Monthly Archives: April 2011

APPLE ROCKS!

Monday night, as we got ready to close up the store, I managed to knock my bottle of diet coke over onto my computer keyboard. I never imagined how quickly a 16 oz bottle of soda can empty itself into the innards of a computer. My trusty MacBook made a ftz ftz sound and went to a purple screen. Awesome!

Yelling at Helen to bring paper towels, I turned it on its side to try to keep any more liquid from entering the system. Then the computer turned itself off, probably in despair. I couldn’t get it to turn back on again so, while I threw a mini tantrum, Helen made me an appointment with the genius bar at the Freehold NJ Apple store for the next day.

Helen and I decided that we just didn’t have money in the budget for a new computer so when I checked in and told my tale of woe, and the lady helping me got this sick look on her face, my heart sank. “Liquid damage” she said, “is never a good thing.” She had me wait by the genius bar for my name to be called. Luckily I brought a book with me because it took a good 45 minutes for them to get to my name, and I was 10 minutes early for my appointment. Lots of computers were in trouble that day!

It may have taken a while for my turn to come, but it took the technician no time at all to diagnose that syrup and coke managed to touch all the important parts of the computer. Extra work was needed. Luckily, I purchased AppleCare when I got the computer a year ago, but ‘liquid damage’ is not covered under the warranty. Not to worry, he assured me. Since I had never had any major work done on my computer, they would, for this one time, do it at no charge.

At this time, my computer is off at the Mac hospital, getting his insides cleaned out. Hopefully, he will be returned (delivered to my door) in a week with his memory intact. There is a chance he may need to be wiped but I have the Time Machine and it did a backup Sunday morning. And if worse comes to worse, and he is beyond saving (sob!), then Apple will replace him free of charge. I can not recommend the AppleCare strongly enough to anyone buying electronic equipment. I’m only surprised it took me a year to dump my coke. If I were betting on it happening, I would have put it within the first four months.

Mary Beth

Location, location, location! The old real estate adage is true – picking the right spot for your business can make or break it. We wanted a spot where there was heavy foot traffic. I sometimes see eye-cathing windows in stores as I go speeding past on a busy street, but by the time I hit the next traffic light, I’ve forgotten them and I never go back. I have found some great shops while walking around, but they’ve all been on street level. I don’t think to look to the second floor because I’m so used to buildings that have apartments on that level. This was our main concern with one of the stores in Fair Haven.

Store on the 2nd floor

Unlike the Bridal Shop,

Bridal Shop

which was just too big and had a huge blind spot for anyone working the register, the 2nd shop was a perfect size and an even more perfect rent. However, it is on the second floor of the building, with only one large window. We have tons of ideas for great window displays (Helen is yelling something about Mardi Gras and masks as I write) but would they be seen from the street if we’re on the second floor? Also, if you’re a mother walking through town with your child in a stroller, are you going to make the trek up the stairs, either toting your toddler or the stroller? As we were weighing the pros & cons – price vs the problems of being above street level, one of the first floor tenants snuck in and snagged our space! It was less than a week from the first time we saw the space, but “them’s the breaks!”

So, since we still had time, we moved on and broadened our scope of search area.

Helen and I had been unhappy at our jobs for sometime and adding to that the stress of running an online business which, when times are good is a full time job in and of itself,  life was not like a “box of chocolates” these past few months. During the summer, we seriously considered giving up Fragile Earth Stuffed Animals in an attempt to maintain our sanity and peace of mind.

During a lengthy car ride, we talked about what the future of the store should be. And we realized it was crazy to give up the part of our lives that we really enjoyed to spend 9 hours a day doing things we hated. So we started making plans to leave behind the security of the paying jobs. We made cuts to the household budget and put aside as much each month as we could, building a cushion to cover the bills for a few months.

We laughingly set the date of April 29, 2011 as the day by which we would be free of corporate life. (I remember watching the wedding of Princess Di & Prince Charles back in 1981 and I wanted to watch their son’s wedding so we chose that date.) However, Helen’s employer had other ideas. In February of this year, he let Helen know he would be letting her go because he couldn’t afford her salary. They agreed that she would work through the end of March, which meant I needed to let my employers know that I would be quitting around the middle of March, allowing two weeks notice. We had previously agreed that as long as we could get a store site chosen, we would leave our jobs on the same day.

Store #1

When we first discussed saving our money towards “that day”, the day was far in the future because we thought rent would be so expensive. Store #1  showed us that we actually could afford the rent, which amped the discussions A LOT! I was all set to leave my job right then and there but Helen, being the more rational of the partners,  realized we might want a little more in the coffers before we took the big step. That was in December.

So we looked carefully at this store through the windows, never making a call to see the inside because it wasn’t quite time yet, and started making lists. Pros and Cons about this storefront; what we would change; what our ideal store would look like.

On the Pro side, the rent was very affordable. On the Cons, the square footage of the store was a little too small for us and the location was not great. It is in a nice town, behind the race track, but it doesn’t get much foot traffic at all. There is a bank and a dentist and a convenience store in this little “professional plaza”, but people don’t walk by on a whim.  In the end, the Cons won out but we always had this store in the back of our mind as a last resort possibility.  I will always remember this store fondly as the one helped us understand it could all be more than just a pipe-dream.

THE STORE

On April 1, 2011, Helen and I left our reasonably well paying jobs and entered the world of self-employment. We had decided a few months earlier that the time was right to open a retail store and move our on-line business into the “real life” world. We looked at several sites, some better than others, which we will blog about later this week. The store we finally chose can be found at 9 Monmouth Street in Red Bank, NJ.

We started working full time at getting it ready on April 2, 2011. In eight short days, we went from this

to this

From this

to this

And from this

to this

Another two days to add a second coat of white paint and a little bit of color to the walls and we arrived at this …

Not to mention adding some cheerful fabric to cover the wall that looks like a blind person installed it …

Two weeks from the day we started, we opened our doors. And now, with a little bit of inventory thrown in, it looks like this ….

We could never have done this without the help of Robin DeGroot, our friendly designer. He took our ideas and polished them up for us, helping us turn it into a real store. We are deeply in his debt! And to think we met him on Twitter – I love Social Media!

Also, without the hard work of my parents, especially my mother, we would never have finished in the time we did.

So, please – stop by if you’re in the area and say hello. We’d love to meet you IRL!

Mary Beth