Ok let’s just get right into it. I was trying to think of some poetic way to start this post, some nice little lead-in. I once read that you should always sandwich bad news with 2 pieces of good news, which always makes me think of Oreos and then I’m like “Ohhh Oreos…” but I never have any Oreos and there’s no good news to come before and after the bad news that you have no Oreos and the whole thing starts all over again. Damn.
In his book “Growing a Business” (out of print) Paul Hawken says starting a business is rarely the end of the story. It’s the beginning. He specifically says a grand opening of something like a store is not even the end. It’s the end of laying floors and stocking the shelves but let me tell you, opening Calliope Paperie was NOT the end my business story.
From that first Saturday in June, it was the beginning of constant worrying if I had made a mistake, even if I have a good day. It was the beginning of being on some level of panic at all times. It was the beginning of long days ALONE. This is something I didn’t count on or prepare for and I want to pay special attention to this for anyone out there wanting to know what it is REALLY like to open a business. Many of my brands are run by people who either work alone or with their special friend and sometimes they work from a studio but oftentimes it’s home. They’ll tell you how easy it can be to bum around and they have to self-motivate to get anything done, and that it can be lonely.
Not to diminish that at all, but I feel like being alone at HOME offers a little bit of comfort, where I am alone in a 400 sq ft store, standing in ONE PLACE. ALL DAY. There’s nowhere else in the store for me to be except behind the counter. Once, I tried sitting in the window with a book and then people came in and I felt really weird so I didn’t do that again. I can’t go out and get coffee, for fucks sake I can’t even go number 2! I have to lock the door and hope no one wanted to come in for that 5 minutes the door is shut! The other day, I was in here by myself for almost 6 hours straight. No one came in until about 3:30. Brutal, y’all. Coming from an introvert, “SOMEONE COME IN HERE AND TALK TO ME!!!” is a bad sign. Not only is it a suckfest to be by yourself that long, it’s a perfect time for your brain to be a giant asshole and remind you no one in the store means NO ONE SHOPPING and you’re making ZERO money.
So there’s that.
There’s other things that are kind of shitty but they don’t really hold a candle to the whole alone thing. Because I did not expect it. Or maybe I did a bit, but thought it would be NBD and I will just fuck around on Pinterest. That gets old fast, folks. You know what never gets old, though? People telling me my store is “just what Natick needs.” I NEVER get tired of people laughing at the cards I carry. NEVER. Someone was just here dying laughing, snorting and all, at every card she picked up and said, “I need to bring all my friends here and if they don’t like it, we’re not friends anymore.”
In just 3 months I have regulars. I forget their names but I always know their face and know I SHOULD know them. And I’m getting better at it! I have dudes coming in and buying funny cards for their wives. One time, a guy came in and bought a card with a shark that said “Our love needs a bigger boat”and said it was perfect because they were on their way to the Cape. Sick! I love it! When people come from an hour away just to see me or just pop in to have a chat, or see what I have that’s new, or come in and gush how cute the store is. These are the things that reassure me. And I am fully aware that it has only been a couple months and I need to have patience. I also need to have rent and food so.
There is a part of me that did think all I had to do was put the store here and unlock the door and I’d be flooded. If I built it, they would come. And they did. Just slowly. Slower than I thought or hoped for. I just need to ride it out and do everything I can to get people in here. If in some horrifying turn of events I have to close, that I don’t make it, make no mistake, I will be crushed beyond anything you can imagine. But. I will only be able to take comfort in knowing I did everything I could to make the store a success. So that’s what I’m doing.
In the coming months, I’ll be having some of my favorite local artists and makers in the store selling everything from jewelry to marshmallows so you can get your holiday shopping done locally and give truly unique and wonderful gifts. I plan to have a Valentine’s Day shopping night for dudes (with beer!), and in the Spring, there will be a calligraphy class! I have some big things planned for Calliope, but first I have to make it that far.
If you’re local, please and thank you come and visit and shop. Please support me so I can stay. If not, find your own local card store and go THERE instead of CVS or Target or Walgreens because I guarantee you, they are feeling or have felt the same things I am.
“What if no one comes in today?”
“What if no one comes in tomorrow?”
“Why did I even think I could do this?”
“What if I fail?”
Support your local businesses, friends. Opening was an act of bravery but staying open, and doing what you have to do to stay open, is borderline madness.
See you at the 6 month mark!