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June 15, 2015

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Clean Floors- Clear Mind

It's a new week, dear Auburn Lovelies- and I hope it will be a good one for you all!

The past month has been busy with fundraisers, photo shoots and a wonderful Vintage Clothing Show in Waterloo. It was fantastic to get out and meet some fellow store owners and all the amazing folks we have in this Region who love vintage! What a gift it was for all of us. Sometimes I feel like a Lone Wolf in the crazy world of owning a small business- and selling Vintage Clothing in particular. 

Which brings me to my main point: Clean Floors.

Has she finally gone off the deep end? Has spending too much time alone with articles from the past finally gotten to her? Have the 'voices from the past' taken over for good?

No!

As any new store owner knows, the tasks required to establish oneself is a list far longer than I wish to bore you with.  Needless to say, most tasks are anything but stylish or romantic. However, these jobs must be done- or your store will look like a pigsty and your accountant will fire you because you can't find the receipts to go along with the unending number of expenses.

For instance: One thing my Grandfather and Father taught me while I observed them in business was that you must always keep your floors clean. I distinctly remember watching my 97 year-old Grandfather wash and polish the floors of his business every week. When he talked about creating an atmosphere for a customer, for him, it was all about cleanliness and things being in 'apple pie order'.

It was this phrase I was reminded of the other day as I took the hour before I opened the store to wash my floors and clean the mirrors in the fitting rooms. It is a routine I cherish every day. To some, it is a mundane and tiresome task- but for me, it's another reason I love what I do. I take ownership of the space, giving it the love and respect it deserves. It is, after all, a beautiful space that I designed for my clients. It's the time to say a message of gratitude for the people who walk through the doors every day- and for the opportunity to do what I love.

Respect should be given to those who come through your doors. My family (who have all run businesses at one time or another) taught me this...and it has stuck. I love my space, and, yes, I say '"Good Morning" and "Good night, dear store" every day. (again...this is who I am, so you can love me or think I am silly)

In a time and space of unknowns for me, for many different reasons, I like to imagine myself in a Wonder Woman outfit, bravely tackling all the challenges that come her way, yielding her mop and bucket. In reality I am Carol Burnett pushing a mop across an empty stage waiting for the show to begin. Either way- there is nothing I'd rather be doing.

 

May 13, 2015

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"It's Not Personal. It's Business" and what I learned from 'You've Got Mail'

Just for the record- the first part of this blog's title makes me shutter. That is why I am writing about it- just to get it out in the open.

One of my favourite movies is 'You've Got Mail'- not because of the romantic relationship between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but because of Meg Ryan's character and business. Secretly, I always wanted to be the 'Shoppe Around the Corner' bookstore; a place where people would go and their lives would change for the better because it nurtured them.

I am a nurturer. Everything I do is with my heart and soul- and that philosophy, in business, simply does not always work. I am constantly shocked by the lack of integrity shown in business dealings and 'cut-throat' manoeuvres to succeed over someone else.

For instance, in 'You've Got Mail', Tom Hanks's cut-throat, high-powered mega-book store takes out the small, quaint, family-run business that was passed down to Meg Ryan's character from her mother. Yet, despite putting her out of business- she falls in love with him. Granted she didn't know it was him throughout most of the movie- but she does become friends with the 'bad guy' who essentially leaves her jobless.

This fact has me wondering about many things: One: Why do I love this movie so much? Two: Why does the 'bad guy' win in business? Three: Why is a business being personal such a bad thing anyway?

The answer to question one is that I love the twinkly lights in the window of her shop, her 'reading time' with the children in her store and the fact that she admits to 'twirling' with her mother. How could I not absolutely love this character?

The answer to number two is that, in the case of the movie at least, they both win in love- and that's what matters for the movie to end and audiences to sigh 'awwwww.' In real life- it is just a fact: The one with the biggest bank account usually wins, leaving the underdog to carry on making pretty displays in the windows of the big stores that put them out of business (they're dreamers anyway). Perhaps this is a cynical outlook-but it's the truth.

The answer to number three is this: When things become personal, it's easy to become emotionally charged when making decisions that cannot be made rationally in that state. I get it. I really do. My point is that the beginning of most things, at least in my case, is a personal passion. If the desire to start a little children's book store (or, in my case, a Vintage Clothing Store) is purely money-driven, I think the desire to get up for work each day would end pretty quick.

The Vintage Clothing business is a passion for me, and would have to be. It is endless hours of work sourcing, cleaning, mending and steaming to make sure the pieces are in perfect shape for my customers. It's constantly wondering and worrying over numbers and reputation etc, etc....but I do it because I love it.

I have written before about the clothing and how it all has a story- and that in itself is what makes it personal for me. My amazing customers who come in all the time and email me and the new clients who come in to 'see what vintage is all about' is what drives me every day. So- it is personal- very much so- and for that, I won't apologize.

Secretly, I always wondered how 'You've Got Mail' would have carried out after the cameras stopped rolling. Perhaps she dumped him, opened her own shop again in a place that suited her dream and was a success because she lived out her passion. I really hope so. Life is too short.
April 16, 2015

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Spring and 'Average' or 'Beautiful'

Happy Spring!

Spring is in the air here at Auburn! It's just so lovely to hear the birds singing and see the grass getting greener by the minute.

With Spring comes a wonderful influx of people looking for new 'duds' for the warmer months. One of the many fantastic things about vintage clothing is the variety of styles for spring and summer. Classic skirts, day dresses, colourful pant suits and, of course, white linen suits!

I am so excited by the magic created when a young lady dons a classic 1950's prom dress and it fits perfectly. Add the crinoline (because, why not?)- and her face lights up. It's then that I know she has found the perfect piece for her special day. THIS is why I love what I do.

We recently had our second fashion show here at the store. It was so much fun to see the models show their favourite pieces from the store. As soon as they put the outfits on, they come alive! The attendees had a super time watching timeless beauties waltz by. I think they really felt encouraged to mix vintage in with their every day wardrobes. It's not as difficult as we think. 

Wearing vintage clothing gives the wearer an instant 'atmosphere'- and it's truly beautiful. Women look younger in colour...trust me. 

Recently I watched a Dove commercial that showed women faced with the challenge of entering buildings through doors marked 'Average' or 'Beautiful.' The moment of hesitation and inner turmoil was evident in almost every single woman across the globe (one woman shook her head and promptly decided not to enter the building at all). 

A few things came to me while watching:

My first thought was, of course, what would I have done ? (I have a sneaky suspicion I would have been right behind the woman who walked away- sad-but true- I have a long way to go too!) A woman literally dragged her teenaged daughter through the 'Beautiful' path and a group of women linked arms and faced 'Beautiful' together as well.

Not many chose beautiful on their own.

Why is that?

My guess is that we are inclined to think that feeling beautiful is vain or 'full of' oneself. I think we are wrong. Feeling beautiful is confidence in our own skin. The really cool thing is that confidence in ourself breeds confidence in others. And so the cycle of Beauty begins. 

Another thought came to me: What if there was only a 'Beautiful' door? Would women have turned away completely, or bravely marched through? Would they have desperately searched for any door without a marked entrance?

Why, oh why are we so quick to help others see their own beauty  and yet turn inside out when we are faced with 'Beautiful' or 'Average'? I say- get rid of the 'Average' altogether!

I implore you all to mentally place the 'Beautiful' sign across each and every door you enter through. Do it with confidence and courage- and soon you will believe it. 

March 18, 2015

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On a Personal Note

Hello again,

I have spent the last few weeks sorting, steaming, mending and merchandising lovely gowns and dresses for the spring/summer season. I even had the experience of my first Vintage Clothing Show in Toronto. All I can say is: Wow!

As a lover of all things vintage for many years, I never made the pilgrimage to a Vintage Clothing Show- and am sorry I did not. Aisles and aisles of people just-like-me- people who have dedicated their lives to finding that perfect item and celebrating it. Perhaps I am romanticizing it, but that is how I felt as I wandered the many booths offering precious finds from all over.

Not only did I appreciate the merchandise. I had solid, meaningful conversations with many of the people selling: A Real Estate agent who just sold for fun, a young man who looked more like a funky musician than a seller and a lady who enjoyed the 'thrill of the hunt.' Such amazing personal stories that led us all to the same place.

There was a definite buzz in the air, as people searched for everything from a smoking jacket to that perfect wedding dress. We were all on a mission. Truth be told, I spent just as much time 'people watching' as I did buying. Such incredible styles and individual tastes- completely inspiring and exhilarating! 

Since the show, I have really thought about the personal aspect of wearing a vintage piece. Not only do we have to take it out of the store and incorporate it into our own wardrobes- but it's almost as though we have given that item a chance of 'living' again. I know I am personifying the clothes-but I have been privileged to know where some of the clothes came from and who wore them. Most of the clothing in this store comes from an era where people did not discard their things as readily as we do now- the dress you buy here today may have been the only 'fancy' dress in a lady's closet. It would have held a significance to her, as she would only have worn that dress to special occasions. 

I have tried on certain hats that carry such charm and elegance, it's almost as though they are saying to me, "Be careful. I am very fragile and need respect." I am not kidding.

In a time where we easily discard so much, I think iit might be time to slow down and appreciate things- perhaps if we stopped for even a moment, we would open our eyes and appreciate everything around us. Amazing conversation and relationships can be built when just sharing a story about a particular item in the store. We remember these conversations, as that is where history is shared and brings community together.

This is a very personal venture for me- I hope you'll enjoy hearing more as time goes by.

 

February 26, 2015

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Letting Go

Letting go is one of the hardest things to do. Whether it's getting over a particularly hard time in one's life, to throwing out that last 'piece' of your child's favourite blanket after 50 years...it's not easy.

I have found that as a vintage store owner, I have formed very special relationships with each piece I buy. By the time an item has left the store, it has been well-loved and 'accepted' into the collection. And-yes- I have my favourites...how could I not?

For instance-for many weeks, I have stared longingly at the best pair of red shoes-ever- and I mean-ever. When I first acquired them, I tried desperately to cram my size 8.5 sized feet into them. There was no way they were going to fit. I sighed, moved on, yet still continued to hope that somehow overnight my feet would shrink. I now know how the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella felt- and I somehow feel a bit sorry for them- despite their ugly souls. Their soles weren't too great either apparently.

This past weekend, a lovely customer came into the store and, like me, loved the shoes right away. I encouraged her to try them on (silently a bit afraid they would fit). She slid them on to her gorgeous size 7-7.5 feet and they fit perfectly. She loved them straight-away. How could she not?

She bought them, and I was very happy they were going to recieve the love I knew she would give them. Was there a wee tinge of sadness in my heart? Yes. Will I get over it? Yes. There is that perfect pair of red shoes for me out there. I just haven't found them yet.

Another piece I have loved dearly is an amazing black velvet gown with chiffon ruffles at the neckline and down the bodice. Truly Audrey. I purchased this piece about 7 years ago, and for 7 years have not worn it. It held a place of honour in my closet with some of my most precious pieces. 

The other day an amazing client called to ask if I had a dress with the characteristics that matched those of the dress. It was for her daughter. I have never met her daughter, but thought instantly about the lovely velvet in my closet. It was time for me to let it go. There was still a chance it wouldn't fit- perhaps it could sit for another 7 years in its place of honour doing absolutely nothing in my closet.

Well- the day came, and my client's daughter arrived at the store. I had steamed and mended the gown, and it sat regally in a place of honour for all to see. She walked in, tried the dress on- and I just knew she was the rightful owner of the dress. It was magic! Just like the red shoes, the dress was made for her.

I will never see the velvet dress again- but I am completely at peace with that. Many, many more pieces that 'speak' to me will come and go. I have learned to let go. They have a story to continue- and so do I.

February 11, 2015

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The Stories Continue- A Letter in the Pocket

Happy Wednesday everyone!

It is almost mid-way through February already- and I can't believe how the time flies!

One of the reasons I decided to sell vintage was because of the stories that come from the pieces I find. One's imagination can soar when you hold a lovely 1950's suit or tuxedo from the 1920's in your hand.

In a day and age where 'Downton Abbey' is all the rage, where ladies dressed for dinner in their finest and gentlemen wore specific jackets for the occasion, we find ourselves drifting back to that era. Of course, many of the pieces we see on televison and in movies are reproductions, but we can't help but drool over the beadwork, jewelry and exquisite fabric in all its splendour as it sparkles in the candlelight.

I have a tuxedo here at the store that has a letter in its breast pocket. I came across it when I was steaming the ensemble. The writer in me wanted to open it up and read the message. However, I hesitated and let it be. I think about that letter often and have yet to open it...perhaps a special occasion or when my curiosity gets the better of me.

The point is, these pieces have lived- I mean, really lived. Perhaps the gentleman who owned the tux was thwarted by his finacee on their wedding day. The letter is her refusal and note of apology. He was so distraught that he went into a life of mourning- never to wear the tuxedo again. 

Or- Perhaps it is a congratulatory letter upon the aquisition of the large corporation the gentleman had been waiting for. He had hastily put the letter into his pocket and ordered champagne for his colleagues. They toasted their success, and he was far too rich to ever wear the same tuxedo again.

The mind wonders.

What facinates me about the pieces that surround me each day is that they are waiting to go out into the world and be part of new stories. Many of them are conversation pieces in and of themselves...I have at least two wedding gowns that have never been worn, yet were made by-hand with love. What happened? We create stories and memories, giving the clothing a soul. I can only imagine who their next owners will be, what they'll do and what magic can come from the new relationship.

There is a whole store full of stories here. I encourage you to come listen. One may even speak to you...better yet, you may find a letter in its pocket.

 

February 02, 2015

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Love is in the Air

Hello dear Auburn Family,

Welcome February- with all its white winter splendour and crisp, cold days!

This is the time of year when the draggy days of January are behind us, and we can focus on this, the month of LOVE. Yes, folks, I am talking about cupid making an appearance in store windows everywhere you turn. Christmas seems like a long-ago memory, doesn't it?

Just last week I had customers in who were actively searching for wedding gowns and prom attire. As a new store owner, I recognized the excitement and anticipation of such events. It really is a great way to stay motivated when the weather is cold and relentless. What better way to spend some time than escaping for an hour or so to try on beautiful dresses and gowns? Mothers, daughters and friends could spend an entire afternoon trying on the magical pieces that were worn decades ago, yet remain timeless.

I now am pulling out all the dresses I sadly put away in storage before Christmas. I think it's time to let the chiffon, tulle and gauzy laces come forward to replace the heavy velvet gowns. Let's celebrate that Spring is just around the corner! 

There is a romance that goes along with vintage clothing and jewelry; one's mind wonders if their special 'find' was the dress the original owner was wearing when she said 'Yes' to the man of her dreams. There are many beautiful pieces at the store that I still get lost in, as I can imagine the bride who wore the gown with layers of soft chiffon and floated down the aisle on a beautiful spring day, blossoms from the cherry trees raining down on her as she went.....but I digress.

I invite you all to start thinking of Spring. Buy a hyacinth and drink in its lovely scent, change your screensaver to a photo of your favourite springtime memory, and if you really want to spend some time in another place, you are welcome to come try on some pieces that will allow you to escape and dream a little.