Club?

(First, an embarrassing tidbit. So, I’ve mistakenly miss-remembered a crucial detail about our store. It was not 10 x 10. All of the newspaper article clippings I’ve saved clearly say that the space was even ridiculously smaller at only 8 x 8.  This makes me laugh. As do the many news articles, which I’ll share coming up.)

Jeff got to thinking… maybe having ‘Tecumseh’ in our name was too specific, too limiting. “Maybe we’ll want to open another store, someday, in another town.” he adorably, optimistically supposed.

I told him I liked the way he was thinking, and got to thinking, myself, too. I threw out, “Michigan Hot Sauce Company,” but that still seemed plain. And, then, from nowhere, I surprised myself and Jeff, too, by stating, “Michigan. Hot Sauce. Club.”

“Club?” Jeff wondered aloud in my direction, “but, we can’t call it a club if we’re not a club…”

“Well,” I started, “technically… we could be.” Looking at our dream blueprint, I pointed out that we were halfway there. We were already planning a monthly newsletter mailing; we already were planning on a ‘club’ type frequent buyer card.

All that was missing was meetings.

“We’re gonna having meetings? About what?” Jeff wanted to know.

“Well, maybe not ‘meetings’ exactly.” I explained. “I’m thinking special club member invitation only taste tests. Cooking demos. You love hot sauce and know so much about it. Do you think we could ask our members share recipes and make a cookbook out of that?”

Jeff’s big grin split and lit up his face. “You’re a genius,” he said. “I love the way you think!”

With a wonderful name on our lips, a license number to provide, we went into fast action. By this time, we only had two and a half weeks left in our promise to be open in three weeks. Timing was important because we wanted to be ready by the big ‘Grand Opening’ announcing the newest stores in the mall on September 23rd, 2004, and to be sure we still enough time to get our name out there before the Christmas and gift giving season.

We split up to divide and conquer and briefed each other throughout the day and every evening on our progress.

I had: décor, licensing, marketing, banking, budgeting.

Jeff had: fixtures, locating a manufacturer for our salsa (because we didn’t have and couldn’t afford a commercial kitchen), and the important cornerstone of hot sauce.

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 17 its embarrassing to have to fact check your own life jakorte 10 17 2017

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

About That: Memory

Fact Checking: Memories

Broadway Cat and: Memories

 

The Menu Moment

More often than not, Jeff and I would visit one of our favorite diners on a Friday night. More often than not, I’d spend a lot of time reviewing the menu and then need more time when the waitress came by. This befuddled him. “We’ve been here before,” he’d tease. “It’s the same menu they had last time we were here!”

I’d explain that I just wasn’t sure what I felt like eating and then pick two items to continue to debate with myself until the waitress returned. I’d tell Jeff, “I’m not sure if I want the turkey dinner or a Reuben,” or some other combination of two dissimilar choices. When it was time to give my order, more often than not, I’d request something I hadn’t mentioned, like an omelet or a tuna melt. Jeff would laugh with glee. Shaking his head slightly, he’d jokingly ask, “Where’d that come from?”

As we left our first visit to the bridal mall, and unlocked our car, the owner earnestly asked, “Are you definitely interested in the space?”

“Oh, yes,” I answered immediately, nodding at Jeff. His smile lit up.

“Do you know for sure what kind of store you want it to be?” she asked.

“Yes.” Jeff immediately answered. “A gift shop.”

“Or…” I began in a definitive voice used to imply we’d thought about this hard and long and were completely confident in our future success. “… a hot sauce store.”

To his complete credit, Jeff never batted an eye or looked at me good-naturedly dumb-founded as he often did when I had an off the wall idea or unexpectedly changed my mind about dinner.

In fact, he said nothing. Our friends said nothing. The owner said nothing, so I asked when we could come back and sign the lease.

To Jeff’s credit, he simply smiled and tucked himself into the car waving goodbye and saying we’d be back in a few days.

When he did react, it was very slowly. He moved his bottom jaw over the side a bit and worried his lip a bit, as if he was sure he hadn’t heard what he’d heard.

“Why did you say that?” he asked, as we pulled out of the drive.

“Because,” I answered. “I think it’s what we should do.”

“But, where did that come from?” he questioned. “It’s not bridal themed…”

“It think it could be,” I told him.

Jeff said nothing more than, “Let’s go to the diner for dinner.”

The diner closest to home was the one we usually went to for breakfast. So, I was checking out the dinner menu, when the waitress arrived. I needed a minute, so the waitress left and I perused some more. “Hmm,” I said. “Not sure if I feel like meatloaf or lasagna.”

Jeff recommended the meatloaf. When the waitress returned and asked for my order, I asked her opinion. She said the meatloaf was very good. I nodded my head, handed over my menu and announced, “I’d like a tuna melt, on rye, please.”

Jeff shook his open menu in exaggerated surprise, then boomed out a laugh at the confused look on our waitresses face. “Don’t worry, …” he joked, pointing his menu at me for emphasis. “That…” he continued with the utmost sincerity, “was just her havin’ a menu moment.”

He snapped closed his menu, handed it over, ordered ham and bean soup and … the meatloaf dinner.

With that settled and with obvious curiosity, he politely questioned, “ sooooo … a hot sauce store?”

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 03 sometimes it takes decisively choosing heads or tails jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Diner: Menus

Menu: Trends

Menus: Interesting

 

10 x 10 Gamble

With SMC in our heads and the possibility of a part time store with a bridal theme, we just went ‘to look’ at the open space at Selders’ Mall.

We were excited on the way over, set with our plan and pitch. One area of concern was required non-competition with the other stores. A bridal dress salon, a masseuse, a hair salon, a tax man, tuxedos, a seamstress and rental décor already occupied the mall. Jeff and I had poured through every page of products and were thinking wedding décor, wedding party gifts, table favors would fit in nicely.

We’d been told the space was small, but seeing it in person was a bit surprising. I skeptically surveyed the situation. What it really was, was a 10-foot by 10-foot alcove previously used as bridal gown dressing room, if that helps you imagine it any. There wasn’t a dedicated door, just a rod where a curtain had previously hung, and to be honest it was a bit dingy and very poorly lit.

I swiftly conjured up a list of things we’d need to change. Jeff declared it was a perfect size.

I saw the need for paint, carpet cleaning and a way to cover the one narrow door-side sized window without obliterating all of the small amount of natural light.

Jeff envisioned lining the walls with shelves, moving in a small desk and chair and setting up the cash register and credit card machines SMC had helped us obtain. Brides, mothers of brides, wedding planners are not solo shoppers. I worried that trying to get more than two people besides Jeff or I into the store would make it seem uninvitingly small.

In addition, we’d have to be ultra selective with our merchandise. To me, that made the tiny spot a big gamble. Reduced variety can only attract a reduced audience, and we hadn’t even established exactly who we thought our narrow-niche customers might be, yet.

I was impressed with the balloon and rental decor business our enthusiastic friends had set up. The other business owners/space renters seemed nice. Price wise, it fit our budget. The location was pretty good and would give our store-to-be a Tecumseh address. We spent a good amount of time speaking with the owner, asking if we could perhaps incorporate the entrance hallway into the room as part of the shop.

She was agreeable to that, but did not want us to use a side entrance to the building as our main in. I thought that was reasonable and a good business decision. It would give anyone looking for us an idea of what else was there, and us a chance to catch the attention of customers who didn’t arrive already planning to visit our gift shop.

While Jeff and the others were still talking, I slipped back to re-evaluate the room. Something about it reminded me of something I’d seen before. Another business in a microscopic space that managed to be jam-packed full of specifically themed merchandise.

I was still contemplating that as Jeff and I, our friends and the owner made our way into the parking lot.

What happened next was what Jeff would later refer to as a “menu moment.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 26 creativity is ability to change jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links: 

Small Shops: Design Ideas

Small Business: Weird Ideas

Inventory: Big Ideas

 

 

Infomercial Intrigue

Jeff and I shared the desire to own our own business. Since we both had jobs, we often talked about what we’d like to do, together, someday. And since Jeff was up late at night a lot, he was the one who saw the Tom Bosely, Specialty Merchandise Corporation infomercial. He told me about it in the morning on our way to work. That evening we crammed into our tiny office in the Tecumseh townhouse, fired up the computer and read everything there was to read on the SMC website.

We started off with a standard website and sent out a dozen business inquiries. We thought we should start small. We received one response from a tattoo shop in Tecumseh, set up a meeting and sold a few things. We sent out another dozen, but nothing came of those.

Jeff came up with another idea, though. Jeff used to sell trading cards at expos and we both loved flea markets, so we decided to try those route. The hardest thing about retail is trying to gauge what buyers want. We set out to see what was missing from the local weekend markets, and decided it was garden décor and birdhouses. I also included some of my fabric flower pins, just to see what would happen.

We did well enough our first show to earn back our table fee and recoup half of our purchase money. It didn’t come close to breaking even for us, especially with the program buy-in fee. I took the catalogues into work and made a few sales that way. What was left was taken to another flea. That’s where we learned (which we should have already known) that the same buyers go many places to see what is different. Of course, we should have known that, because that’s why we went to many places, as well.

After spring and summer, comes winter and no markets. We had quite a bit of stock left, and our enthusiasm for dragging around merchandise, setting up and tearing down displays every weekend kinda fizzled. It came up in conversation one day with friends who had a retail space in a mall that currently had some open spaces available.

“What good would a store be?” I asked Jeff. “You can’t just have a store open on weekends…”

“Well, why not? Sure ya can.” He replied, quickly adding, “Let’s just go look…”

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 05 Ive learned a lot from infomercials jakorte

How to flea market: Flea Market Facts

Flea Markets Today: A Little More Sophisticated

Pure Michigan: MI Flea Market Map

 

Leaps & Unexpected Bounds

I learned that runt meant Sadie was just behind the doggie curve… not destined to remain inherently mellow.

Miss Fred learned she could hide under the wooden rocking chair, shoot her left paw out and slap Sadie’s face as our tireless pup ran by in pursuit of her red ball.

We doggedly tried to get that on video tape, sure we could with $10,000 on America’s Funniest Videos. Back then video meant a large clunky machine with a blinding light near the lens. It didn’t help that it needed to be retrieved from the office closet, either. We left it out on the dining room table for a very long time. Freddie never cooperated.

Jeff learned something, too. “Hmm,” he said self-quizzically one day, after Sadie got into what Jeff humorously named the “no-bake doggie buffet.” She’d root around in Fred’s box and stealthily eat the crunch-coated brown stuff. The thing is she wasn’t as stealth as she thought, but by the time we saw the cat litter impacted in her nostrils, the deed had already been done. “Ya know,” he said thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’d ever heard you yell – before we got a dog.”

At about 6 months old Sadie had appropriately doubled her width, but something wasn’t quite right.

As she grew, her legs grew to twice the expected height. She wasn’t quite sure what to do with her long limbs, either. Instead of a low-to-the-ground JR scoot, Sadie pranced around like Bambi.

I said to Jeff, “I don’t think she’s normal.” Jeff glanced over at me and asked, “What do you mean?”

“I mean… her legs, and her tail…” I pointed to where Sadie stood smiling. “She shouldn’t be that tall. She’s like a Jack Russell on stilts! And her tail? Is it supposed to be that long….?”

 Jeff tilted his head to that doggie-don’t-understand angle. After a beat, he peered over his glasses at me. “I told ya she looked different and probably wouldn’t get adopted…”

I tilted my head to an unnatural angle even for a dog and said, “What?”

“Yeah,” he said shrugging his shoulders. “She didn’t look like the other ones…. and her tail didn’t get docked because she was too tiny and weak.”

I struggled with this news. “She was weak?” I asked. “Sickly?” I asked. “We got a defective dog?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Jeff said eyeballing me cautiously. He gnawed on his bottom lip, took a big breath and sighed. Looking at the floor, he pressed his lips together like he was trying to come up with the just right thing to say. Nodding once to himself, he looked up and continued on patiently, “That’s what runt means.…”

Quote for the Week:

2017 08 14 you should always know the meaning jakorte

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

The First: Dictionary

Word of The: Day

Definitions: Runt

 

 

The Switch

I held the quiet girl for a little bit. She was content to stay there. Then I set in her down into my cross-legged lap. She was content to stay there. The other one was alternately exploring and then running back full speed that usually ended with him crashing into me.

Little Miss Mellow stood up at the sound of Jeff’s voice, reporting. “Well, they’re both healthy and vaccinated, that but one probably won’t go,” he said. “She’s the runt, and she looks different.” Her white fur was all-over dotted with rusty-reddish spots and a few large black and brown cow patches laid over. She looked like a regular JR to me.

I watched the other possibility tearing around performing frantic puppy antics, and glanced back down at the placid little lap dog. I scooped her up, handed her up to Jeff and lifted myself off the ground. He cradled her in his large arms, but she had other ideas. She crawled up his chest, snuggled up to his ear, offered a few licks, and with a serene sigh, closed her eyes.

We named her “Sadie.” There were a few other choices, but after a bit of name-calling testing that seemed to be the one she liked. Yes, we ‘asked’ her through testing and response rate. It was Jeff’s idea. He said it helps to name a dog something they’ll respond to.

Her name confused my mother a little. “I thought you said she was a girl,” she commented. “She is a girl,” I replied. “Oh, you know that’s Yiddish for ‘grandfather’ right?” she asked. “No, no,” I clarified, “Sadie! Not Zayde.” Jeff got a knee-slapping kick out of that.

She was sweet and social but strangely low-key. I mean veeerrrryyy low-key. She had a good appetite for such a petite pup. She stayed near us and moved at good walking pace whenever one of us left the room. She wasn’t a barker or a whiner and she had no interest in Miss Fred, at all.

She happily and quietly greeted me when I came home. Mostly, though, she followed Jeff. Mostly, because he was the one with her all day.

“I don’t think she’s normal,” I said to Jeff after she’d been with us a week.

“She’ll catch up,” he said. “Remember she’s the runt.”

Sadie’s first real play visitors were Jeff’s sister’s girl and boy. Used to having dogs of their own, the two got right down on the floor with her. Through the ear scratching and belly rubbing and tickling and the children making whelping puppy noises, Sadie widened her eyes, but stayed put.

She seemed confused, and didn’t seem like she was enjoying any of it all that much. I was just about to ask them to give her a break. Before I could get the words out, though, Sadie barrel-rolled away from them, jumped to her feet, gave a small hoarse bark (her first) and took off running. In between flat out sprints from one end of the house to the other, she’d circle the kids, drop to her front elbows and startle herself by barking.

Sadie’s hyper switch had been activated.

Quote for the Week:

2017 08 08 The Switch jakorte final

Enjoy This Weeks Discovery Links:

Find Your:  Happy

Get Your: Happy

Be Your: Happy

 

 

In Decision

The medications weren’t really helping, so his doctors decided to try alternative measures. TENS units, TED hose and PT were added to Jeff’s mix. None were working as well as hoped. When a sleep study proved he had alarming apnea, an oxygen concentrator and a PAP machine arrived in our home.

After our dog excursion, Jeff mentioned the puppies a few times. I shook my head each time. I thought we had enough troubles.

More than two weeks had passed and I couldn’t get the pups off my mind. Jeff was bored and lonely and, according to his doctors, beginning to show signs of depression.

As far as I could tell, Jeff was still Jeff. Still, I began thinking maybe a dog wasn’t such a bad idea. It’d keep him busy, provide companionship.  I was a little worried about what a puppy would put Miss Fred through, but then again, it was a big house. Freddie wasn’t fazed by much. She wasn’t a constant attention grabber or a snuggler. With the exception of drive-by leg-bumping, she wouldn’t get that close. She’d sit near you – maybe close enough for a pet, maybe not, and definitely not often. 

On my way out the door to work each morning, I left Jeff his daily list of to-do tasks jointly devised as a way to keep him occupied and helpful. We’d talk about it the night before and hand note what was needed on a pre-printed form I created. On Thursday night we wrote: make a grocery list, make dinner, wash bedding. Friday morning, finally in decision mode, I added an extra line item: call to see if any puppies are left. 

Within hours, he found out there were only two puppies left. On our weekend way back to the farm, Jeff of the Big Heart said, “You know… I’ve been thinking… maybe we should take them both, because they’re the last ones, and then one wouldn’t have to be lonely.”

I said, “I’m not even sure about one. I don’t think two is a good idea.”

“Well, how will I decide?” he asked. “You’ll just have to,” was my answer.

There was no commotion in the kennel, this time. Inside the barn, two babies slept peacefully in a hay-lined, low-sided wooden crib. Jeff lifted one in each hand, and set them both down both in the morning sun. While their tiny eyes adjusted into squints, I decided I’d try the ‘Kelsey’ test and plopped myself down on the ground to see what would happen. The next thing I know, I was playfully attacked by a little black and white streak. He ran around me in circles, jumping in and out of my lap and zealously yapping. Continually, and quite normal for a Jack.

The other simply one laid down near Jeff’s feet. The yapper bumped into her a few times, so Jeff picked her up to get her out of the way.

“Is she sick? Could she be contagious?” I asked, comparing her docile demeanor to her energetic brother. “I don’t think so,” Jeff answered. Because I was me, I adamantly encouraged him to ask. Because he was Jeff, he handed her off to me and set out for the house.

Quote for the Week:

2017 08 01 Comparing apples to apples isn_t always fair judgement jakorte 07 31 2017

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Apple: Facts

Apples: Applause

Puppy Diseases: To Watch For