Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For the retailer in you.

Do you remember the blogs before the "blogs"?
The posts of writing with very few photos.
When they were a web log?

Today may feel like a throw back to that as this is a long post with little photo fun.
If you are only here for the photos, today isn't your day. Sorry about that.
If you aren't here for the real life of running a business, it's still not looking good for you.
Today is a thought day!
It's an answer to your curiosity day.
It's a post that might hit on the things people don't want to hear if they too are considering opening their own business.
It's also a long post full of words. 

So, here's the thing. I get asked more and more frequently by people in the shop but mostly by email from my far and wide readers about my thoughts on running a small business. 

How did I do it?
Do I regret it?
Any advice?
How much does it cost? (more than you can imagine)
Will I still be able to have a life?

It's something I have been meaning to write here for awhile as I type out the answer a few times a month to followers.

In case you are really new here, this blog has been in operation now with me as the sole author for 6 years. The business you now know me for only grew out of it in the last few.

I am a Registered Dental Hygienist by trade and still manage my time running a business in that as well.

I am also a woman, wife, daughter, friend, and shopper. There are obviously other things that I am good and bad but lets just leave that there for a moment and focus on the shopper, retail owner aspect of this conversation.

When I go to work in Hamilton to clean teeth, I often spend my pre patient mornings, lunch and after work hours running around picking things up, delivering items for the shop. In between if I have a few moments I loved sneaking down the mountain to check out some cute shops, one of which was "The Edit".

It was a small fabulously curated vintage shop with clothing, some home accessories but my favourite was the vintage jewellery. Many pieces made their way home with me and I wear them frequently .

This shop is closing.

Yen, the owner has made the courageous decision to focus on the increasingly growing online presence she holds on instagram and on etsy and focus on that without the overhead of a brick and mortar store. This lovely woman also has another business which she also focuses time on if I remember correctly in landscaping.

I read her blog post on closing the shop and thought, I need to share this post.
I wrote to her on insta and asked if she would mind and she said yes so I am posting her words on what it is like running a vintage business in today's online and walmart world.

I shortened a bit of it but for those of you that want the perfect answer, there unfortunately isn't one but this is close. I nodded my way through a lot of her words. A vintage business is a different animal and I have curbed some of her post as it really applies to the city of Hamilton but,

~from the edit blog

And there it is...
I'm closing the shop on Ottawa Street and moving to a studio space to focus my vintage business in a more online direction.
Matt, the perpeptually positive, says that I am just redirecting my business to follow consumer demand and lowering my overhead. He is not wrong, for a while now I have noticed that a high percentage of my sales are either online or are directly originated from online; where people come into the shop not to browse but to purchase 'that thing' they saw on the shop's Etsy or Instagram.
And I'm half business savvy enough to know that this is 100% the way I am supposed to spin it. I just need to say that The Edit is just taking the next step in being able to efficiently provide quality vintage to its loyal clientele by opening a studio space. And that is the truth and I am super excited about how cool my studio space is but it does kinda feel like I am leaving out part of the story...
I didn't excitedly sign a new lease on a bigger space last January and rope my friends into painting every single fixture in the shop with layers and layers of primer and white paint in order for me to leave it all behind one short year later. And as much as I know, for my sanity and for the bottom line, that moving into a studio is the right choice for me, closing down the shop is still something that makes me really sad.
Some might even say that having a bricks and mortar shop turned out to be a failure. 
I said it. The 'f' word. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to say that word and I'm going to get lots of texts from my friends (and my mom,thanks boo) telling me I am not a failure. And it's not totally a failure per se, I think The Edit vintage has a bright future but the street front location part of the equation did not really work out quite as planned...

So what happened?
I'm sure I don't need to write a post breaking it all down but I honestly think these are things in small business that we don't talk about. Small business owners start with a dream and stars in their eyes and probably a couple Pinterest quotes about how if you follow your passion, you will never work a day in your life. And there is nothing wrong with some stars and some Pinterest quotes but it's also nice when the grind happens to know you are not the only one feeling the pain or that sometimes all the passion and heart and good intention is not enough. We don't share enough about the journey (well, maybe that is because as a small business owner you maybe don't have the time or energy to share...) so when something happens, a small business just disappears and we all kinda draw our own educated or uneducated conclusions.

I think we can sum up exactly my experience with running a bricks and mortar by saying it is really hard...
Retail is hard. I've said it before and I will say it again. Retail is so hard. Despite that, having your own retail space is probably one of the top 'dreams' that people romanticize about. Setting up a shop and putting it all together is so so fun. And standing behind your counter for the first time and making a sale to a stranger who loves your stuff is this incredible high... But the day to day is tough. The needle that flicks from making a sale to not making the sale is set so delicately... A cold day, a hot day, a too nice day, a lazy day, a bloated day, a cranky infant day; there are so many factors involved in getting store traffic and making a sale. And retail is not just hard for me. It's a struggle for everyone. So if you have a favourite shop in the city that you have not been to in a while, go and visit and make a little purchase and give them a hug (if they are into it). I suspect it's been a generally tough year for retail across the board.
Shopping at small independent shops is not always the easiest. The hours are not like Walmart and it takes a little bit more effort but it is the small stores that give a city or community their shape. I know the city of Hamilton is on a bit of a high right now; after years of being 'the armpit of Ontario', we're apparently cool... And that's cool. But let's be real, it's still a struggle. If you love this city, don't just pay lip service to it. If you want your neighbourhood to be interesting and walkable and varied, remember the little and the medium guys. Your dollars have the power to shape your city.

Also, as it turns out, selling vintage is really hard. Besides the amount of work it takes to source abd clean it, it's also a lot of work to sell each individual piece. The best thing about vintage is that it is so unique but the worse thing is also that it is so unique. I know it sometimes looks like things sell out so quick at the shop because the shop generally gets a really good response on Instagram (and I am so grateful for that online support, thank you, thank you...) but the problem is that I can only sell one of each item. Even if 5 people are dying to own that one piece, I can only sell it once and then I have to get to work and hustle to sell my next item. Every single item in the store is unique and has to speak for itself in order to sell. So if I sell the three things I posted on Instagram that day, it's great, but they are still likely only a drop in the bucket of the amount of overhead it takes to run a bricks and mortar. 
I also think The Edit departs a little from what a traditional vintage shop is and that may have hurt me because I almost needed to explain the concept to the consumer... The way I see vintage is that it can be worn in a very modern way; mixed and matched with what you already have in your closet. To me vintage is just better quality and more unique than what you can get at the mall and I just love getting someone into their first vintage piece and opening their eyes to the fact that vintage does not have to be costumey or scary... It translates well online because that's how I have always dressed for the blog and because people can see the outfits put together. But people who don't follow me online and see a  vintage shop, they imagine it being more costumey. So no, I don't have a wacky 60's polyester suit for you to wear to Aunt Betty's costume birthday party but I do have a 60's blouse you could wear with jeans. If I could turn back time (sorry, if I get that song in your head now...), I would not go back and start by being more 'vintagey'; it's all part of the process and it's just a lesson I learned over the last two years...

So there it is.
To answer the questions I posted above, there really is no answer.

I love my job and am becoming incredibly fortunate to have an amazing customer base that is growing rapidly, but that isn't always the case and sometimes no matter how much you love your idea of business it isn't something others love or maybe people can't find you.

My business growth and reach is based heavily on social media and word of mouth referrals.
We are in a building that is before all the "action" in Fonthill and one that is at the end of a lane merge so everyone's head is turned the opposite direction when they drive by.
We have a large amount of new customers coming in on a daily basis still because of our heavy social media presence (yippee) but many of these people like to tell us/me that they didn't know we were here to different ranges of condescending lecturing about my poor advertising skills or unreliable signage that I spent a lot of time designing, editing and paying for. Sometimes it gets "tough" to hear these things and frustrating but it is all a part of retail.

The day to day to quote above is "tough"
Everyone has an opinion and loves to offer it.
I work and then come home and work some more. In order to run any kind of retail based business you better love and, almost more than love what you are selling because you are going to be living and breathing it non-stop for at least the first year.
I am also a self realized micro-manager.
To some this makes me a bitch.
My wonderful employee manager is helping me let some of this go but also completely understands that this is my baby and I need/want it to grow in my vision and sometimes micro managing is what it takes.

When part of your business is vintage you need to remember that once you sell your items, are you going to have time to find more? Do you have a good handle on areas to look? Do you know the price points your area can handle? Because if you don't rest assured, they will find it elsewhere in places like Etsy which is open 24/7 or buy a replica in places like Homesense.

When you make items (like my pillow collections), are you making them the best way possible and efficiently enough to make a profit? Are you able to carry through with requests from customers in the time frame you promise?
We have had only 1 run in with a customer in the shop that didn't realize there aren't an army of people sewing for us in the back and didn't listen to the time frame given. The situation was rectified but are you prepared to handle those people and not lose them as customers?

Your customers are going to expect you to deliver, and deliver frequently.
 Are you ready for that pressure?

Do you know how to handle the paperwork end of the business? If you've never done it before, you might want to pack some reading hours into some bookkeeping books for your area and find someone you can ask questions of.

I suppose to wrap up this long conversation, I don't have all the answers and am learning a new answer daily but there things I know for sure

1) love what you do, i know i do more than i can tell you or convey here
2) surround yourself with the best help you can afford, this includes making sure your family support system understand and i mean really understand what you/they may be giving up/gaining
3) find people also in retail and ask questions
4) do what you do as best as possible, give it 110% all the time
5) learn to use social media properly 
6) have fun because otherwise what's the point
7) love what you do
8) set boundaries. when we first opened the doors we were desperate to get people in the door and love us. love me. love my idea.
as a business owner you always want to continue to grow but that gets out of control so quickly. i no longer answer emails/ Facebook shopping ( the do you still have? whats the price of?) questions after 8-ish pm. in our social media world that i just told you to get good at, you can also lose yourself and your handle on life by giving too much of yourself to people who expect a 24/7 service. they don't mean it but for the love of your business and the success of your life you need to set boundaries before you explode into an anxiety driven nightmare

Did you make it this far?

I suppose any conversation that goes like this one should end in thanks.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for shopping and 
thanks for remembering that you matter more than you know in the cycle of your life, home, business, and city.

Have a good one everyone,


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Merry Christmas eve

The ice snow is finally falling outside tonight and is making a lovely sound against my window as I write this. Winter has taken it's time getting here and a white Christmas we were not given this year. So watching Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby dance away in it had to do instead.

We hosted out annual Christmas eve dinner shindig at our home again this year and just as our dinner companions were rolling in, I snapped a few photos of our table.
I love tablescapes as you know so thought to share with you all.
It definitely did not look like this after dinner and the dance party. 
Uh huh, there was one of those.
Running man anyone?

this year we went with a bit of a more quirky table. i used our gold square charger plates, with white square plates. the gnome napkins were really just my favourite part of course.

i chopped some greens from 1 of our trees outside, added some stemmed clementines, white and gold candleholders (these are from the shop) and my lovely girlfriend who owns fleurish designs gifted me with some lovely arrangements that were the icing on the cake

all set for dinner for 10.

i am really loving using cotton stems and branches with christmas and winter decor. it adds the perfect touch of white without being to shiny and modern

Have a great day everyone


See how the table looked last year HERE!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Floods suck, but on the bright side and other chattering

Well for the past few months you have heard me randomly mention here and there throughout house tours and posts that we had a basement.
It was a lovely finished basement.
It doesn't exist in the form that it was known for here anymore.

Back in July after a family holiday Trevor and I got home at midnight excited to get to sleep and return to our jobs after a few days of rest and all I heard from my lovely husband who is sometimes prone to exaggeration when it comes to the amount of time things take, or is it me that doesn't listen and thinks everything is 5 minutes? Either way I heard.
" I think I'm going to puke"

Now outside of the context of the flu which I know he didn't have and a hangover which he definitely didn't have I initially wasn't grasping the joke.

It was a shitty joke.

I walked to the top of our stairs and just saw a waving reflection of my husband staring in disbelief at our new lake in our precious basement.

He got his rain boots, started screaming at me to get a camera for insurance photos, went and tapped the shit sump pump that also went on holiday and it began purring to life sucking the water out of our basement.

Now before we get ahead ourselves, we are very much aware things could have been worse. We could have had a house engulfing fire, we could have had a sewage backup, we could have been robbed so on the scale of bad this wasn't so much but to us and me especially with a load on my plate of running my lovely new business this felt like everything just crashing in.
We are those people who go above and beyond checking things, fixing things. We are irritating to ourselves lol. Our sump pump was less than a year old and just got stuck and stopped working.

So our basement that I would normally be sharing at this time of the year that looked like this....

Looked like this...

complete with dog running around in his own personal pool. this photo is after about 2 more inches had gone down already. so as you can see it's not like the water came up the walls a foot but all you need is an inch of water and your drywall starts sucking it up like a camel hump. these photos are pretty clear which is amazing because i was vibrating with anger and frustration.

the persian rugs we had collected had been sitting under water so long the one actually had holes being eaten through them from the water.
our slipcovers turned pink all along the bottoms and starting leaching up the rug colour.

So SUCKY like I said!

anyways quite a few of you have been asking for updates and if i was a good blogger i may have been taking photos all along and doing a full scale reno series but....
i didn't!

Trevor did most of the demo taking walls down that were not built properly in the first place and, the light at the end of the tunnel in all this is that the bathroom that is down here is finally getting done as we had to take the walls out, so why not?

We immediately installed a water back up for our sump pump that doesn't rely on electricity or a battery but water pressure.
We also installed a giant sewage pump that will remove sewage to our septic system instead of the illegal way this bathroom was plumbed by the previous owners into our sump pump and we never used. The door has basically been closed for 6 years.

Trevor spent weeks taking out all the flooring, trim, half the drywall, walls. The ceiling thankfully is good. My sewing centre in the garage is still surrounded by items I sorted in July that got water damage.

Trevor and our contractor have been working to put the framing right, and drywalling and all that fun stuff that isn't necessarily great for photos but makes me giddy because it meant we are getting closer.

Doesn't Trevor look impressed with his helpers while doing the insulation for the bathroom. You can see the monstrosity of a pump behind where our wine fridge goes. That sits about 3 feet into the ground. That dust ball was great fun while our plumber was jack hammering the concrete floor.

The state of the room the last few months. Clean dry and hideous.

Our lovely hallway that we revealed last year in November also revealed that the wall was not installed properly. Not really from the flood but from years of 2x4's sitting on wet concrete means this wall was on it's last legs. So we removed it and started properly. This is likely our forever home so living with mould and falling down walls is not really in the plan.

We now have this. Ready for the application I have planned. This hallway will continue to be black because I just love it and black makes this area feel glamourous.
and the peach tile....
oh the peach tile that i never want to see ever again. it was everywhere in our house.
i hate it!
our new flooring will go right over top again and with any luck and all the precautions in the world we will never ever have to redo this basement again.

So that's the story. 
Now the update. 
We have completed the walls, painting is done, the tile floor is in the bathroom and the new floor is 3/4 of the way in which means we are at the point of installing trim, re-hooking up electronics, doing a real backsplash on the bar and then......

I am so looking forward to snuggling up in our basement again sans water.

So for today I leave you,

Have a great weekend everyone as the holidays get nearer


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas House Tour Main floor pt 3

Well the rest of the house tour is here. I meant to get this up earlier this morning but have been working on it between customers today.
I didn't fake wrap any presents under the tree or leave sprigs of greenery laying around to make the photos even prettier. I did at least put my 4 half used mugs in the sink instead of on the counter and did some pillow chopping but this is what the home I love looks like when I go home to it at the end of the day.
There are lots of photos, so little talking today. If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer you.

Merry Christmas and welcome!

There's usually wine on the table to enjoy, so help yourself.

dining room


front foyer

living room

"mom... can i go sit back on the couch now?"