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

 

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

 

 

Pampered Peppers

After Jeff had been off work for a significant length of time, we co-decided he needed something to do. He took to gardening the 4’ x 6’ landing of the staircase leading down to our back yard. This became our first official salsa garden. It was truly amazing how many plants were living on the balcony and hanging off the wooden railing. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and cilantro thrived for a few reasons.

First, was the amount of TLC Jeff gave our greens. Second, was the fact that the planters that hung over the edge were really difficult for critters to get at, especially since they were at the top of a 7-foot stair case. Third, was that the bugs didn’t rise that high, either. Fourth, was our Sadie squirrel deterrent. For a little girl, she had an astonishingly loud voice. We saw quite a few early morning varmits take a startled dive over the edge. Jeff would always check, peering over the railing to be sure that the creatures weren’t hurt. There never was one that was.

The garden was awesome but didn’t really keep him as busy as he’d thought. Even with Sadie to take care of, being our designated chef and chief launderer, Jeff was becoming bored. Too many hours of TV and internet surfing lost their luster, so he wanted to find something that would bring in a little extra income. I supported that, too. Jeff was a people person, and the lack of daily socializing depressed him.

I’d been to a few Pampered Chef parties and I always would end up asking Jeff what he’d like me to get for him, because he was the one who’d be using the gadgets. With the help of his sister, Nicole, a consultant herself, and the input of a male friend who had begun consulting himself, Jeff saw an opportunity. He could share his love of cooking with the guys he knew were also cooks. For those who weren’t, he’d be able to give good recommendations as to which gifts his buddies should buy the women in their lives.

The things I remember most about his trial host party are the many men who came, and the constant hilarity and laughter. So much so that Nicole was forced off track numerous times, and ended up laughing so much herself. I didn’t actually attend the show. I don’t remember what the food demonstrations were, at all. I spent most of my time in the kitchen, staying out of the way.

I think  I remember who amongst Jeff’s friends, former co-workers and family came. But the important part is that I love you all for showing up. I still get teary-eyes about it, too. It did so much for his spirits to have personal connections there with him for a little while.

For Jeff, the term ‘friends’ included family and the term ‘family’ included friends. All of Jeff’s friends were close friends, and his close friends included his cousins and siblings, as well.

For me, the best term I can think of now to describe you all is, tribe.

Quote for the Week: (minor apologies for the awkward physical splicing of 18 year old old-fashioned prints.)

2017 09 11 anything can bloom anywhere you plant it jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Pampered: Chef

Social vs: Lonely

Balcony: Garden

[j1]

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 and Bounding

Sadie continue to tall-up. She was adorable and sweet and fun, just different. Maybe not so smart, but sometimes smarter than us. We solved the litter-box raids by putting up a baby gate at the door to the laundry room. For the first few days, she’d do a double-take whenever she passed it.

A few days later Sadie seemed to realize what she was missing. She’d stop and sit, stare longingly into the laundry room for a few seconds, huff and then hoof it. She was also obsessed with the red ball.

She really loved that cheap dollar-store firm foam orb. As far as toys go, Sadie never touched the kong. Squeaky toys were instantly dismantled; pieces strewn about were discarded. Somehow, she always managed to hide the squeaker part somewhere obscure. We’d look for them, but never once found one. There’d suddenly be a squeeze frenzy days later. Many times, while one of us was on the phone and often after we’d been asleep for a bit.

Jeff discovered he could keep her entertained longer by sending her on longer indoor fetches. He had perfected a double bounce that would propel the ball into the dining room. He achieved that by launching the ball toward the right wall of the hallway, where it angle-bounced to the left wall. From there it flew it into the dining room and if Jeff and Sadie were lucky, the ball would deflect off a chair and travel toward the living room.

That worked well until the day Sadie bounded after her red ball as it bounced off the hall wall into the laundry room. I watched in fascinated dread as it seemed she would easily clear our brilliant barrier. Sadie flew after it, naturally jumping right over our stop-gap.

“Sadie! No!” I cried out. But my sudden loud outburst hadn’t slowed her down at all. When she didn’t reappear, I slammed the recliner footrest down, stumbling away from a startled Jeff.  He hadn’t quite processed what was going on, partly because he couldn’t see around the corner and mostly because I hadn’t filled him in.

“Oh, no! No, no, no no no!” I wailed in dismay. By the time I arrived at the entry door, Sadie was snout deep in Miss Fred’s refuse.

Jeff was halfway out of his chair with alarm, yelling back, “What? What?”

Sadie smiled happily at me, picked up her ball, took a running start and just as easily re-cleared the gate on her way back to Jeff.

“You bounced the ball into the laundry!” I huffed. “She jumped the gate and got into the litter again.”

“Oh, that’s no big deal,” Jeff poo-poo’ed me. “That’s what dogs do.”

“Just now!” I emphasized. “Right before she picked up that … that ball with her POTTY mouth and gave it to you.”

Jeff looked down at his hand. “Arrrgghhhh!” His situational assessment was shortly followed by “EEWWWWWWW!” and a forceful arm catapult as the ball went whizzing by my head.

Quote for the week:

2017 08 22 The fancier the plan, the more can jakorte

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Fancy Doggie: Gates

Patent Baby: Gate

Safety: Gates

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

 

 

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