Saturday, June 25, 2016

"You have to be burning with an idea,

or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out.”   
~Steve Jobs

As the season starts here at the shore, it is always interesting to consider what business will be like.  So far, I have to say that things are good, but it does reflect the changing consumer.  Years ago, collectors would come through looking for specific things to complete their collection.  Now, it is buying for use not for shelf-sitting...or curating (I mentioned that last week--remember where you read it that word in the excerpt below.  I was reading an article about small retailers, and these thoughts caught my attention...
       A smaller, but more carefully edited and curated store is more likely to succeed than a midsized location with a hodge-podge of items. Make every square foot of space as profitable as you can. Consider retail kiosks or small “pop-up” (temporary) locations as ways to try out new product lines or concepts...the retail environment is becoming increasingly “experiential.” brick-and-mortar shopping is a social activity.  If you want your retail business to stand out from the big-box pack, offer unique products, deep knowledge of your products and an experience that is enjoyable and memorable.

I guess there is support for the method in my madness.  As I was busy curating this vase and other
treasures, I looked up Red Wing Pottery to add information to the tag on that vase...and found quite a tale!  Red Wing started as a stoneware pottery in Minnesota...the name Red Wing comes from a Dakotah Tribe chief to the settlement of Europeans who came to live by the Mississippi River (imagine if the Indians had built walls! Oops!). 

The land around Red Wing was rich with clay. In 1861 a German immigrant named John Paul discovered a rich pocket of clay on the land that he intended to farm. A potter by trade, he used this clay to make the first Red Wing stoneware.  After Paul came Philleo Pottery, established in the heart of Red Wing in 1868, it was followed by Hallem Pottery. Both went out of business – the former destroyed by fire, the latter by the drastic price cutting of established eastern competitors. It was in 1877 that the Red Wing Stoneware Company was established.

When refrigerators came into the homes around 1913, stoneware crocks and jugs were no longer needed.  Even though a refrigerator was over $700 compared to a Model-T Ford at $450, they became popular and worth the price. 

By then,  the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company began producing flower pots and vases, dinnerware, and art pottery, and it became simply Red Wing Potteries.

By 1967 less expensive dishes were being imported in great numbers by American companies. Combined with a union strike, this spelled the end of production for Red Wing Potteries. R. Gillmer (the last president of Red Wing Potteries) purchased the company from the other shareholders during liquidation and operated it as a retail business. The name was changed again, to Red Wing Pottery.
In 1984, when the technical records were acquired by J. Falconer, the Red Wing Stoneware Company was reborn.  In 1996, Red Wing Pottery hired potters to throw clay pots and salt glaze fire them.  In 2013, they considered closing, but the new owners of Red Wing Stoneware (who had just purchased that company) decided to merge.  Now the plot thickens...the company behind the iconic Red Wing Stoneware jug shut down its salesroom the end of last year due to harassment and threats against the owner’s family. Bruce Johnson, the owner of Red Wing Stoneware & Pottery, said an ongoing trademark dispute and lingering tensions from a 1967 labor strike against the previous owner of the business created a hostile environment.

“We’ve had all kinds of crazy things happen to us,” said Johnson, saying he’s been made to feel unwelcome by the city leadership, business community and tourism groups.  A threat to his family made to his face referenced the 1967 strike, he said. He’s had people walk into the business and tell him he doesn’t have the right to own it, he added.  Johnson said he and his family will probably move away from Red Wing because, despite the friendships they’ve made with a lot of town residents, “the people in power in this town don’t want us.”

“It goes back to that strike,” he said. “There was so much violence and anger in the community.”

He’s not giving up the names or the brands, for which he “paid dearly,” he said, and in February, a lawsuit that pitted the Red Wing Stoneware factory against a group of stoneware collectors has been settled with both sides claiming victory.

The federal trademark infringement lawsuit alleged that the collectors, through their Red Wing Collectors Society Foundation, were infringing on the trade name and wing logo of the iconic Minnesota company.  The suit was filed amid claims from factory owner Bruce Johnson, who said that he was the target of personal threats and vendettas from unnamed stoneware collectors, and at one point had feared for his life.

Johnson said Monday the settlement was a "win for both parties."

"The whole thing started over an organization using our name without our permission," said Johnson, who added that the agreement ensures that the Collectors Society will abide by terms that prohibit it from using his company's name. No damages were awarded, and the settlement didn't require the collectors to change any of their practices.

There is a little insight into American mentality from this story...that a strike from nearly 50 years ago would still haunt a community boggles my mind!  But, it does highlight some interesting thoughts...from the Indians who welcomed immigrants to the people who buried an American business over a to quote AndrĂ© Maurois:
            Business is a combination of war and sport.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"There was a period when I believed

stuff meant something. I thought that if you had matching side chairs and a sofa that harmonized and some beautiful lamps to light them you would have a home, that elegance signaled happiness.”  
~Anna Quindlen

      I have been in the antique/vintage business now for 26 years.  Like Quindlen's quote, I know there are those who have perfectly matched homes, but I notice the new generation is a different breed.  I had a millennial use a unique word to describe this style...curated...that was interesting...the curated look as opposed to the Ethan Allen look as he called it.  Now I got hung up over the winter on the book on the right...tidying up...and I have been working on that because I am not a "tidier"; but then I saw the book on the left, and I had to have it!  The counterpoint!  I am going to try to find a happy medium...Tidy up some of that sh*t but not to the point where you lose your joy!  

I remember when people would collect things to bring them happiness.  I have had customers who wanted one of every piece of pottery in a McCoy price guide or every dish in a certain pattern. 

But, I have discovered something quite interesting in my tidying.  I have been taking things to the local thrift shops, and, although I do frequent those shops for my chick lit reading and clothes, I have not paid attention to the "stuff" since I am trying to "tidy up" as it were.  What I discovered was pricing that is higher than most comparable things in my shop or even in other shops that I have been to recently.  I hear the "on ebay" refrain...or even see listings for similar items on ebay printed out.  Now, seriously, at this point, we all know that if someone is desperate for something, ebay is there, but that does not mean that everything pictured there sells at that price or that you can command that price in a "thrift" shop.

Thrift shops are - or at least I think they are - supposed to be thrifty.  Everything is donated so it costs them nothing, and I understand wanting to make money for the charity, but, is it not better to price things to move...and to price them lower than sale prices at box stores or even Amazon?  There is a point where it is just stuff, and it needs to go even in a fine boutique.

In my shop, most old books like these are $2 or $3, but I have seen older books in the $5-$10 range in some thrift shops.
Maybe the fear is that a "dealer" or someone who resells will buy something and mark it up.  Well, so be it...welcome to capitalism...make America great.  Those of us in the antique/vintage world sell to other dealers all the time...who knows what the final price will be on a $5.00 item that I sell to a dealer, but, if I have made money, I do not is is gone, and I can buy more.  In the case of a thrift shop, they do not have to buy just comes through the door.

I appreciate that many thrift shops have a department store feel to them, but I do wonder about department store prices.  There are things that I would just buy new because the price point is not significant, but what about the person who really could feel better about buying a designer outfit or a pretty lamp but cannot even afford it in a thrift shop.
So, just some random thoughts as I try to create joy for me and you!

“At the end, all that's left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that's why I've never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that's why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived.”
― Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"I address you all...

for who you truly are: wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, and magicians. You are the true dreamers.”
~Brian Selznick  The Invention of Hugo Caret 

In my search for American artisans, my friend Nancy connected me with Avalonia Jewelry...Lisa makes these necklaces from silverware and are accented with Italian sterling chains.  To flatten the silverware and then shape into these designs is not an easy task. 

She has connections to Avalon, and she is just starting in the business so what better way to follow through on my quest.  They look like fish tails, but I have decided to christen them as mermaid amulets.
Research reveals that mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures including the Near East, Europe, Africa, and Asia.  The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.  There are mermen, but somehow they do not have the same appeal...
The Fisherman and the Syren, by Frederic Leighton, c. 1856–1858

There is a fun Dutch story involving a mermaid.  Hundreds of years ago, sailors and residents in coastal towns around the world told of encounters with sea-maidens. One story, dating back to the 1600s, claimed that a mermaid had entered Holland through a dike and was injured in the process. She was taken to a nearby lake and was soon nursed back to health. She eventually became a productive citizen, learned to speak Dutch, performed household chores and converted to Catholicism.  Not sure if she grew legs!

Anyway, if you would like a "mermaid amulet"...

we have an initial selection, and I think one would look stunning on that tan you are working on!

"I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black."
T.S. Eliot
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Some changes look negative on the surface

but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”   
                                                  ~Eckhart Tolle

My shop is in serious disarray...more than I purge, prop and prep for different merchandise and new ideas.  I sell Jeanne d'Arc, a beautiful magazine that I get imported monthly from Denmark.  This has really taken me to a new level of merchandising in the shop, and it has given me a new outlook on retail.  Like the is quality, printed like a book not a typical magazine, and it is a hands on can get lost in the photos...and there are also recipes.  But it is not $2.99... 

It is usually $12 since the euro impacts the price at which I offer it with a small discount.  Still this is something that I want to talk about-- pricing...

If you read any of the business news, you have read the doom and gloom about brick and mortar retailers, and the shuttering of shopping malls.  “But retail has always been about evolution. Someone is always bemoaning the change in the market and how it’s impacting things.”   This is a quote from a shopping center CEO at the International Council of Shopping Centers annual convention, which is being held in Las Vegas this week (ever notice how many conventions end up in Las Vegas?)

I think what has happened is that people decided everything needed to be dollar store prices or Walmart style.  What about quality?  And, I am back at made in the USA refrain.  These pillows are handmade in the USA and are designed for specific areas.  You can find Sea Isle, Ocean City, and Wildwood at Captain Scrap's Attic up Route 9 from my shop...

Now, they are good for inside or outside also.  So, think about quality...and made in, they are not discount, but you are supporting not only the manufacturer but also a local shop!  The same company also makes signs from barrels...
Add in signs on recycled tin, and you have some really unique shore decorative pieces...not Walmart prices, but, again, you are not supporting the 10 cents an hour Chinese workers.
I have Cheryl from Relish Design, another local entrepreneur, doing some painting for me.  She did these two pieces...again...we are recycling and reworking so that it is real wood not glued sawdust, and your purchase supports local!  Actually the bottom table sold today!
So, as I rework the shop, I am trying to think local, American made, recycled, repurposed, or, if I do bring in some items from overseas, to deal in Fair Trade.  Remember, American made may cost more, but think of those who benefit...not an unknown corporate billionaire.  That applies also as the farmers' markets open!  I am trying to bring joy...not only for you when you walk in the door, but also for me as I head into year 26 in this ever changing retail world.

                                                                 Enjoy the day...
“You can't stop the future
You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret to press play.”
                                                                        ~Jay Asher