Tuesday, March 25, 2008

20 Questions

It has been brought to my attention by a few emails from friends and strangers that although my blog is lovely to look at- some of you want to know more about me. This makes me a bit uncomfortable as I feel there is not much to tell, and the point of my blog was to bring in customers to the store by showing you the latest merchandise and events. (since a website is so darn hard to update). I know other bloggers talk about everything from their beloved kids to what they had for breakfast- but I do not as I can't help but think I do not care about these things, why would you? But, because of the interest by some (and lack of anything else better to write about this week) Here goes:
Q: Are you married or anything?A: Never married, single and straight, not involved and live alone. This has pretty much been the case most of my life. After getting my heart broken a few times in my 20's and 30's, I put my nose down and just kept working- and I am fine with that. I really don't know any other way.
The real love of my life is my pup- Pearl, a 6 year old Bichon. She is my constant companion and spoiled rotten although she never has birthday parties or cute outfits. I love her to death but she is definitely a responsibility. Sometimes she cramps my freedom but other times I need that. She came into my life after my store was on it's feet and I was in a routine of retail. I believe the Lord brought her to me (as her discovery was a real serendipitous story). She has taught me what unconditional love really is as most pets can do.
Her first baby picture taken on Shabby Chic bedding at the first store.

Above, Pearl's first paying gig for Hallmark.

If the truth be known, my real, true love is Sam Shepard. Somebody tell him, please. I'm tired of waiting.
Q: What is your background?My mom and dad on their wedding day.

Me at six months.

1949, My mom and three older sisters.
A: I was born and raised in Kansas City and have lived here all my life. I am the youngest of four girls and the only one in my family with an artistic vocation. (translation: the black sheep). My sisters took care of the family thing and at last count I have 30 nieces and nephews- so the grandbaby thing is covered. A few shots of the nieces and nephews below.Q: What was your education and past jobs?Me in 1978 beginning my fashion photography 'career'. Anyone who took a photography class has this shot of themselves.
I was heavily involved in theatre in high school and college and wanted to be an actress/singer. After college I also became interested in graphic design and fashion photography which lead to jobs as a studio manager, photo assistant and production artist.
My best friend Randy (from high school) and I both went to Paris together. He for modeling, me for photography. He died of AIDS in 1985.
During one crazy spell at 21, I took my portfolio to Paris and tried to get work as a fashion photographer. (I lasted 3 weeks). 12 years later I went back to London, Milan, Paris and Germany to try and begin my career as a makeup artist doing European magazine editorials. I got my foot in the door in Milan but woke up one day and said, "What the heck am I doing here?". I had an epiphany and came back home with a fresh attitude.

Back in K.C. I worked as a makeup artist and photo stylist for 19 years before opening my store. I was hired to buy props, design sets and to work with models on fashion catalogs doing hair, makeup and wardrobe. I worked on a lot of print ads, videos, movies and well over 200 TV commercials. Nothing exceptionally glamorous although I met and worked with some famous people and always in interesting locations.
1987, assistant food styling for Houlihan's restaurant.

1988 , working with Paul Newman on Mr. & Mrs. Bridge.

My nephews were far more impressed with me working with Joe Montana than Paul Newman!
Working with Clint Black and Wynonna for the cover of TV Guide. (He was an a**hole, she was a gem).
This crazy shot above was taken in Nashville in 1989 when I drove there to try my luck at working on Country Music Videos.

Above, with Gary Sinese on the HBO movie, Truman.

Working on the Robert Altman film, Kansas City.

Photographer, Hollis Officer and I in Key West shooting for Payless Shoes. (really!)

Shooting in San Francisco for Houlihan's.
Q: What is a day in the life like for you now as a retailer?A: I think one reason I was so successful as a freelancer was because I hate routine. It is one of the things I struggle with as a retailer because once you are open, daily operations can become monotonous although every day is a new story and something different always seems to happen.

I am not an early bird. I am a night owl so I usually do not make it into the store until 10:30 or 11 with latte in hand and dog in tow. Sometimes I run shop errands before I get in. Sometimes I drink a pot of coffee at home while checking the email and bank account which makes me really late getting in.

90% of the time I am in my office planning the future of the store. Checking messages, returning calls, following through on anything and everything shop related. I spend my days on the computer, researching and ordering product, designing advertising, writing presentations, planning travel, planning events and juggling the money. I might meet with reps, friends, customers and staff. I may unpack boxes or unload my car full of antiques. I may rewire a lamp or repaint a cabinet. I may be making a mess in my office sewing, gluing or pasting something. The day is gone before I know it. I may stay late and redecorate or run to an antique mall to find something at the last minute because we may have sold something important that day. My days off are generally Sunday and Monday when I am still 'working' as I antique for the store. I have my favorite stops or I may drive and hour or two out of town. I am not an auction, garage sale or estate sale shopper. I am lazy that way and hate all the waiting or driving and hunting and stopping and starting. I know I miss some great deals this way. I prefer a small town with lots of antique stores or one giant mall in the middle of nowhere. I like it to be as relaxed as I can make it, incognito and easy. (ie: air conditioning!) When the environment is complicated it is hard for me to get my 'eyes on' and search through so much product.

I wander home around 8-9:30 at night, some carry out or frozen dinner in hand to read my daily magazines and catalogs, work on a project, watch Bravo or maybe check the email one more time. The next day it starts all over again.

When I am out of town at market or at an antique fair it is usually the same routine except I am on my feet 10-7 shopping for the goods, talking with fellow retailers or junkers, hauling things to my car. At night, I try to see an attraction somewhere in the city I am in, a store or great restaurant, then back to the hotel to do the shops business online.

Q: What do you think is the #1 misconception about you?
A: I don’t think there are any. Everyone has an opinion and a story about you. It's just their take.
I care tremendously about every detail and how people see my business, which makes others think I am a control freak.
I can be brutally honest, which makes people think I am mean.
I am a loner, which makes people think I am shy, cold or self centered..
I also have a sarcastic sense of humor, which make people think I am hiding something or insecure.
My faith also dictates my opinion on many issues, which make others assume I think I am always right.

Q: What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
A: Anyone who is a visual person will tell you they get ideas from everything. I can see a construction site that may inspire how I want to build something in the store. A new gown in Vogue may give me an idea how to sew a pillow. The grey, distressed wood color of our shipping palettes is what inspired the new color I am using to repaint my living room. The list goes on. It is just how you process what you see. I can't go anywhere without noticing the design of something- sometimes a curse. (just ask my staff!)

Q: What do you look for when you shop for antiques? How do you know what to buy?
A: My eye is first drawn to the color of something. Is the patina right? Has it aged the right way? Is the white the right white? Not freshly painted, not fauxed or too yellow or too pink. Is the texture right? Not new trim or new hardware or new anything that doesn't blend with the item. What is it's purpose? A collection of cool items can be one thing but if it is not an object 'd art, is it functional? How can customers use it? And finally, is it unique?

Once again, I always look at the design of something. It may be a fabric item or glass or metal but the color, texture and shape are important. Does it fit my brand or the style I have created for Curious Sofa? I also feel a bit of divine intervention when I shop- I really do. I feel I am blessed this way. It really is a God given talent to see the beauty or uniqueness in items others may not see- to pull the look together. I have noticed when I shop with other people- some pro's, some not- we do not see things the same way. Which is good! It is what sets us all apart. I also think after years of doing this you become better at weeding the gems from the junk. You have to learn how to focus. All in all, it is hard to explain. I just know it when I see it.

Q: What is your favorite item in the store right now?
A: This is tough as I love many things:
The crowns by Cody Foster, Our new, lush bedding from Matteo. with frayed edges, layered bedskirt and 12" crocheted fringe!!
I love the new rouched pillows from Bella Notte- in dark gray,
the new glass desk we have to add just a touch of modern,the giant wine bottles,the metal pub chairs,and the palette headboard Donnie built,

I also love the new lawn chairs...

Q: Do you regret moving your store from the funky, downtown Crossroads district to the newer, suburban shopping center?A: Ahh! I have a feeling everyone wants to know the answer to this. The honest answer is no. But there are some aspects I miss a lot.
I miss: the hip, artistic, urban customers we got that never had to ask, "What kind of store is this?" They didn't need too much hand holding, they understood the mix of new and old and they saw what they wanted and bought it without needing to know where to put it.
I miss: a smaller size store that was easier to manage by myself so I could spend more time on the floor visiting with customers instead of taking care of the other side of the business in the office.
I miss: the urban vibe we had, being a part of a new development that was getting talked about and doing something in a neighborhood that was on the cutting edge.
I miss: Having less stress, less rent, less bills and managing only one employee.

I do not miss: The bad parts that come with being downtown: traffic, noise, parking issues, safety issues, no loading area, no storage, bohemian varmints that came into the store.
I do not miss a smaller store that inhibits the ability to experiment with decorating and buying new items.
I do not miss the stigma with downtown shopping and the people that are fearful of driving there.
I do not miss feeling isolated and not having walk by traffic.
I do not miss customers cars being towed away.
I do not miss wondering if we are going to have any business each day.

Change comes with change. Some things are given up for other things. I do not regret moving but as the store grows up and I grow up, things change and certain lessons are learned and some elements become more clear. Some things I wanted then I do not want now and vice versa. You learn to adapt. If I had to do it over I admit, I would have still moved to a high traffic area but maybe with the same square footage (1500 sf) so it would be easier to manage. But how would I have known that?

Q: You post things occasionally and mention it once in awhile, are you religious?A: Yes. I am a born-again Christian, right wing, conservative, pro-life, Republican. Gulp. There, I said it.

Q: What look or style are you into now?A: I am ready to change everything in my house to gray and white. Neutral colors, natural fabrics, wood, metal, stone with simple, easy styling. I love American Country and I love the European farmhouse look. Easy enough to combine the two. I am ready for a 'down to the studs' garage sale to get things simple for the first time. I am ready to buy $500 sheets and one of everything I need in the best quality. I have been on a quest for the perfect pair of jeans and will buy seven pair when I find them. The same with the shirt, towels, dishes, etc. Luckily I have the store to keep the clutterbug in me satisfied, but all of this will translate to the shop as well over time.

Q: What is it about you and Ralph Lauren?A: He is the king of style, showmanship and retailing.
I know as well as anyone that he does not do it all but what a testament to his business to be able to design it, grow it and delegate your style to read the same across the board no matter who is working on it! This is any artists dream- and to be successful doing it!

I love Ralph because he puts a finish on his work. Every look he has is complete from floor to ceiling from hairstyle to shoe color. He has many looks but they all have his stamp of perfection, even if it is a dusty tepee in the African desert or Ivy Leaguers on a boat in their swim trunks. He is a master of details, chooses color perfectly and understands lifestyle and the new/old mix.

A friend of mine told me this story: He was in New York visiting the Madison Avenue store of RL. When he arrived there was a line of people around the block, each holding a birdcage with a bird. He later learns Ralph is casting for the perfect bird to be used in an ad. THIS IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT. He said it was then that he 'got it!'. Ralph cared enough to have a casting call for the bird!!! It's all in the details.

Q: When are you writing a book, opening another store, franchising or designing your own line? What is next for you?
A: I have absolutely no desire to do any of the above. Why? Because none of it pays well and/or takes too much work. I would also not be willing to negotiate artistic control. If however, someone wants to pay me handsomely for any or all of the above, let's talk. I was recently working with a company helping them to design a new line of home decor. Currently, it is on hold and it broke my heart as I was so excited and artistically challenged by it. Now it will take awhile to trust again.

Q: Is the store paying off handsomely? Are you rich?
A: Does the term 'blood from a turnip' mean anything to you? I take a bare-bones salary from the store, much less than I earned in my previous life. I have a tremendous bank loan to pay off from opening this new store and I live hand to mouth each month, paycheck to paycheck. There is no trust-fund, inheritance or rich uncle. What you see is what I got. Not a penny more. Anyone who owns their own business knows the answer to this one. Ask me again in 10 years. Acquiring money is hard in retail as you have to keep spending it on product. Only when someone hires you for your experience and talent can you make real money.

Q: What is your favorite magazine:A: World of Interiors for it's raw, bohemian, unfiltered style. Country Home for a fresh look at country style (but I am not sure with the new staff, time will tell), Country Living for a 100% focus on who they are, and most European design magazines as they are not Americanized at all. Their mix of really old items with everyday necessities is always fascinating.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a retailer?
A: It would have to be antiquing for merchandise because that has been a passion and interest of mine since I was a child. To be a buyer, collector, artist or designer (whatever I am) and have a venue to use it is huge. I can buy most things I desire to put in the store (within financial reason) instead of taking them home or leaving them for someone else. Discovering these items for my customers makes me very happy. I have always wanted to be known as a store that sells great, unusual things. I care about the sales, the customer service, the shop protocol and all those business things, but I care about the product and styling of the product more than anything. This is why I am not on the floor much. My job has been done when the items hit the floor. Would you stop going to your favorite restaurant because you never see the owner? No. You stop going when the food is not memorable.

Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being a shop owner?
A: Living and breathing by the results of the cash register.

Q: When are you going to start shopping in Europe and bring us the goods?A: Believe it or not, this is on the radar. I have never done it but just last week I sent an email out to a few friends telling them I needed someone to hold my hand at the Paris or Belgium Flea Markets- a guide or translator, anything. I am getting ready as it is inevitable to the future of the store. I am concerned about the wad of cash you need to make it profitable, but I still need to jump in and do it. I also struggle with just how European I want the store to get as I still love American Country and the simplicity of it. You also cannot beat the prices I can charge around here. My customers might freak when they see the price of some of these French antiques. I need to choose carefully.

Q: What 10 things could you not live without?
1. A project.
2. A Pilot G-2 05 black roller pen.3. Mexican food twice a week.4. A loving pet.
5. My reading glasses.
6. Starbucks lattes.7. Antiquing.
8. Interior design magazines.
9. A good lip balm.
10. Faith.

Q: What has been your saddest moment in life?
Also, do you want to talk about Lynn?
A: Without a doubt my saddest moment was watching my father die of cancer 26 years ago. I miss him every single day and think of him constantly. He was only 54.

As far as Lynn goes, some people know and some do not. I chose to keep quiet about it and let others talk if they wanted to. Lynn Steely was my friend who committed suicide seven weeks ago. What can I say about it? She was the most talented person I know and I will always remember her. She was an antiquer, writer, stylist and fellow comrade. We drove to Round Top together three years ago. As I leave this Sunday to shop there again, I am sure many memories will flood over me.

For those of you who might have it, she was featured in the book Trade Secrets (along with Clutter's D'ette Cole).

I have been saddened how much suicide is going on out there. It truly is a tragic, tragic moment for the living. My niece said something hugely important to me which enabled me to make some sense of it. Her own father committed suicide when she was in her 30's so I knew she would have some valuable advice. Lynn sent me a goodbye email hours before she died. I was sitting right at my computer when she sent it but I did not pick up the phone to call her. (she was out of town). I told my niece I will have to live with that forever. She said, "Don't fool yourself thinking there was anything you could have said or done to stop it. We do not have that kind of power". She was so right. It was a painful loss for me and all of the world that should have known her someday.

Q: What motto do you live by or what is your favorite quote?
A: 'You know the truth when you hear it'.

P.S. Save the comments about the hair, wardrobe and weight- this was painful enough to put together!