Saturday, September 19, 2009

Creep Chic


Stacy Downs is a great style editor and writer for the Kansas City Star. When she called to say they would like to feature Curious Sofa in a Halloween story I was thrilled. We went shopping for ideas and inspiration to help her readers get a jump on their fall decorating. The shot above was staged for the cover story outside the shop. Stacy wanted to recreate what we had done last year for her readers. Read the article here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nine Years Today


Happy Anniversary to Curious Sofa!
Nine years ago today I opened my little shop in downtown KC on Southwest Blvd. Then 4 and 1/2 years ago we moved to our current location in Prairie Village, KS. Knowing I have been at the new location as long as I was at the old one is a special moment for me.

What I have learned over the years as a retailer and especially as a small business owner could fill volumes. Never did I expect to live my store the way I have. I assume it is a lot like having children: the glory, the love, the tears, the experiences, the worry, the joy. Those moments when you wonder why you are doing this and the other times when it brings such satisfaction you have to pinch yourself.

I added up the other day that I have had 20 employees in nine years. Not bad compared to some businesses. A few lasted a week or so, another only four hours (no kidding!) but as many of you know I have been especially blessed with three ladies who lasted with me longer than most. First it was Nicole who was my right hand on the Boulevard. Then Heather who joined me just months before the move (and has been with me five years now!) and finally Abby who will hit her five year mark in January. They are the women who have watched my back, put up with my ideas and change of plans, covered for my moods and rallied and rallied some more to make the shop what it is today.

It is one thing to be known for magazine spreads, inspirational displays and unusual merchandise but when a stranger writes or stops you and says what an amazing staff you have, how helpful and pleasant they are- well, it puts a big lump in my throat. How can I ever thank them? They certainly do not make the money they deserve and sometimes they are downright tired of seeing the same merchandise to barter for. They do it because they are just good people. Dana and Jess included and many others I have had over the years who had to leave for one reason or another.

We have been through a lot inside my store. Illnesses, celebrations, tragedies, family issues, financial issues, personal trauma- you name it. Just like any family. This year has been a test for all of us with the current state of the union. All retail is struggling so I am not ashamed to admit we are among the millions who are as well. Knowing my staff could walk out any minute because they don't need this worry (but didn't) is beyond what I can write about here. I have no choice but to stick it out, Curious Sofa is my baby, but they could go on to another opportunity that is much less stressful (and have a happier boss no doubt!)- but they are still here. You have to know what that means to me. I owe them everything.

My customers are also amazing. A few fell off after the move across State Line but new and dedicated fans came on board with the current store. We get complimented, cheered and sincere concerns from our fan base and we are humbled by that. I think of you often. What do you want? How can I impress you? What can I show you you haven't seen before? What event can we plan? -Exhausting? Well yes, but that is retail and truthfully, that is me. I cannot sit still and offer you the same 'ol retail thing month after month. It has to have some WOW, some drama, some reason to keep you coming back. I live for the unexpected no matter how freakish. (as one comment said, "Sorry, that's just creepy..won't be stopping by."). I have learned to go with the flow. Comments like that would have tore me up five years ago (heck, one year ago) but now I have learned to be true to myself knowing some will get it and some will not. Already I know that next Halloween will be completely different just because it has to be.

So thank you for your interest in the store. Many of you do not live in KC and just visually browse but those of you who do come in and buy something. We cannot survive with just kudos. We need real support: verbally, physically and financially. Many of you who have been with us for nine years are doing all that. We are forever grateful for helping us get this far.

For now, we continue. Christmas is just weeks away and we are planing, planning, planning. And I have already got the Spring Fever of what to design for you next year.

All of us remember where we were September 11, 2001. As I stood in my living room, getting ready to leave to open the downtown shop, I watched the towers crumble. As I stood there stunned wondering if the world was going to end I said to myself, "What is left that I need to do? Oh yea, I have done it. I opened my store." That was my little dream that was stuck in the back of my head to accomplish some day. On that day, knowing I tried it was a rewarding feeling. I encourage you to try your dream out some day as the clock keeps ticking.

A toast! To my fabulous staff, my loyal customers and wonderful readers. Onward to the big 10. Thank you for everything. It has been quite a journey.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Halloween 2009

Our Fall Open House was a huge success with many happy customers. Here you will see what we have been up to this past week. Special thanks to my rockin' staff for their help and the artists who contributed to our success.

Above, the new awning I made for the opening. Black and tan striped fabric with fringe was gathered over a scrap wood base. Misc. clocks on the wall that we sell and old sign letters I have been collecting all year. The large crystal lamps were a last minute find with new shades.

The fire marshall was not too happy about the hay bales and cornstalks we used last year, so we kept the outside simple.

The beauty of Fall and Winter is the ability to decorate in many different themes for the season and my store is big enough to do just that. To the left of our entrance, Dana worked on this area I called the Harvest Room. Note the new grain sack chair and ottoman just in.

I love all the paper mache creations I discovered this year reminiscent of the antique originals.

And now the FREAK SHOW:
I've been gathering these crazy old dolls all summer specifically for this little presentation.

The canvas tent was also made to house all the unusual.

I added Fun House mirror film to a collection of gold frames.

I found great masks this year that we used all over the store. Here I tied them around glass shades on this chandelier.

Black glitter branches surrounded the interior of the tent; wax lips, gummy teeth and fangs in the rubber tire pots.

One of my favorite finds, this old hat with skull and crossbones. A fuzzy black rat sits on top.

This year I added a touch of Mardi Gras.

An old leprechaun pipe is full of mints in metal coffins.

A decrypted baby carriage full of skull votives.

Handmade objects from Wendy Addison.

Heather's twisted display in the boudoir area.

Tiny skull soaps.

Ugly Voo-Doo dolls.

It's always a wonderful thing when something you pictured in your head (for years now) finally comes to life. Jess worked on this below, one of my favorites.
It looks almost too good as customers do not realize it is all for sale.

Donnie helped us out again and I left this witch idea up to him.

My new favorite display piece is this rough hewn staircase. Perfect for our tarnished silver, Freak Show portraits and tiny tombstones.

Our Mexican Pumpkin candle was the best seller of the weekend (and Black Pepper and Honey Tobacco...) Some other odds and ends below.

BELOW THE ARTISTS who added so much to the event:
Dianne Ripper, vintage jewelry.

Greg Johnson, paper ephemera theatre boxes and other curious goods.

(Mother) Diane and (daughter) Madeline Tompkins
Original handcut silhouettes and caligraphy; letterpress prints.

Nicole Cawlfield, original photograph printed on antique tins; painted canvases.

Lesa Dailey, paper scrap figures.
Jess wrapped these for hours, another favorite: cheesecloth wrapped chandeliers look like ghosts blowing over the white bed. Giant spiders crawl up the back wall.
Another favorite find: skull and crossbone paper umbrellas hovering over the counter.

My right and left hand above, Heather, Dana and Abby. Where was Jessie?

And me, trying to blend in.