Thursday, March 26, 2015

Everyone needs an Easter basket

We love it when new Easter items arrive at the shop; the harbinger of Spring, a fresh new color palette, and sweet, fuzzy chicks and bunnies. All good things to pop into a great little Easter basket... or set on a table. Even one little bunny hanging out on the mantel is enough to get you in the mood. Here are just a few pictures of some of our latest Easter friends at the shop.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Oh yes... our sale is finally on

As per our usual this time of year, we have a lot of stuff coming in from market, and little room to display it. This year is a bit extra tight, since one of us may have ordered a bit too exuberantly when we had our pop-up shop in the Old Mill. We didn't want to run out of things, so we went deep on everything... forgetting that our original shop was about half the size of our Holiday Shop. Oh well! It's a good thing for you, because we are throwing a giant sale this Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28. It's all good: there's overstock, back stock, seasonal items that you can keep until next winter, there are things we forgot about in our little storage area, and wonderful things we're putting on sale simply to clear the decks for extra space. Here is just a small preview of what you might find, quite a bit of it half off and some even up to 75% off!

All Voluspa candles (and more) are half off: time to stock up

Bedding sets: 60% off (really nice for a spring refresher)

Select pillows 60% off

All handbags 30% off (some are even half off!)

So much to choose from – a rare opportunity

Yep, even more

Travel totes, too

SO cozy memory foam slippers, half off

Lots of lotions and soaps at 50% off!

Attention all design geeks: Palomino pencils are here!

Ohhh, we've been waiting for all this. New treats for your office/studio, including the very coveted Blackwing Palomino pencils, a must-have for all us design nerds, illustrators, and pencil lovers. We've got them in soft and firm, individually or by the box... plus replacement erasers and German steel pencil sharpeners. And Blackwing drawing journals. All great gifts for an artist or designer. Check out our new magnifiers, too. Aesthically, they're very pleasing... but as we push forward to yet another birthday, we've found out how useful they are, too.

Blackwing Palomino pencils: love love love

One of several Palomino sketchbooks

Lovely magnifiers for desk, library, wine cellar...

Hey kiddo!

Armed with a duster, plate stands, coffee and a hammer, I spent most of today flipping and fixing the upstairs kid's attic, and fell in love all over again with all our sweet books, vintage-style toys, soft and adorable Jellycat plushies, sock puppets, backpacks, and French melamine tableware for kids. I love our little selection of unique treats for babies and kids... and more is coming soon. Here are a few pictures of our favorites:

Adorable art cards on heavy stock: to hang on the wall or adorn the crib

Mini backpacks, hats and not-so-ferocious Jellycat crocodile

French melamine for the kids: divided plate, suction bowl and sippy cup
(nice thing is: each design could work for a boy or a girl)

The funniest book – each excuse good only once

Get those little ones dreaming of Paris!

Mr. Moose is made of recycled socks and sweaters

You can't have too many books for the kids

Monkeys and dogs usually get along very well

The softest, sweetest bunnies (the book would also be great in an easter basket)

Dachshund backpack and matching hat

Fabulously funny puppets made in Canada of recycled socks

Wonderful art books for kids (and duck duck)

Artful magnet board for the kid's room

Just a reminder of your love...

Moose trophy... made of recycled sweaters (no animals harmed in this scene)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pop-up wrap-up (and market notes)

This was my office (ocean view and all) for a short, but wonderful week. I took these shots in late October 2014, shortly before the whirlwind of work swept us away into a wild and fun roller coaster ride into the holiday season. It was a reminder that there is rest, good weather, peacefulness and the sound of the ocean not too far away. We were on our family and friends vacation in California; while visiting Robert's dad we stayed at this magical place called the Pantai Inn in La Jolla.

Backing up a bit, in late September, we signed the papers for a big space in the Old Mill district for our temporary holiday pop-up shop – which meant stepping into high gear to order more product, find employees, set up payment systems, dredge up more display fixtures, and a million other details. Just one problem: we had already planned a two-week vacation in October that we couldn't change. So off we went, visiting San Diego, San Francisco, Chico, and Mendocino (ahhhh). We savored every sunny moment, knowing the boom was going to come down shortly. We also did some work while on the road. Every morning at the Pantai Inn, while Robert went off to have breakfast with his dad down the street, I stayed and brought my breakfast to a lovely outdoor area, where I set up my mini office, placing orders, answering emails, managing shipments. A warm breeze wafting through the palm trees and the sound of the ocean – just across the street – made me so happy.

The moment we got home, we hit the ground running (such an overused phrase, but it really was true in this case). We went into high gear at both shops: there was a lot of merchandise coming in every day. We priced, we shoved boxes everywhere, started setting up display tables and shelves (including our own dining table from home and many other pieces – our poor house was a shambles during the holidays). Repeat for our River Mall Avenue store. I took 'before' pictures and dated them according to how many days we had left before opening. At ten days before, it was still a chaotic mess, even though I knew where we were going to put things. Still, looking around at this very raw, unfinished space was panic-inducing.

But we got there, and opened our doors on the evening of November 14 for a wonderful, happy open house. That turned out to be one of the worst days for driving this winter season: we had layers of snow upon layers of ice, and it was bitter cold and slippery and horrible. I was worried that we'd only have three brave souls show up to our pre-opening party that night, but more than 100 attended! We poured champagne like mad, gave the new cash registers a good workout, and were so happy to see lots of old friends...

The next six weeks went by in a blur. We worked. We schlepped. We placed reorders at night (oh, those desperate midnight emails, begging vendors to ship the next day! Sorry!). We collapsed on the sofa, Jilly tucked between us, snoring softly. You know that under-eye stuff that reduces circles and bags? It doesn't work.

But both stores did brilliantly this season – we were so happy with the outcome, and more than that, we were happy to connect with so many people, some of whom we've known for years, and lots of new folks, too.

Many have asked if we are moving or staying... and some didn't realize our Old Mill shop was designed to be a pop-up only for the holidays. Well, we're still very much alive and busy and kicking at our original location. While we loved the Old Mill space (so much!) and had a great experience with all the folks there (their management was very kind and helpful... and wow, was it nice to have someone out there scraping the sidewalks at the first sight of snow), it just made sense to regroup into our original store and work to make it the best it can be. We know a lot of you love our events at the farmhouse, and the sense of charm and history the place exudes. If we can do another pop-up next year, we will. It really was so much fun!

January 3 was our last day at the Old Mill Holiday Shop; we spent the next couple of days packing and cleaning (zombie fashion), but we got it done. Here's the thing: we didn't want the Holiday Shop to look too empty at the end (that's just too sad), so we started bringing in some of our 2015 merchandise just before Christmas. Yep, even on Christmas Eve day we were unpacking new shipments. That started the new year off right, but meant we had even more to repack and incorporate into our River Mall Avenue location.  Somehow we manage to find places for everything, even if I whine too much.

A few days later, at 5am, I was on my way to Atlanta for the first market of the season. The Atlanta show is massive. It's housed in three enormous, city-block buildings with something like 20 floors each. You can go to that show for years and still need to consult a campus map. Day one: I go straight to the top of Building One to start my trek through four (five?) solid floors of holiday merchandise. At first it seems counterintuitive to turn on your Christmas spirit again after winding it down just days earlier. The good thing is, you are fresh from it, and know what sold well and what kind of look you want for next year.

Right out of the elevator, the first thing I see is a giant, garish Santa that slowly spins and rocks, and it makes me feel a bit dizzy. Jet lag, vertigo, lack of good coffee? There's a lot of junk to get past, but also showroom after showroom of great design and good products. The job is to narrow that down to your favorites and order the right amount. Oh, that. A couple of times I walked away with my printed order and gasped to see how much it all added up to. Okay: we're just going to assume this year will be even better than last. Why not?

That was one lovely aspect of market this year: I wasn't so worried about finances. Remembering the recession years, it was so agonizing at market, trying to make all the right decisions on a flat-lined budget. Back then (not so long ago!) it felt like you couldn't afford to make one tiny mistake, or else risk putting your business under. And of course, retail is nothing but one giant gamble: you choose the things you love and think your customers will respond to... and sometimes something just doesn't fly. Without that worry over every little nickel, you order an appropriate amount to make a good display and have enough product on hand.

By the last day, I am worn down to the last bits of exhaustion. I've probably walked 100 miles (some of it with a cane – poor feet having trouble with all the standing on hard floors for months), and barely slept (crappy but expensive little hotel room). But happy! I found lots of good things and new vendors.

Jetlagged and bleary-eyed, I arrived at the Redmond airport at 10:30pm the next day. With barely enough time to catch up on sleep and laundry, we turned around a few days later to go to market in Las Vegas. This was the first time we'd been there in years (and first time to visit this relatively new gift show); it was a shock to the system, and an amazing, loud, crazy place.

The market was huge and bustling. Also the streets, the restaurants... everything is huge and bustling. And noisy. I took a video of the market entry one evening as we came out of the show: a band was playing in the large courtyard, where they had set up maybe 50 outdoor seating groups, each with a fire pit. To talk meant to yell, and the place was jam-packed (as was every place we visited).

But market was good, and we found some must-haves that we ordered for the shop. And, we had a gorgeous (yet very affordable) hotel room (kind of a suite, really) at the Signature, which was non-smoking and non-casino. It was literally a breath of fresh air, with a private balcony and lack of the usual Vegas irritants. Highly recommend it if you're going there.

Now it's March and market orders have been rolling in daily (not to mention a whole lot of vintage goodies we picked up along the way). Our biggest struggle is to find space for everything, but we're making progress. Honestly, I became very spoiled by our Old Mill shop – having so much open space to display (and be creative with it), plus tons of storage made life so easy and so organized. Our little farmhouse is sorely lacking in some of those areas, but somehow we always figure it out...

Some of the market trends we noticed this season included a huge step up in well-designed gift offerings for men, which has always been a bit spotty in the past (meaning a lot of things were too "gifty" or corny or useless). This year there were a number of new companies showing some very thoughtful and useful guy things – we picked up a few lines and some new products that we're really happy with. The letterpress market has revived itself, and there were some great new lines we loved (and brought in). We found lovely, elegant magnet boards, new art, lighting, gorgeous throw pillows, garden structures, serving pieces, new scents in lotions and perfume... on and on. And on. You just have to check in often to see what's new! We promise, no tilting, singing Santas.