Saturday, August 11, 2007

Doing The Shoppe Thing

Recently, Jen from Cottage Nest inquired about how I got started with the whole Shoppe thing. You can read about how I found myself as a Professional Nest Fluffer over here , but I guess I have never really explained how I became a Shoppe Girl too. I will give you the long version, because frankly, I stink at giving the short version of anything. Just ask Nathan or Amy or Whitney...
In the beginning...
I think I have always wanted to have a shoppe. There are several bits from my childhood that back this statement up. For one, ever since I was a little girl. "Store" was one of the make -believe games I played, setting things up, arranging them just so, etc. Then, around the age of 10, when I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer, I always imagined myself with my own label. I never imagined working for Ralph Lauren or Christian Lacroix, I always assumed I would have a brand and have my own stores. And "take meetings." I always imagined myself at big powerful meetings in big powerful office buildings in New York City. (Funny in retrospect, considering I live almost as far from big meetings in big buildings as you can get...)
Well as we all know my ambitions to be a fashion designer died with my in ability to sew or cut a straight line. But somewhere deep inside me the dream of being a Shoppe Girl and a Designer of Something still held on.



Shortly after Nathan and I were married and we had moved to Little Rock I had a bit of a emotional meltdown. Nothing scary or anything like that, but there was a lot of crying and marathon napping and tons of "who am I?" and "what do I really want to be" discussions. A lot of it was due to the job I was in at the time (a very stressful social work type of thing,) and some of it was just due. Just because it was time. I can't really explain it more than that. But during those months when I was struggling with all those thoughts and emotions, the one thing that I remember clinging to the most, the thing I identified with most, was the movie You've Got Mail. I remember so clearly how much I felt like Kathleen Kelly, not knowing which way to go, which way was up. But I also remember how drawn I was to her store. How much I somehow wanted a bit of that magic to be part of whatever it was I was to become, whatever it was that I was going to do...

Well, skip ahead a couple of years, and see that we have bought a house, and had Wylie and I have found my love of design and Shabby Chic and all that goodness. And I have realized that I am not 100% cut out for being a Stay-At-Home Mom in the traditional sense, and that I really don't find things like laundry or cleaning baseboards to be a good creative outlet for me... So I start looking for ways to use my creativity, to make some spending money and to get out of my house a little more often. By this time I am doing the "design thing" on the side a little bit also. And that is good, but I find myself wanting to have a store, wanting to "style" things, re-purpose things and show off the look that I love so much.

Knowing that a full blown store was not a possibility at all, I set my sights on getting a flea market booth instead. I talked my Mom and my friend Kim into renting a booth with me at a new huge market in the town over, about 20 minutes away from where I lived. We stocked it with all sorts of fun vintage & retro finds & mom's pillows and just waited to see what happened. Some months we did OK, some months not so much. But it was really too far out of the way for us to maintain it well, and as usual life got in the way. Nathan and I moved to a new house even further away, Kim and I both had "surprise" babies, and things just sort of got put on hold. We gave notice, boxed up our stuff and that was that. Shoppe #1 over.

OK, skip ahead another 2 years. I am back in the design business on my own, my kids are older, we aren't in the middle of moving or anything crazy like that, and I get the shop bug again, I decided that I want to give the booth thing another try. So I visit all the Flea Markets close to my house, feeling them out for atmosphere, traffic and most importantly RENT prices... I find a small Hole-in-the Wall market that seems very easy going, is on a busy street and has low rent prices. I find an empty booth under a skylight and sign the contract. I am suddenly back in business with Shoppe # 2.

About 6 months later I walk into The Shoppes on Woodlawn for the first time. The Shoppes are in an old Dutch Colonial house located in a historic neighborhood that is known for great food, unique shopping and the best old houses around. As I walk around the shoppe I realized that each room in the house is run by a different person, sort of like a Flea Market booth system, but there is something different about this space, something special. As I left I just happened to inquire - on a total lark - this place would be way out of my price range I am sure - if there are any rooms coming available... Wouldn't you know it? The little bitty attic closet was coming open soon. I literally got chill bumps...

Again I used my charm and I talked (begged?) Jeanetta into splitting the rent with me...Because even though we would have the smallest room in the house, it was still more than double what I was paying at my Hole-in-the-Wall space and I wasn't quite ready to make that jump all by myself yet!

So to the attic we went. And we worked that attic closet over. Jemimah helped me paint shelves & we added lots of little lamps everywhere we could to add light. Over the next 9 months we kept experimenting with product, seeing what sold, what didn't. What prices points were good, what was too much, what was too little etc.


Then in May the Shoppe Ladies, co-owners, Jessica and Lou, offered us the Front Parlor. Downstairs. It was coming open in July and it was ours if we wanted it! Again our rent doubled, but by then the little attic space was doing well and because it was limited in space ( you have no idea how limited) I just knew that we would never really be able to do much more up there. And there was so much more I wanted to do - still want to do - and the Front Parlor seemed like the perfect space. So we took a risk and jumped! I thrifted and garage saled and antique until my whole back patio was full. We all painted and sanded and crochet, and glittered until we couldn't see straight and we got just enough in our little room by July 1 to make it look loved. And now, I am proud to say, we have made it though our first official month successfully. We made more than our rent and to me that is success... especially since we had no big ticket items and we are still figuring it all out...


There is still so much more I need to do and learn about shop keeping. Someday I think I might even want my own independent store. But that is such a HUGE commitment - all the overhead and details that I am blissfully unaware of right now. The Shoppes on Woodlawn have been such a gift. I am able to afford prime real estate in a great neighborhood which I would never be able to afford on my own - at least not this soon.. Plus I have a great relationship with the Shoppe Ladies; they are incredibly supportive and nurturing, helping me figure out what sells, what doesn't, and what we should do next. They take care of all the advertising and if the air conditioner breaks they are the ones who take care if - not me! Woo hoo!

I spend lots of Friday and Saturday mornings hitting garage & Estate sales looking for things to clean up or fix up and sell. I sell things I make, like the banners and crowns and the various things you see in my Etsy shoppe as well. I also make lampshades out of vintage linens and pair them with old lamps. I am working on designing benches made from old headboards, with big fluffy seat cushions along with a few other things. I would love to be able to carry a small line of vintage inspired and eco-friendly paints & fabrics someday. I love things that are good for the enviroment and made from organic elements, but I find that so much of those things have a much more modern/mid-century look about them. I would love to find - or develop- products that are much more cottage /vintage in design and texture, but are still eco-friendly. I also want to have a full service online store, and a t-shirt line, but those are down the road...
Most days I have so many ideas I feel like I am going to bust. Ideas are never my problem - it's time and execution... oh, and capitol. Those are the things that trip me up...
But I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, crossing my fingers and toes, saying lots of prayers, reading Shop Owner and A Boutique Industry for moral support and hopefully, I will get to keep doing what I love to do most. The Shoppe Thing.



PS- These photo's are all of recent thrift finds. I took their pictures with my newer fancier camera. What do you think? Can you tell the difference?

6 comments:

  1. i wouldn't say you begged. more of proposed an idea that i was ready and waiting for.

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  2. I enjoy reading about your journey, so much, Jerusalem. My wish is for continued success! It all sounds delightful!

    Pat

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  3. good job on your first month & making a profit!

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  4. You are a gifted and talented girl.
    I loved reading about your journey into shop girl. You've Got Mail, one of my all time favorite movies.
    Every time I watch it, I want a shop like that one.
    I never get tired of that movie.
    You are living the dream.
    Have a great week!
    Rosemary

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  5. I stumbled onto you from ArtsyMama and I feel like you are a lost twin! I can so relate to that meltdown what do I want to be when I grow up? Oh wait I am grown up :) I too am not good at the SAHM thing, in fact I stink at it! Thank you for the inspiration to know it can work itself out.

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  6. I'm so glad you posted this story. I find it very inspirational. I really appreciate you sharing it.

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ok, really. tell me the truth... do these comments make me look fat?

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