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

 

Dream-Talk

In the few days before lease signing, we checked to see if there was another hot sauce store anywhere in our vicinity. There wasn’t. That was good.

We needed a license, but first we needed a name. I thought there was an advantage to having a Tecumseh store address and that Tecumseh should part of the name.

Tecumseh Hot Sauce Company and Tecumseh Hot House were contenders, but boring. We tried to find something that rhymed with our last name and made sense with what we would be trying to sell. That didn’t go well. It was impossible.

Jeff suggested Jeff & Jodi’s Joint. I debated whether or not that could be misconstrued for a bar or a head-shop. It also didn’t say anything about what we were trying to sell. For example, The Chocolate Vault in Tecumseh obviously sold chocolate. They sold other stuff too, of course, but at least it was specific enough.

We decided to keep working on the name game, after dinner. Over Jeff’s homemade tomato sauce and pasta, we dream-talked about what would make our store wonderful. A frequent buyer card, taste testing, grand opening mailing list, a good variety of product.

It was also important to get a solid idea of what kind of up-front cash we would need.

In retrospect, I don’t suppose it matters what type of retail space you have, if it’s only 10 x 10.

There are many advantages to limited size: cheap rent, not a lot of room for fixtures, limited stock space, and one person can cover the whole store by themselves. I know some of these don’t seem like good things, but when you have small, your expenses are small.

Sure, only 2-3 other people could fit in there at a time, but that was good for conversation, which Jeff was very good at. Because I’d worked in retail in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York City, I happily declared that this would prevent shop-lifting stock loss.

“But,” Jeff tsk-ed.,“…this… is… Tecumseh…” he finished with obvious hometown pride.

Clearing the table, I pitched another possible store name. “Hey, how about Jeff & Jodi’s Hot Spot?” I proposed. “Boy,” he exclaimed on a burst of laughter, “I don’t think of hot sauce when I hear that …. sounds like you’re talkin’ ’bout your lady parts!”

“Eek!” I giggled. “Fine,” I volleyed back. “How about just Jeff’s Hot Spot, then?”

“Nah,” Jeff said. “I don’t like that. We’re doing this together.”

Quote for the Week:

2017 10 10 where you come from effects how you feel about where you are

Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Links:

Choosing a Business Name: Don’t

Choosing a Business Name: Do

Choosing a Business Name: Licensing

 

 

 

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

 

 

Canned

Our salsa garden lead to lots of salsa and experimentation. Skow’s organic farm in Adrian was a frequent stop. We’d pick up extra tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and whatever else looked good. Jeff’s frequent visits lead to a friendship, because, well … Jeff!

At least once a week I’d head over there with Jeff. We’d pick fresh produce and Jeff would make “Summer Slop.” For sure not the most appetizing name, but it was wonderful. It began with bacon or kielbasa and continued with the addition of zucchini, onions, tomatoes, garlic, green beans, peppers hot and not, eggplant, spinach, corn – whatever was available was included in the pot. Fresh grated parmesan topped our plated mounds of delish. 

Frequency and the friendliness became the basis of many long nights of culinary weirdness. Near the end of the day, Jeff would swing by the farm and he and Mr. Skow would come to an agreement about the leftovers.

Once it was a plethora of green beans which took us about 6 hours to clean and snap. The fruit of our work resulted in the most amazing canned goods which lined that self-assembled cabinet in the laundry room. There were 10 quarts of beautiful Italian bean, and 6 quarts of experimental green beans spiced with Hungarian peppers and dill. Jeff made up that recipe on the spot. They were fantastic and fantastically addictive. I playfully created labels for both types of green beans and cheekily dubbed his creation “Pick-a-Dilly Beans.”

My New Yorkers, East Coasters, Tennesseans and perhaps even a few Michiganders are probably giggling about the incongruous picture of city-me this creates, but that was nothin’ really.

We canned stewed tomatoes, crushed Italian spiced tomatoes, tomato juice, carrots and salsa. But, by far the most memorable to us and our Adrian neighbors is the time Jeff and I shucked over 80 ears of corn in our driveway, mostly in the dark.  I arrived home after work early evening and discovered I was unable to pull in. Rows of bins, and Jeff in a lawn chair blocked my way. He explained he thought he’d be done by the time I got there, but had apparently misjudged the amount of end-of-the-day corn he’d bargained for.

I changed my out of my work clothes and joined him and before we knew it, it was dark. Streetlights popped on and I ran into to turn on the inside office lights on that side of the house hoping it would cast a bit more light. With my hand on the un-flipped light switch, I naturally glanced outside. It was a messy scene, and I figured when we were done, we were going to have a heck of a lot of clean up.

Even with his back to me, arms pulling and ripping, tossing first-stage cleaned ears into bins, I could tell Jeff was truly happy. It was quite a picture, and one I’d wish I thought to take. But, the memory and my grinning chuckle remain.  

PS – we were out there ‘til midnight, rinsing with the garden hose and hauling full storage bins of corn inside. The next morning, I wandered into the kitchen to find Miss Fred crouched on top of a pile, feasting on an ear of corn. She was a weird little cat, but then again, who were we to judge? 😉

Quote for the Week:

2017 09 19 There is no better way to love than to learn jakorte 

Enjoy this Week’s Discovery Links:

Can It: Preserving

Jarring: All About Them

All Recipes: Galore

 

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