Saturday, December 28, 2013

All Wrapped Up...

Ahhhh...Christmas is over...specifically Christmas in retail is over (for at least another year).  This year definitely exceeded all expectations.  Honestly, over the summer, during market, C and I began to question how long we would keep the brick and mortar part of our business.  Sure, it's surviving, but it can be a hard life at times - I threw this crazy a** number out there, that if we made xyz in December I would keep going.  We did it.  I don't know if I should laugh or cry (probably just hire an employee finally).

All our best customers visited this year and lots of new ones but I think a few thought we wrapped like this.  "This isn't a bag, sir...this is so much more than a bag."

By Christmas Eve, C and I kind of felt like this.  Especially, when this guy came to the counter to purchase a knitted hat for his expectant baby.  His nearly 9 month pregnant wife that nudged him to get it, looked on, while he complained about the price and how long would the baby actually wear it!?  It took all my strength to remind him he was not about to pass 8 to 10 pounds through his vagina.

One of the best moments though (I know, I reviewed our top five this year) but coming up from behind this gem.  For the last week or so, we had been telling every customer we will be open until Christmas Eve.  One girl, stared blankly at us for a moment and then says, "you're closing after that?  I just found you guys?!"  Um no.  So then we had to add a disclaimer "and reopening on December 27th."

So that's it (I mean not it...we're still here).  I was not able to get much online in regards to our Christmas and Winter Seasonal stock (nor an accurate inventory of what's online).  Now that it's a bit quieter, look for our remaining stock to pop up online with discounted prices! 

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Intentions

In a perfect world, I had anticipated having dozens of thoughtfully prepared handmade gifts done for family and friends completed months ago.  Also, I was sure to have the house spotless and the hallway and utility room freshly painted.  I'm in retail, so obviously that didn't happen.

Here and there, I've tried to steal away moments to keep my spirits up and enjoy the season in my own special way.  

I made these adorable cupcake ornaments from the Very Merry Advent E-book.  These were to be gifts for everyone, but I kept them for myself...gah, I'm terrible!
Enjoying my neighbors lights, sadly all they can see is my pink tree in the window.

Christmas cards were sent - a miracle!  I loved using the Cavallini Christmas Birds Set from the store.  For whatever reason they weren't big sellers and are now on sale - grab one for next year - they are just the bees knees!

Assembled a winter's bouquet of heritage camellias and mistletoe!  Right next to our harvest of Meyer lemons!
And lastly, a little Christmas shopping - well, at least the cats will be thrilled! 

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seen and Heard

This Christmas is nearly a wrap!  I'm actually so thankful - the store in Ponchatoula and online has been doing very well, but I'm ready for a break.  I know my house wants to be clean and my feet sure could use a rest...but alas, this is life in retail!

Every year for the last five Christmas seasons we hear & see the best things (well, maybe the worst...but they are the best to re-tell over a couple drinks)  So, pull up a cocktail and pray you never find yourself in retail at Christmas! 

Here are my top 5 from this season (and it's not even quite over!):
  1. barefoot and shirtless man with long matted hair staggers in looking for taper candles.
  2. "Hi, can I help you find any Christmas presents today?"..."No, I bought everything on Amazon"
  3. "You know where we should go - Cracker Barrel!"  jumps in car and peels out of parking lot.
  4. "all of these tiny beads are in this bag?"  proceeds to empty purse full of loose silica beads on floor in front of checkout counter with line of customers behind her.
  5. "Hey, look at that beautiful Nativity - your Aunt would love that!"  "Oh wait, one of the wise men is too dark."
--Lisa LeBlanc

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Downton Debut...

Last night we were able to return to Downton Abbey with thanks to our local PBS affiliate WYES New Orleans; they put on a free premiere of the first hour of Season Four.  Gah!  Included in the festivities was a lovely presentation by my friend,  Kerri of Vianne's Tea House in Mandeville.  She gave an informative talk on tea and how the English elevated it to an art form...seriously, I did not know there are right and left-handed tea cups, nor that there is a proper way to stir (12 o'clock to 6 and then clockwise).  And as a treat she brought fresh heart-shaped scones to nosh on and two brews of her custom teas!

It truly was a divine evening!  As soon as we walked into the large hall filled with what looked like to be the largest congregation of Cat Ladies, C said "these are your people," and so they were - nothing compares to watching Downton with a live audience, gasping and giggling as one.   No real spoilers other than Mrs. Patmore gets an electric mixer!  Drama ensues!!  I really like the direction all my favorite characters are going in and happily Edith seems to be coming into her own, now out of the shadow of her sisters.  I think it's going to be a wonderful season!

And if you're looking for my original Downton Cross Stitch Pattern to stitch as you work your way through the Season Four (or catching up on 1 thru 3), I've produced a few ready-made kits, plus the digital pattern is always available on Etsy or Craftsy.

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Lights Out...

Friday was our absolute last big store event, our Holiday Happy Hour, before Christmas.  We've had a a "Holiday Preview," "Open House," and Black Friday/Small Business Saturday events - most were a success - all have been exhausting to plan and execute.  But, this past Friday, was to be my favorite event.  We hold a fun holiday party with wonderful treats from my friend Marie of the Comfort Farm and booze (no wonder it's my favorite event).  In conjunction, our town, Ponchatoula, "turns on the lights" in a beautiful ceremony that begins with a large tree and then trickles out on to the streets and storefronts that stay open late.  Santa even comes - it's a big deal! 

This year, there was a bit of rain in the forecast; three hours prior to the ceremony the Mayor cancelled the event with no reschedule - no tree, no choir, no santa this year!  I can't tell you how disappointed our tiny main street was - some of my fellow vendors spend weeks creating magical window displays for the annual storefront contest, other shops and restaurants booked musicians, and like my event, a few shops had catering brought in to please their customers. 

Now, I know safety is paramount and no one was advocating for people to run around in a rain storm - but, this is Louisiana.  Just like Eskimos have a number of words for snow, so do we have for rain.  From mist to gator tears, we can handle a variety of weather conditions and are generally well prepared.  Amazingly though, not a drop fell that night.  Supposedly, "weather professionals" had been consulted in the decision making; however, when I consulted mine aka the Weather Channel - we were in the clear and it appeared we would stay that way for hours into the evening.

We continued on with our event (as a few other retailers did too) and for me, we had one of the best turnouts in our five years in business and this event. What a relief!  When we finally got to close up for the night, we passed some of our favorite shops to see if they were still rocking and only 3 were open with one couple strolling on the sidewalk.  A pretty dismal site this close to Christmas when you're in retail.  Hopefully, next year's annual request for merchants to donate funds to the Christmas Lighting will begin with an apology. 

***some pictures are from the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page

--Lisa LeBlanc

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Elf Mode

In retail, Christmas is like game on.

It's great to have the shop so busy, and for myself to be so busy that I'm working late into the night (just like my elfin friends to the north).  But honestly, it's becoming quite a blur!

I downloaded the adorable Very Merry Advent Guide from Heidi Kenney & Amanda Krueger to help me find time for myself and connect with Christmas in my own way (apart from trying my darnedest to make it happy for everyone coming thru the shop).  The concept is to create one activity a day thru Christmas based on 100's of suggestions; well, I knew I couldn't quite keep up with that with my schedule - but, I've completed a couple projects and it's been such fun.

First, you know, I had to attempt the cross stitch project - an elf!

Then, a major undertaking, decorating the house and tree.

Also, I found time to squeeze a little holiday thrifting (yes, it's on the Very Merry list!)  I scored a vintage Christmas star for 99 cents (I've been looking for one for some time now).  It didn't work but for a dollar, what the hay?!  I popped a new bulb in it and presto, it's like brand new! 

Also, not vintage, but darling just the same, this over-sized Cardinal cookie jar.  We love our Cardinal family this season at the feeder - so it's extra special!

Anywho, I highly recommend Very Merry; I saved $2 with a coupon code blogheidi  from Heidi's blog, My Paper Crane.  Give it a shot; it's not too late to get into the spirit of the season!

--Lisa LeBlanc

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