Monday, June 30, 2008

Woe is me!

I got to the store at 8:30 this morning to wait for the fire inspector. When nobody (except people wanting to buy stuff) showed up by 10:30, I called Dawn--you know, the one who said somebody would come this morning at 9. She said tomorrow at noon somebody would come. I'm beginning to understand the mandatory 24 hour waiting period a little better. GRRRRRRR! I think that at least 5 people came in wanting to buy stuff. I refused, but let them browse. Then Nanci's neighbor Kate called to see if I would be open tonight since she needs a gift for some one at work tomorrow. I'm trying not to think about the money (since I'm really totally broke now). I just feel bad that people come by and I can't serve their needs. I hope they'll come back. . .

Then, because of the day I'm having, I got a lovely Hallmark E-card from somebody. It took me about half an hour to view it (it was in my junkmail folder and MSN really didn't want me to open it). It was lovely--like an I'm-there-for-you kinda thing. But it wasn't signed, as far as I could tell. Now I know that all you gentle readers of this blog are there for me, so if you were the kind soul who sent it, please let me know. Or maybe it really was a virus and my computer is going to blow up. If the vein in my neck doesn't explode soon, I'll be mighty surprised.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pictures! Pictures! Pictures!

Well, today I tidied up a bit and actually brought the camera! Jon helped me tweak the lighting and here it is--Fly Right Gifts as you will see it soon when I open!!!!!

From top to bottom we have the window from inside, the window detail from outside, natural cleaning products, natural bath and body products (Mudlark and Pacifica, and Spatacular), bassinet with cards and toys, puzzle rack with my childhood desk, the man section (wallets made from Tyvek, computer motherboards frames & coasters, worker's soaps), Notecards & office stuff, kitchen stuff, the fairly empty (ironically) jewelry case, louvered doors with misc.,the pet section with CDs above, toys, cards and gift wrap.

There are still a lot of things (well, a few anyway) that didn't make this editing round, but maybe later. . . You can tell that I love candles by how many I have for sale--let's hope a lot of Berwynites share my obsession. Once I get the counters organized you can see more of the POP (point of purchase) items. That pretty much just means the candy. Mmm. Candy. I brought chocolate for Angel(a) and I to eat last night while we worked so we wouldn't scarf down the profitable POP organic candies. They look so good. I guess I should try them before I sell them, don't you think?

Better news from yesterday!

I guess fighting back tears when speaking with the fire inspector has its merits. . . after I had my irritating conversations about lack of paperwork and July 2nd being the earliest they could come, I went home and did some laundry (really angst-ridden laundry). Then I had to go to Target to get a few things. I decided to stop by the store and see if I had any reason to be there for the rest of the day. Two messages!! One from the fire inspector, and one from the building inspector. The building guy, Tommy, said he could come by at 3:15. And the fire inspector said she could send somebody over Monday at 9am. If the paperwork goes through on Monday, I can get my business license and be open on July First! I also have to pay rent that day, so whatever money I can make is greatly needed. Tommy was great. He found 4 things that the landlord needs to take care of, but he said he'd go ahead and push the paperwork through and approve my license. We have 30 days to replace a lightbulb in the EXIT sign, change a switch/plug combo in the bathroom, and two basement things having to do with water (don't put your sump pumps on a GFI outlet--it shouldn't shut off when it gets wet) and some other 3 initial thing having to do with a valve on the water supply (it has an R and a Z in it).

So it looks like Monday I'll be done with inspections and ready to open! Angel(a) came again last night and we finished the displays and did up the window--it looks great! Today I need to go over and clean up the cash/wrap counters and install the cash register in its permanent home. Track lighting needs some adjusting (with the good ladder). And I'll take some pictures!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Same title as the last one. . .

Looks like City Hall dropped the ball that is my livelihood. I don't know who to blame, myself (which is what I usually do) or the powers that be in local government. I faxed in the paperwork I was missing (the signed lease), as did my insurance agent (the copy of the paperwork that names Berwyn as the certificate holder). They never got it, even though we both got success reports from our fax machines. When I called to follow up, nobody called me back. So I finally got a hold of somebody who said they were still waiting on all that. So I physically drove it over there and handed it to somebody and watched her put it on the desk of one of the important people. She claimed that their fax machine has been working this whole time. Hmmm. . . Yesterday I got a copy of the insurance paper and drove that over there and gave it to the aforementioned important person (who said she already got it when they re-faxed it). So now I can begin to set up the appointments with the inspectors. BEGIN. But they haven't gotten the paperwork yet (even though SOMEBODY told me she would walk it down the hall to them immediately--that was yesterday at noon). The fire inspector person said she can't schedule me until she gets the paperwork. And they're not doing any fire inspecting until next Wednesday. Whenever I think about all this I get that jumpy feeling inside like you get right before vomiting. Oh--also contributing to this is the TWO plumbers it took to unblock my home kitchen drains and clean out our catch basin yesterday. They were both very nice and professional and expensive.

Now the good news!
Angel(a) came to the store last night and we worked on the displays--they look great! She's coming back tonight and we should be able to finish up most of it. She's got a great eye and I think the stuff looks amazing! So if we get it done tonight, that will give me a weekend off and a store that's ready to open upon inspection. Cash register practice continues, and the thing is programmed with all my departments. Now I'm off to Target in search of baby hangers (for clothes, not hanging babies) and hooks. I'm very proud of the fact that hardware is the only thing I've bought new for this whole project (and only some of the hardware is new. . . most I found in my basement or inherited from Janet and Pat).

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hopefully next week. . .

I will be open for business! It seems my paperwork at City Hall isn't where it should be to schedule the inspections yet. Rats! I've left some messages and I'm hoping it will all be tidily resolved soon.

Jon has been working out of town again, and he needs the camera and the ladder for his job. I'm sorry I don't have any more "after" pictures yet. Maybe tomorrow. I'm luckily to the point of not needing the good ladder so much. The flimsy one is fine now that the painting is done.

Many of the products are on the shelves now. I have a much larger toy/kid/baby section than I thought I would, so hopefully the breeders of Berwyn will continue with their breeding. And hopefully the dog and cat owners will feel the need to buy their little babies a nice treat or toy.

I'm starting to get some of my artists' work together--the aprons that my friend Erika made are spectacular!!! We've got some made from vintage dresses that died, and one that she made from a man's oxford shirt that is really cute. Tomorrow my cousin Alexis is coming by with some samples of her crocheted wash/dish cloths and a few other things. I hope I can make us all rich!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Price tags, price tags everywhere!

I'm starting to price the products and get them ready to put out on the shelves. Lisa and Paloma, who is three, came out to help me on Thursday. I'm starting to understand why we need child labor laws--they love to help! And stickers are really fun! And they'll work for carrots and string cheese! Come to think of it, so would I. . .

I'll try to take some more pictures of the store today. All the painting is done now and it's getting very close to being finished overall. I took most of the day off yesterday--went to Champaign with Jon and his band for a lovely outdoor gig. I got to see a dear college friend of mine, Angela G. (hello, Ang!). I figured it may have been my last chance to see the band for awhile.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pay attention! Take notes!

Don't take notes on this blog, but in general, in life, take copious notes. I called for my fire inspection (lovely sounding lady, Dawn, in charge of that). Dawn informed me that I need to turn in all my paperwork for the city business license before I can get inspected. I thought I had to get inspected to get a business license. It's all connected. So I called Debi, the city controller, to make an appointment to do all that. Well, this week is Berwyn's centennial celebration. Which means every city official is really really really busy. So Debi let me come in today, even though she's really really really really busy and I gave her all the paperwork for my incorporation, insurance, lease and everything. I thought she said not to sign a lease until I passed the inspections. Well, it turns out you need a signed lease to get a license. (see? I should have taken better notes--it turns out you can sign it, but it needs a clause that says it's only binding if you pass the inspection). My initial meeting with her was months (and a business partner) ago. Should've taken better notes. But it looks like George the landlord can come by tomorrow night and sign stuff. And the insurance company needs him to write up a statement of the work that's been done to the building. He's only owned it for a few years, so I said I'd write up what we know so far (George doesn't have a computer) and he could sign it. That should make the insurance people happy. And he'll sign the lease and I can take it all to Debi's office and then I can get rolling on this inspection stuff. Looks like maybe next week I can wrap it up and finally get open. *Whew* Now I need to learn how to program my cash register. The credit card processing stuff is getting done on Friday. Sometime in between I need to get the wood in the window cleaned up and finished and then I can comfortably put out my products (after pricing them and taking inventory).

I've had a few musicians/bands come by with their CDs to sell. I'm doing a small section of local Berwyn bands. Jon was there this afternoon when Peter Budd came by with three of his titles. He was really nice. So he and Jon were talking music (Peter has been playing for years) and he mentioned the musician friends that he's played with that he still keeps in touch with. When he said Jeff Beck, Jon almost passed out--that's one of his guitar heroes. There are a lot of talented musicians and artists here in town, and I'm happy to be able to help them distribute their music. It's really hard for unsigned bands to sell their stuff in stores. It seems like labels do that sort of merchandising for them.

We had the first car show event of the summer in the Depot District tonight from 5 - 9. I was really impressed with the turnout of cars and car fanatics. Next month when they do it, I'll be open, so it's good to know that people come out for the Cruise Night. It's the third Tuesday of the month June - August. And my block seems to be the heart of it all. That's a nice bonus I wasn't counting on!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Some more before and after shots

Yesterday we ripped out the ugly carpet from the window. We weren't sure what we'd find.

What we found was some glue-covered wood that looked kind of promising. . .

The landlord George was very excited about the original wood that was on there (so was I). Unfortunately, he won't let me sand it off, he wants to use stripper. As in toxic, bad, evil stripper. I want no part of this. I thought by explaining how stripper is expensive, as well as toxic, that he might be persuaded to let me sand it. He wasn't. He just said he'd buy the stripper. So I'm hoping he will also do the stripping. I don't want anything to do with that.

I took the shiny brass sconces off the walls and painted them. Here's the "after" of one of those.

Here's the front and back wrap counters before (notice the brass sconces):

And here's what I've done so far with it. . . (ignore the bad penmanship)

And last, we have a wall with shelf all painted! And the jewelry case and Mrs. Meyer's display.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Inspector alert!

I need to get inspected soon. I think I need light up EXIT signs, which Jon can install this weekend. I just need to find a place that sells them. And get the landlord to buy them. Ugh. I think the electric place in town probably has them. We need to get this done before they can inspect. I also need to get business insurance. That's one of my goals for today. Luckily, my agent is right across the tracks from me, so he should be able to pop over to make some big money. He's a good agent. Another one of my big guys that "gets me". Gotta love that.

I've been meeting lots of wonderful people walking by the shop while I'm working. It's great to get their feedback and hear the enthusiasm in their voices. Lots of people are giving me free advice & offering their help (and they are pros, not like all the free advice I dispense ad nauseum).

Last night around 8:30 I was leaving and somebody had pushed an ice cream cone onto my car like a hood ornament. So I went to the ice cream shop to file a complaint. The guys that own it are friends of mine now, and I just wanted to give them crap. They weren't there, but lots of other neighbors were. I got to meet their new employee (who had smoothie practice the other day and we benefited, since Tom brought down the fruits of his labor for me and all the worker bees who were helping on Sunday). He could not identify the culprit. I'm watching now. . . Don't mess with me, kids. I could be your best friend or your worst enemy!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's coming together!

We have two of the three walls painted (one is all shingles all the time--I decided to leave that Pandora's box alone). I painted all the shiny brass sconces a muted light sage today. I am sort of afraid to hook them back up--electricity and I are not on good terms. Jon is out of town this week (again!) though, so I may do it, just to surprise him with how handy his wife can be. He had to take the good ladder with him, so I'm waiting to paint the back wall until I can use the good one. Janet left me a ladder that is flimsy and aluminum. It's okay for a quick light bulb change, but I'm not too comfortable with ladders as it is, so I'll wait for Jon to return with the sturdy one.

Now I'm looking for a counter top for my back counter (wrapping and packing station). I've been searching in alleys for any construction debris, but I have found no counters. I did get the lower cabinets from a dumpster (well, actually, they put them in their driveway next to the dumpster for me to rescue). I'm telling you, just put the word out that you need something, and it will find you. So I'm putting it out there that I need a counter (6' long, preferably). Just post a comment and I'll come get it! They have them at Menard's, but that's not as "green" as rescuing one.

A lot of the products are in. It's so hard not to play with all the toys--they look awesome! Luckily, the girly stuff hasn't arrived yet, so I'm not depleting the testers in my "spare" time. I was sent some great samples of a line of nail polish that doesn't have all the toxic crap in it. It's called Butter London. They have really cool colors. It's a little pricey, but I'd be their first distributor in the Midwest. And they have really cool colors. The hand and nail cream is amazing, too. I'll have to find a way to make it happen. Angel(a) knows a gal who works there as the sales person. She hasn't steered me wrong yet, so I think I'll give it a shot, if they don't make you order every single color. They have really cool colors. Did I mention that? If any of you reading this are producers of something you aspire to sell, I'm telling you right now--send samples (unless it's a car or bike or something really expensive). Every company that sent me samples (especially full size samples) is getting an order from me. Except the line of body products that all smell like food. That really bothers me.

Speaking of samples, a local couple was walking by the other night and stopped to chat about the store. She makes soap and lip balm and brought some by for me to try yesterday. I'm lovin' the lip balm, and the soap smells great. So Olive Owl is now a product I'll be carrying! (and her logo is adorable!) She also does fused glass jewelry, so I put in a request for that too!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

One week progress report

Today I have two or three friends coming by to help me paint! And Jon will be back from his musical tour of the Midwest (okay, it was just Peoria and Rock Island). Now I need to slip into leadership mode--not my strong suit. Luckily, Lisa will be back, so she can suggest ways to make this go smoothly. Nanci will also be lending a hand as well.

I went to Green Home Experts (link at the bottom of this page) and picked up their paint color deck--they also have the low VOC paint (of course!). There are soooo many more colors to choose from there, and the prices are comparable to the Home Depot Fresh Aire paint. They're closed tomorrow, so hopefully I can decide on the accent colors today and go pick them up. Here's a picture of the green that we painted the purple and white shelves:

Friday, June 6, 2008

I knew this wouldn't be easy. . .

. . . and I was right! Nothing has gone wrong, per se, but as we are painting and cleaning up and stuff, the goods are being delivered. I've gotten the two biggest, heaviest orders in (Melissa and Doug wooden toys--18 boxes & Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products--6 50+ pound boxes), and the storage room is full already! This will just make me work faster and harder at getting the shelves and walls painted so I have a place to put stuff! Here's that "before" picture of one of the shelves we picked up on Monday:

My friend Lisa and her daughter, Paloma, came over yesterday to help me paint. We got one of the shelves almost done, and the other two are prepped and ready to paint. It's a little hard to be productive with a three year old around, but she kept us entertained, and she helped us "paint" stuff (like the shop vac) with her own bucket of water and a brush. Lisa has done a lot of professional painting jobs, so it was good to have someone with more knowledge about surface prepping to work with.

I got the low VOC paint, and man, is it great! There is absolutely no smell. It covers well, and dries fast, too! The paint lady at Home Depot was so excited that I bought it, and lots of customers were there and got the speech about how great it is. Hopefully they considered it for their own use! They color it by putting a little baggie of pigment into the can, bag and all, and putting it on the paint shaker/mixer thing. The bag dissolves, and the paint comes out perfectly smooth--you know I was looking for that baggie when I was stirring it!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Coming along nicely. . .

Here's Jon (the hubby) trying to remove the writing from the front window

I feel like this is going really slowly. I just started. It's only been three days. There has been a lot of cleaning going on. I never realized how much hidden hair there is in a hair salon (and in the strangest places)! I am actually making a lot of headway. We picked up those shelves on Monday night. Nobody got hurt (unless you count sore muscles!). They are ginormous!! 6' wide, 7' tall and about a foot and a half deep. They barely cleared the door of the 15' truck we rented. I'll post some "before" pictures of them soon. Right now they're lavender and white. That's all about to change. Thank you to Mark Mosher for coming to the storefront to help us get them off the truck! It took four of us to get them in (thank goodness that there was another customer at that closed store picking up stuff!)

I just realized that I haven't posted about my angel(a)! Through a long string of serendipitous events, I have been blessed with a real retail expert (a former Nordstrom merchandiser named Angela). My friend Laurie in Tacoma sold her something on etsy, and she was from Berwyn (but she used to live in Seattle). So Laurie mentioned to her that she has a friend (me) in Berwyn. Angela said I could call her, so I did, because Laurie's stuff is super cute and unique and so I figured Angela was probably pretty cool. Boy, is she! She is totally helping me figure out a color scheme for the store, and she's been surfing the world wide web finding great display ideas. She's a stay at home mom with a newborn, Oscar, and a four year old genius in the making, Arden. They all came to the store today in the rain and got me so excited about colors for the interior and exterior! We're narrowing it down, and trying to brainstorm about the unfortunate shingles around the top of the walls. The landlord doesn't want me to paint or remove them. She's been so helpful! I have a feeling that this will be a friendship that lasts much longer than this project.

There have actually been a lot of VERY helpful people along the way so far. All the other merchants in the area have been awesome. Tom from the ice cream shop came over to see the place today. He and his partner, Jose, are leading the Depot District Merchants Association and doing a swell job of it. I'm so glad I joined up with that group before I got started. They're all full of helpful advice and moral support.

I also met the mailman Bob and the UPS man Scott (see, if I write their names here, I can come back and refresh my memory if I need to). They are both really nice. We'll see how nice Scott is in a couple of weeks when all the products come in. . .

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Keys are in hand (purse, actually)!

Today we went and got the keys to the store, paid the deposit and the June rent, and started working on the place. Tomorrow I'll put my temporary sign in the window--Coming Soon! First I have to get the rest of the paint off the window. Jon got most of it scraped off, but there's a bit of a residue still on there. I'm sure I'll have to use some kind of a toxic chemical to get it off, and that sucks on so many levels. The phone gets hooked up tomorrow, and I have to rent a truck and go pick up some huge display shelving and my cash register from the store that's closing in Palos Park tomorrow night. Then the real work begins!