Friday, June 27, 2008

Elizabeth Allen is in the house!

I just love Elizabeth Allen, fabric and bedding designer extraordinaire. Well, I've only met her once and she is delightful, but what I love is her design aesthetic and the way she's passionately put her collection together. We just got our first shipment of her wonderful bedding at Pomegranate Downtown, and we're all just ga-ga over it (Robert will not admit to being ga-ga over anything -- except maybe a trout, but he'll come around, just see).

Her cottons have the softest hand, and are light and luxurious, perfect for summer evenings. The finishing touches are exquisite and little details are a surprise on their own. We've paired some of her shams here with an all-white Bella Notte bed for a clean, fresh summer look. The new Bella Notte pieces are fabulous, too: in this photo we're showing a Diamond Jacquard coverlet (hemp and organic cotton), the embroidered linen neckroll, and their newest pillow, which I love love love: pure linen with crochet edge trim. Okay, I can already hear some of you going: uh oh, all white? Are you kidding? The dog lands on this just once, and it's all over. Here's the beauty: Bella Notte comes in 21 color palettes, from soothing white, to chocolate, to charcoal (gray is the new black, people) and the best colors in between (all washable). The hundred plus Elizabeth Allen patterned fabrics go so well with it all, from soft and feminine, to simple and modern. If you're not so into the shabby chic look we put together here, you'll be surprised at how many ways all these fabrics can come together. You might want to check out the Elizabeth Allen website; she tells her story better than I. Download the beautiful catalog and take a look at how brilliantly she combines funky and Parisian and modern and cottage in her different looks. Love the baby line, too!

P.S. Could someone please come up with a phrase other than "shabby chic"? I hesitate to even write those words here because it's all so overused and inaccurate. Shabby? Shabby was that peeling naugahyde sofa our neighbors had when I was growing up.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mini Me has a bad day

About a month ago, someone left a little stuffed animal behind in our shop. We have no idea where it came from, but our dog Mollie discovered it, and it's now her little buddy. Funny thing is, it looks a lot like her. If she's not sleeping and comes out to greet you, chances are Mini Me will be hanging from the side of her mouth. The only time she drops it is if you have a sandwich in your hand, because she wants to be completely ready in case something falls fortuitously in her direction.

Mini Me hit the floor today, and is listed in serious condition; leg up, stuffing exposed in a mound on her back, front legs contracted into a fetal position. Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another reason (or three) to love Oregon

1) $52 to renew the license plates for our Toyota... the first time we've had to renew since buying it in 2002. Ex-pat Californians: do you remember coughing up hundreds of dollars every year for license renewal? That was just for a dinky car. New SUVs might be close to $1,000 a year. More?

2) You gotta love no sale tax. It's just so easy. Tourists love it too: it makes them happy. And just imagine how simple it is for us small business owners not to have to collect and report sales tax (the rest of it is hard enough). Years ago (back in California) I had this idea for a little publication and went to the Board of Equalization (weird name for a tax board) to see what was required for them. Ach! The hoops to jump through. The forms to fill out. You'd think I was applying for a Secret Service job. The administration and policing of that tax monster must cost at least a third of what the state brings in. Please don't ever vote for a sales tax (but I wouldn't mind paying a little more for car registration if it helps with our roads).

3) I love that we're not allowed to pump our own gas, and really appreciate all those nice guys out there who do it for me. Whoooeee -- have I turned into some kind of princess, or what?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Savvy Shopper gets Sourced

The Source just went off on The Bulletin for its new section called "The Savvy Shopper." Issues with the brazen commercial aspect of it all, I guess. Dude! Stay calm. Newspapers are getting skimpier every day. What's wrong with adding a section that most other dailies have had for a long time?

When I left San Francisco 11 years ago, I kind of missed the Chronicle's weekly home/fashion shopping section. There was Sally Sokolich's "Bargain Hunter," plus features on new shops, shows, products... It created a buzz, it supported the local independent retailer community, and how else would you find out about some off-the-wall warehouse sale in Richmond? No, it's not news. It's fluff. But it's not in the front of the newspaper, either.

A few weeks ago when the Bulletin's first Wednesday "Savvy Shopper" section appeared, they printed a small blurb about Pomegranate's French Flea Market. There's my disclaimer: I was happy because it's the first time in ten years we've ever had a press release printed, anywhere. We've been operating off the radar for so long -- it was a very pleasant surprise to finally see a mention.

Here's the real tragedy: in the back of the paper, an article (no bigger than a baby's foot) on the turning back from Myanmar of US ships filled with relief supplies. How about a little more information on that?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ten years in business... and dredging up a few memories

Next week we celebrate Pomegranate's tenth year in business at our farmhouse location in Bend (and for the last 4+ years we've had a second shop, too, just because we're a little tetched, but that's another story). It certainly sneaked up (snuck?) on us, and I haven't wallowed in the realization of all of it until recently. There are a lot of stories. In fact, I have a journal that is, oh I don't know, something like 900+ pages. It's weirdly relaxing for me to record our tribulations, trivial observations and day-to-day education in the world of retail. I can type faster than I can talk, so it's like a little therapy session to unload all the details -- happy and not so happy. No editing, just blabbing. Somewhere in there I have the top ten (plus some) sweetest moments and top ten (okay, way more than that) funniest and/or most horrible moments.

Today I had a couple of sweet moments. First, the son and daughter of a long-time customer came in, looking for a birthday gift for their mom. I did a double take, because I remember these two (and another sister) when they were so young, and now they're (gulp!) so grown up. Of course, I see them from time to time, and I always notice how mature and wonderful and well-balanced they seem... but today it was kind of a revelation. Of course, I didn't want to be one of those obnoxious people who screech out something about how MUCH you've all grown, but I felt like it! I have to remember that some of the kids who came to our shop with their moms when they were eight years old are now eighteen. Say it ain't so!

The other little moment today was a keeper. A darling three-year-old came in with her mom, dad, and brother. Apparently she loves to come to our shop, and has a thing for our egg-shaped soaps. Cute. This time, after examining different items, she latched onto the heart-shaped soaps and was trying to talk her mom into buying one. There was some negotiation (always interesting with a three-year-old), in which mom deferred the purchase until the next birthday. So the little girl turns to me (holding the soap like a precious fabergé egg), looks me right in the eye and asks "Wiwl you keep one of deese foh my next burfday?" And I just melted. I would have given her the bowl of them, but didn't want to usurp mom's decision. It's like when one of my nieces would say something cute to my dad when they were little and he'd be all: here, take my checkbook, I love you so much.

So we're going to have this big celebration at the shop on June 21 and we've been brainstorming on various drawings and prizes to offer. We sometimes have a door prize drawing just for kids, which we're definitely going to do this time. The minute we came up with it, we both said "Phoebe!" It's kind of a code with us. It's something to do with sweet, fleeting moments. It's our little existential thing. Nevermind.

Anyway, one time we had a drawing for kids, and we mixed up all the entries and picked three winners. One of them was Phoebe, who wrote her name so well (in that giant, careful, but somewhat backwards way kids do when they're first learning), but only gave us a couple of digits of her phone number. First of all, isn't that name so wonderful, so classic? We felt so bad for Phoebe. Poor Phoeeeebe! She won and we didn't know who she was, so we couldn't contact her and tell her about her prize (which I think was this cool bubble maker thing). Phoebe is probably 13 now and wouldn't be caught dead shopping with her mom.

And then there's Mollie, our fabulous and one-and-only incredible shop dog. We think she's about 11: she was rescued, starving and raw with flea bites, by former co-workers of Robert's. They had given up on trying to find her family, when they thought we might want to give her a home. I remember him calling me from work, saying, "Uh, I have this cute little black and white dog sitting on my feet right now and I think she wants to come home with me. She won't leave my side. How would you like to have another dog? Nevermind, there's no voting on this one."

And so began our love affair with the sweetest dog ever. The first day we had her I took her to the vet for a checkup, and on the way home, she sat in the seat next to me and put her paw on my shoulder and looked at me with those intelligent brown eyes. Oh boy. I was a goner. The next day I took her to the shop with me. It seemed the only thing to do. There was never any traffic on the road back then (this was maybe our fourth month in business, and we were trying to figure out how to get more people to find us -- you could actually hear the crickets chirping and tumbleweeds rolling), so I took a chance and took Mollie off her lead. Dang if she didn't just follow me around, go out and sleep under the tree now and then and generally stick close by. She never did run off or get in trouble, and we never really had to train her to stay.

The other day, she gave two young boys a tour of the property. Really. She trotted along just in front of them, looking back every once in a while, and took them to the canal, then around the back and here and there in the garden, ending up in front. Maybe she was showing them where she likes to cool off (on a rock in the water), and where to find the best pinecones.

Anyway, she's been a fixture at Pomegranate all these years, and is still healthy and catching pinecones, albeit rather slowly. She doesn't do her elegant back flips anymore, and she gets tired fast. But she still loves babies! She entertains husbands and kids! She's our V.P. of PR!

There is another dog in our family. Her name is Weasel (disclaimer: I had nothing to do with that name). She's a bit older than Mollie, and has only been to Pomegranate once. She's a lab/border collie mix (Mollie is springer/border collie), and her herding instinct is strong. We brought both dogs along one Sunday afternoon when we were mowing the lawn and doing some repairs at the shop. Weasel was very upset at being stuck in the truck while Mollie cavorted on the lawn, so we thought we'd let her out for bit. Yeah right. At that moment, three little boys came walking down the street from the Fun Center, and Weasie thought they needed herding, including a little heel nipping. There was no blood involved in this episode, but she did scare the boys. There was an angry parent visit later (with many apologies), and to my great chagrin, a police visit the next day. "There's been a report that there is a dangerous dog at this location," said the policewoman, as Mollie licked her hand and sat on her feet. Yep, not that dog. The "mean one" isn't allowed at the shop anymore, no matter how much she begs. But we love her madly anyway. There's a picture of Mollie and Weasel at home, enjoying a game of "I Only Want What You Have."

Next time: some of the top worst retailing moments. Or maybe more of the good times...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Marc Lavoine Christina Marocco J'ai tout oublié

French Flea Market assemblage

So much fun was had by all this last Saturday, at Pomegranate's first French Flea Market of the season. This was one of my favorites: we had some great vintage items and adorable, fabulous hand made pieces. Stinkin' cute! Like a little vintage market and Etsy shop combined, out in the sunshine. I took these pictures just before 10am, then was busy busy inside the shop all day. When I emerged again at around 3:30, an unbelievable amount of stuff had sold. But if you missed it, don't (as I always say) cry in your champagne, because we have two more of these scheduled for the summer: Saturday, July 19, and Saturday, August 23. There might still be a little room left for any of you intrepid collectors or crafters who might want to join us. Call, email, or leave reponse.

We also listened a lot to Marc Lavoine, whose you tube video is shown on another post. Wanted to incorporate it into this one, but because I'm a techno-dope, I did it wrong. Love his cd we're carrying: only have a few left and then it could be months before we get more (on the slow boat from France, apparently). I can only say oh la la la la la la. This last shot, in case you're wondering, is the most adorable little child's pony cart from Germany (probably about 100 years old, maybe older). You hook up the pony in front, the cart rises up on its wheels (tiny ones in the back, too), and wheee, little Helmut gets the ride of his life. In case you don't have a pony, the cart would be a wonderful decorative piece. No, I didn't buy it. Yes, I really, really wanted to. I think it's still available and I could contact the vendor if you're interested.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

No whine downtown parking

I know I'm quite the pest about reminding people about our downtown parking garage, but I feel like all of us downtown merchants need to be walking, talking parking garage promoters. Two recent incidents reminded me of this. First, after inviting my sister-in-law to join me at the Wednesday Farmer's Market, she said yeah, IF I can find a parking space. Sis, I love you, but you said that to the wrong person! My second observation came after visiting a shop in the Old Mill district. I had to park pretty far away from my destination, yet visually, because it's all laid out flat, it didn't look so bad. You're just walking along, but you have the buildings within your field of vision, so theoretically it seems like you're making progress. Downtown feels different. You might walk exactly the same number of steps, but because we have blocks of buildings, you don't necessarily see your end point, and therefore it may feel like more of a hike. But it's not.

I have to inject this little story about Paris last year. We visited during easter, which means the Parisians had made a mass exodus for coastal holidays (it was still crowded and busy, however). We also had a car with us, which I would not recommend to the faint of heart (spent a lot of passenger seat time curled up in the fetal position). Our darling friend Susan was guiding us around town and would shriek with delight and point at a parking spot to pull into. "I can't believe it!" she'd say every time. "We found parking! No one is here! Paris is empty!" And then we would still walk 20 blocks to wherever we were going, Susan so happy that we parked "so close." [Not a complaint, mind you, since half the fun of being in Paris is walking everywhere.]

Anyway, our wonderful little Bend downtown parking garage is close to everything. It is a bit of a mess there right now, with all the building going on, and I don't think much of the signage, but it's always open, and always, always available. How far away is it from the Farmer's Market? Three blocks. How much does it cost? Nothing. The first three hours are free (and truth be told, I don't think they check that often, and I should really put that in little tiny type if I knew how).

Garage, people.

Farmer's Market and Inconvenient Bag in a blog

The farmer's market is my shrine of shopping. Don't you just love that first deep whiff of fresh basil (it's cheating if you're smelling it in February), the season's first corn on the cob, tomatoes and fresh flowers? Well, the tomatoes may not be ready yet, but if I'm not mistaken, our fabulous Farmer's Market starts today! Oddly, I didn't see any mention of it in this morning's paper, but it starts in June, and here we are. Can't wait to see if the mushroom guy is there -- hoo boy, we love those maitake mushrooms. And later, when the heirloom tomatoes are in, I can be happy with just those for dinner: slice them up, do a little fresh basil chiffonade (a fun and satisfying little project, almost as much fun as snipping chives with scissors), drizzle a little good olive oil on them and a wee splash of balsamic or maybe a brighter vinegar (champagne pear), and then a light sprinkle of good, french, crunchy sea salt. Yum. What's your favorite farmer's market treat?

I'm really happy to see so many new market tote options, and to see so many people using them! A year ago, if you walked into Albertson's with your own bag, people looked at you like, what are you, some kinda hippie communist? Now it seems everyone is really getting with the idea of bringing a tote. You might forget to bring the bag the first couple of times, but then it becomes second nature. The main thing is to throw the bag(s) back in the car after you unload them.

Here's our most recent entry into bag options, available at both Pomegranates (although a reorder will soon be needed). I adore this line: they're called An Inconvenient Bag and are adorned with cute, funky graphics. I met the designer at market last winter, and he was so excited about his product. I'm a total sucker for a passionate, one-person company with vision and a good idea. About two seconds into his animated pitch, I put my hands up and said, okay okay, I'll take them all. These are lightweight, but very strong canvas bags. The front, back and bottom are cut in one long piece, so that there are no seams at the bottom of the bag, where the most stress is. They're nice and wide, and have long enough shoulder straps so you can tuck it under your arm, even when full. Pick one up ($16) at our downtown store on your way to the market...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monogrammed Wedding (etc.) Gifts

Growing up (on the west coast), I thought monogrammed items were so stuffy, so preppy, so East Coast. Nothing wrong with that. Just that no one entertained in the style of the Kennedys or the Vanderbilts. Maybe we were just unschooled in the ways of etiquette. Now there are all sorts of companies breathing new life into the monogram, and I'm all over it. As in: loving it. We've got lots of fun monogrammed lines coming into the shops, and here's our first ingenious program of glassware that we're offering.

Here's how it works: you choose the glassware set or item(s) you wish, from sets of tumblers and goblets, to champagne buckets, carafes and pitchers. Give us the one, two, or three-letter monogram, and it will be made to order in a few short weeks. The glassware is made in the Czech Republic, and sand engraved in the US, so it's a very nice quality (non-lead) crystal with a good "ping." Set of four engraved tumblers is $39 (in a sturdy gift box); the goblets shown here are $44 for a set of four (sorry, lousy photo). Champagne/wine bucket is only $52. [Also: short tumblers, tall coolers, pilsners, and a vase.] Add $3 to each set if you want it drop-shipped elsewhere.

Et voilà. You have a fabulous, original gift for a wedding or wedding shower, housewarming or hostess. And here's what I would do for a girlfriend going through a divorce: get her her own set of wine glasses with just her first name initial on them. Hers and only hers. Harumph.

Anyway, this is a can't-go-wrong gift, and we're very excited to have them. Visit us to see examples; we can also fax or email an order form.

Here's a short version of monogram guidelines, in case you're thinking about it:

Married couple with the same last name: first initial, hers; middle (larger) initial, their last name; last initial, his.

Single woman/man: first name; last name; middle name (you can also put your three initials in order, but they would all be the same size – doesn't look as good, in my opinion).

Married woman with her own monogram (especially for stationery): first name, married name, maiden name.

You can also just do a single initial: first name only for a more casual use, or last name initial for a bit more formal application. Or, for all those couples with different last names, we have a great solution: pair your first or last name initials with an ampersand and it's all good. Thanks, J & R