah, sure. No, seriously, this is how I dust:
When I change a display, I dust the table with a Swiffer. I go *swoosh* and it is done. I do not dust every item. It doesn't get dusty.
Yeah, that's pretty much it. Not rocket science...just a Swiffer. I wash table cloths. I vaccuum as needed. I am definitely not a dust chaser. My great-aunt was a dustchaser. She also had a husband AND a boyfriend! Cool, huh? *snort* So you see, in my family, chasing dust was not something to be regarded highly. You dust when you see it, and you don't dust when you don't see it. Works for me.
2. How's bizzzzzzzzzzzness?

People ask this for two reasons. Either they really love you and hope you are doing okay and will stick around, or they are sniffing out gossip. You know, if you are standing in the store, the lights are on and I'm opening is good enough, eh? Men love to ask this question, usually while jangling change in their pockets, and desperate to share their Male Business Wisdom with the allegedly hapless chick-shopgirl in pink Chucks. I have a few questions I could ask THEM, but that wouldn't be ladylike. *wink* It's funny the things that people use as barometers of how your business is. For example:
  • Not much in the store? You don't have money to buy inventory and are going out of business.
  • Lots in the store? Your inventory isn't selling and you are going out of business.
  • A blank space on the floor? OMG, you must be going out of business.
  • The floor is filled with inventory? OMG, you must be going out of business.
  • No customers in the store at that specific minute? Going out of business.
  • 6 people in the store at once? Only 6 customers, you must be going out of business!
  • Closed early one day? Going out of business.
  • Open more hours? Desperate, clearly, because you are going out of business.
  • Have something on sale? Oh yeah, going out of business!
  • Not having any sales? You're going out of business.

I could go on and on. But I am busy snickering now at how I have just tripped up the search engines with "going out of business" and Frivolities. Woo hoo! That'll give 'em something to talk about!

One day last fall, I had a box delivered. It held some sort of garden arch and was heavy and I left it on the sidewalk at Frivolities to unpack rather than dragging it inside. So this gal comes along...looks at the box...and asks me if I AM GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!!! *pounds head repeatedly on keyboard* Why why why.

One day in December '07, I was closing early to go to a friend's dinner party. So I put up a note "Closing at 5pm tonight!" A couple of weeks later, a gal comes in--oh, she thought I had GONE OUT OF BUSINESS because the note said I was CLOSING at 5pm.

Bizarre, bizarre obsession. I guess it's human nature, like the gawker delays on the expressway when a semi drives into a gasoline tanker and it explodes. Everyone wants a peek at the carnage. And, of course, the after-the-carnage SALE BONANZA that follows every retailers' demise. Everybody loves the feeding frenzy, the picking over the dead rotting carcass of 75% off.

Short answer: I am not going out of business. I have future 5-year plans for my business concept that are *slightly different* than what I have today, but what I am doing is *slightly different* than what I was doing 5 years ago. I have been a business-girl all my life, and that's not changing. I'm not one of those chicks who was all like, "Ooh a store! Fun! I can buy pretty things and be pretty all day with all the pretty pretty people and pretty pink sugary sweet prettiness! And it's all okay because I married a very rich man and this is just FUN for me and...what? I have to WORK?!"

Owning your own retail business is a wonderful hell. You don't do it for fun. It's not fun all the time. It is a serious business. Yeah, I'm selling something that is prettier than, say, pork bellies or spark plugs, but it is still a job. If you think it's fun, let's talk about that lovely little "S CORPORATION INCOME TAX FORM 1020" that pops up in the mail every year like a belated Christmas gift from your least favorite relative. Ugh. Or the cosmetic surgery you're gonna need because you thought it was a REALLY! GREAT! IDEA! to use your hips to shove a 350 pound cabinet across the floor and did you know that can leave permanent bruising? Yep.

But it is the WORK that you LOVE. Retail is completely, literally in my blood. Go back on some branch of my family tree, and there you will find Richard Sears, one of many Richard Sears', but the one, the SEARS, of Sears fame. So this dude was working at a train station, the family story goes, and he found this unclaimed shipment of watch parts, and decided he could sell them and turn a profit. Cha-ching. Sears was born. (With the help of that Roebuck guy.) And there started the family line of sales-hungry retailers (if they didn't become mad scientists.)

I will save more of the FAQ's for another night...there are some good ones in there!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Late Night

I am incredibly geeked to be blogging from the comfort of my sunroom...the dark shadow of my new satellite against the even darker night sky. After almost 12 years of having only dial-up accessible out in the boonies, being able to work at home and accomplish things online without waiting 20 minutes for a page to load is incredible! I'm in the 21st century now! There's some proof that postcard marketing can work--I got a postcard from the satellite company about a week ago, and voila, they've now got me locked in 2 years of doing business with them! If only we could all operate that way, ha ha.

Both shops are closed tomorrow (er, today), July 23rd. It's my mom's 4-times-a-year cancer check and we always make a fun day of it to compensate. Lunch out and antiquing!

Shop things I am looking forward to:
  • Getting ready for fall--the first of the fall goodies will be making their appearance at Frivolities on August 1st! I am moving furniture and inventory frantically to make room. Every year I think I have bought the best stuff, but this year, I think it's really the best!
  • Getting Whatever ready for Dexter Daze. It is a crazy wild time. It was so much fun last year! The mobs and the party atmosphere, and of course the sales aren't too shabby, either! I am going to experiment with some new displays that are not my usual...the freedom of being called Whatever!
  • I am getting ready to finally unveil a new, completed website, after years of 'coming soon' pages and my fickle design-mind changing all the time. Online shopping will follow *very* soon, too!

Sending this out into the sky now...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Photos from The Whatever Shop, aka Shop 2 and a heartfelt confession

The second baby never gets as many photographs taken. I made sure to go around tonight and snap some pics at The Whatever Shop, after plumping up some displays getting ready for the weekend.

Fear not, that is just the Christmas room. I don't really put out Christmas in the main part of the shop this early. The Christmas room is surprisingly popular, though. It helps that we're just 1.5 hours south of Bronner's, though, and many Michiganders are used to the idea of year-round Christmas!

Important notice: Frivolities shop hours are officially 'by chance' until the end of August. What does that mean? It means that I can't promise regular to-the-minute hours (*snort* when could I ever?!), so have put this up instead of an hours sign. Mind you, the hours are *generally* noon-6 Tuesday-Saturday. I am open more often than I am not. If you are coming from afar, I recommend calling the shop to check on hours that day. The number is (734) 424.4438. The Whatever Shop is open Thursday-Saturday noonish-6. Closed on July 23rd.

I am working on a huge, life-altering project right now. It's terrific, but it is taking a lot of time and I have to accomodate other people's schedules who are involved in it, so I can't promise set hours. Besides, it's summer. Not exactly hot-hot-hot shopping time. My hours have been kerflooey ever since my dad died--really, pretty much the past three years, ever since he got sick--and I have been dealing with that. I love my shops more than ever, the spirit is always willing, but sometimes the body is not cooperating. I have gotten to the point where I am publicly acknowledging that I am not going to make myself sick to be open on a day if I physically cannot do it. I'm not a big old chain or a massive personality-less outfit. It's a personal, homegrown, family-owned shop. (Both of them. I know there are two, but it is basically one shop in two places.) I often make the mistake of working too intensely one day (decorating until 3am...) and then paying for it the next. I have had a lot of days where the ole bod says STOP IT AND LET ME REST. I have learned to listen to it. I ignore it in December, but in the summer? I'm all ears.

I didn't mean to turn this into a personal explanation, but maybe that's good. I have been very affected by my dad's death...sometimes it just hits me in the face and knocks me down. It got to me so much I ended an entire CAREER I had been looking forward to starting. (real estate) I had a lifelong interest in real estate and was making it a reality last year, got my license, was working for a brokerage, was gung-ho, all set to be a "top producer" and looking forward to closing my first million in sales someday, all while running two chic boutiques. I have a stack of letters I was writing to FSBO's (for sale by owners) to try to get their listings back on September 30, 2008. My dad had his mortal injury on October 1st. Those letters were never mailed. I never got back into it. I completely lost that part of me.

Decorating is in my very soul, so I never lost it for the shops. If anything, I have felt more inspired, more creative, more into it than ever. But the emotional fatigue kicks me in the ass somedays and that is that. I have also realized my shop's importance in the know, it's not that big a deal. And here I, the mother of that shop, am saying that. So it was closed one day. So what. It will be open again. No one needs anything I am selling. Of course it's fun to look in shops. Of course it's disappointing if a shop you want to browse in is closed when you happen to be out. But there is a reason why. My real, true customers understand and have been supportive. The others? Ah, I'm such a sweet old-fashioned girl, I won't write the things that pop into my head. *smile*

It reminds me of this one chick a couple of years ago who gave me a tongue-lashing for being closed one day. I think it was 15 minutes after that that the police officer I had called through 911 was opening up her bag to reveal over $200 of merchandise she'd been stuffing in there. LOL! I guess she had planned her heist earlier and I had "ruined" her plans by daring to be closed. Ooh.

Like dear Aunt Eliza says, "Empty vessels make the most noise!" Isn't that the truth!

Well, that was rather fun to write. And all I expected to do tonight was post some pics! I should write more of my deep, dark retail thoughts. I've got a few. Stay tuned. ;)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The thrill of technology

Blogging from my phone lying in my sunroom...wonders never cease!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Testing e-mail posting!

How cool, didn't know you could post by e-mail.

Nokie says hello!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Gone Fishin'

I'm taking a little impromptu break the next few days and will be closed until July 14th. I literally hung a sign that says "Gone Fishin'" on both shop doors!

The great thing is, I'm doing it just for ME. No family tragedies to deal with. No disasters. Got a little envious seeing all the businesses closed this week, and wondered why I was sweating in there moving furniture and fretting about fall. It's JULY. It's summertime, and the living is easy, right? I know I am famous (infamous!) for my haphazard schedule for 2009. But it hasn't been relaxing time. Now I just want to relax a little bit. I realized that I am probably working a little too hard. I am a workaholic, but why am I having dinner at 10 or 11 every night? That sort of stuff should be saved for the 4th quarter, not now. The shops are running me, not the other way around, and that needs to change! So today I had a three hour nap, went out for Chinese, and ice cream, and am now puttering about the Whatever shop listening to the guitar across the street at Northpoint, and working in a RELAXING manner. Just enjoying the inventory and (calmly) getting ready for Dexter Daze (in a month). I know I probably shouldn't even be doing this much, it still qualifies as work, I should be sitting out in the sun reading a fluffy novel. Maybe tomorrow.

I am tired of living with a sunroom that has tiled floors but no grout! I am going to grout it! It's been two years since it was built, and I put down the tile, and it got too cold to do the grout out there, so I put it off. Time to fix that up. My sunroom is gorgeous, it just needs to be finished!

I am tired of this huge stockpile of ghetto furniture I have been saving up to paint! I am going to paint it! It's me and a can of primer this weekend, baby.

I am tired of living with my late 1990's decor in my boudoir. I haven't changed a thing on the walls since I started the shop. My tastes have changed, and I want to update that. But it's funny, in seeing how much some things have changed, I see how much they have really stayed the same. (How trite.) I was looking at this rose decoupaged vintagey plate I made with a flea market glass plate...back in 1994. That is totally the sort of thing I still love. But I'm a little less keen on taping photos to the wall, so that's gotta go.

It is so much easier to decorate a shop than it is to decorate your own home sometimes. At home, there are things that are Tacky with a capital T, but how can you get rid of them? They are part of your life and part of history. For example, I was soooo ahead of the curve, back in 1993, at the age of 15, I was scrounging around garage sales for junk to paint. Had I known 15 or 16 years later, that would be all the rage, I could've capitalized on that and dropped out of high school. Ha ha. But anyway. So I have this cool wooden shelf. But, it being 1993, I painted it COUNTRY BLUE with little sunflowers all over. Gag! I really want to paint over it, a nice creamy linen color, but I can't. It's history. I was really into that country thing in the early '90s. The country blue, the mauve, the ducks, the eucalyptus. Oh man. I went to a flea market this morning, and it was like stepping back into my teenage world. The scent of the dusty eucalyptus wreaths blew across the duck planters and the Welcome Friends painted wooden cut-outs. I thought that stuff was super cool back then. It's horrifying to me now. So when I'm 45, am I going to look back on the Frenchy-Parisian-rose-cottagey-vintage looks with the same horror? I can't imagine that, it certainly seems more classy and timeless than a big wooden pig holding a mauve-colored sign that says "Country Friends Gather Here". Please, Decor Gods, don't ever let the stuff I like now look dated. It can't possibly ever look like that.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Oh gee!

How about some garden pics to start off my post? (Also since I can't seem to put the photos where I want them, argh.) The garden outside The Whatever Shop is quite famous in town, and it's all thanks to my mom's green thumb! Here she is outside the shop.)

This is a portable garden--it's not really in the ground. It's on a plastic cover over icky gravel! It turned out great!

The perennials are amazing this year! The sun here is incredible.

I am completely horrified to find a stack of comments that never posted. I'm so excited y'all are reading this, and my apologies for not posting them! I am still figuring out Blogger. They should all be visible now! Thank you!

I flaked out on posting pictures like I promised last time. I won't make any more promises--I promise! I am the most distracted person on earth. Ooh look, something shiny just went by...

See what I mean?

Here's what I have been up to lately.

1. SECRET PROJECT. Those of you who know about it, hush! ;-) All will be revealed soon.

2. The pugs. They are getting bigger and more well-behaved each day, which is quite shocking. I bought them this Iams food that promises "SMARTER, MORE TRAINABLE PUPPIES". Ha! They obviously have not crossed paths with Penelope the Terror.

3. Redecorating Frivolites top to bottom. I am starting the 'getting ready for fall' blitz. No actual fall is out yet, don't worry (although I saw some awesome Halloween things at Von Maur last week!), but it takes me about a month to reconfigure everything, move my light stuff to the back, white painted furniture and lamps, all get shoved into the dark corners of the store to lighten them up, while I bring out darker woods and heavier textures into the front to display the autumn goods on. My goal is to have ALL of my fall out by Dexter Daze (August 14 & 15), which is ironic, since I now close this store for Dexter Daze so I can be downtown. Where I am not putting out any fall this year. The irony kills me.
4. Getting ready to become an ASP. No, not the snake. An Accredited Staging Professional. I am going to run off to an exotic locale (like maybe Kentucky) sometime in the next 4 months to learn what I already know, but I will have the paper and the little letters by my name to prove it. I have dabbled with some lightweight home staging the past year, but I am ready to go at it gung-ho after I get the designation. I will always be happy I tried out a real estate career, because that's what led me to discover staging as a profession. I love it because I can do design looks that are not normally anything I do in the shops. (i.e. industrial loft). Which is something I will really have to emphasize in my staging marketing. I am not going to turn your house into a shabby pink paradise with cupcake trinket boxes all over. (Unless that's you're thing. And cupcakes do work well in urban lofts, I'm sure.)

5. Tying up all the loose ends of life. Or at least some of them. I have been on this nearly maniacal organizing spree the past few months. Oh yeah, you wouldn't be able to tell that, looking at my counter and all...but I am trying to sort through and condense everything. One of my happiest accomplishments this year is that I finally got my arse out of Space C. Space C, as you non-locals will not know, is the empty space next to Frivolities, in the shopping center. My landlord gave me the key back in 2002 to store things there 'for a little while'. That 'little while' stretched out to almost 7 years. If I got a 20 box order, it went in there. If it was broken, it went in there. I stored the shop Christmas trees in there, the things that were 'too complicated' to deal with at the moment (like this big-ass cherub fountain), and boxes to crush to recycle. It was a pit!

To distract everyone from the public mess I had made, I stuck a stuffed anteater in a glass conservatory in the window. Named him Stan, posted a sign warning everyone not to feed him. Stan: Dexter's Most Famous Anteater took on a life of his own, and attracted quite a following. Even more so when he moved out of the conservatory and onto my skateboard in the window. (I say 'my skateboard' like I'm a cool punk, but alas, I just bought it for a Lady Frivvie window scene.) I had a woman stop me and say that seeing Stan there all the time made her day. Stan got so popular that I had to order a bunch of them to sell and sold out. I move Stan and his skateboard over to my window, along with the same sun-faded sign warning against feeding him. (I don't like ants in the store.) And I happily got EVERYTHING out of Space C. That is a huge monkey (and anteater) off of my back. I had some good stuff over there that was never unpacked! All the crap is residing in my basement at the Whatever shop now, safe from my public view! And that big-ass cherub fountain? BROKEN. That will teach me to unpack things right away. The cherubs were okay, so they now reside in my backyard.