28 August 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: You know what these are, right?

A: That's right. Hydrangeas! Gorgeous, soft spring green hydrangeas, past their prime, an awfully nice gift just destined for another ingenious display idea by Debbie. An awfully nice customer gave them to us today after cutting them off her prodigious bushes. Wow! We have four whole bundles of the many-flowered branches currently drying out in the store. I have two of them wedged upside down into the rungs of our ladder:

And the other two are leaning up against a table in my office:

I can't wait to show these to Debbie when she returns to the shop today.

Speaking of questions and answers, I'm crafting a FAQs post to share our responses to the most common and/or interesting questions about the shop that we hear from customers and fans. Is there a question about THE BLISSFUL you've been always been itching to ask? Maybe something about our goods, our staff, our window displays, our trips to Market, or the boutique life in general? Now's your chance! Simply post your questions here as a comment. Please note that we won't be publishing the comments {unless they're not question-specific}, so don't worry if you don't see yours appear; we'll simply read with interest and pull the best into our upcoming FAQ post. Thanks in advance and the FAQ desk is now OPEN!


25 August 2009

In Loving Memory

In loving memory of John Michael Ofer, who was a wonderful person with a shining spirit, and a great friend of the store. We are thankful for his life and for his friendship, and we will miss him.

14 August 2009

On A Beach Somewhere

This evening, I will be taking off for a beach somewhere for a week of much-needed R&R. I only do this once a year and it's difficult to tear myself away from the store, but my friends and family insist I need this. They would know.

The brick-and-mortar store and Online Boutique will remain open for business while I'm away. A special note for our online customers: all online orders placed between today {Friday, August 14th} and Wednesday, August 19th at 2 PM EST will ship the afternoon of Wednesday, August 19th. Online orders placed after 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19th will ship the afternoon of Monday, August 24th. We regret that we cannot accommodate expedited shipping requests this week or requests for items pictured on our blog but not featured in our Online Boutique. We'll resume all shipping operations as usual on Monday the 24th. Thanks for your understanding.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Book Giveaway Winners

The results are in. . .

Congrats to the two winners of our Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway Contest...

Comment No. 24, Yaya! and...

Comment No. 15, Alisa Logue! FYI, my own comments on the entry post were taken out of the running.

Alisa, I will e-mail you today and get your mailing address.

Yaya, I can't find contact info for you on your profile. Please e-mail me at info@theblissful.com ASAP with your mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer our one-question questionnaire and enter the giveaway. I appreciate the fact that you read my blog and am delighted when you participate in it.


13 August 2009

Book Giveaway Deadline Tonight

Tonight's the night! Get your entry in by 10 PM EST this evening on this post {not this post, the link that's bolded and enlarged} and remember that this deadline is an extension of the original one, so that's why the date you see in the original entry post has already passed. Make sure to read the post and answer the one-question questionnaire to cast your entry ballot. To compensate for the extended deadline, we're choosing TWO winners. Hope you will participate and if you're not already, maybe you'll soon be Blogging for Bliss, too!

10 August 2009

Chicago Mart

I'm at Market in Chicago this week. Just a quick trip, as it's a small, niche-y show. Apparel, fashion accessories, handbags, jewelry. I came to see what the vendors are doing for Fall/Holiday '09 and Resort '10. {Still can't get used to saying '10. The last time people could say that of the current year, photography still happened under a little black sheet attached to the end of the camera. I think.}

Every time I drive to Chicago, I wonder why I don't do it more often. Just a six and a half hour trip from my hometown, it goes by quickly...

Dashboard confessions.

and doesn't get hairy until you get right into the city.

Don't worry. The lane of traffic I was sitting in was at a complete standstill when I took this photo.

Some of you will remember my love affair with Chicago. Since by popular demand we seem to be always adding more apparel, personal accessories, and jewelry, now I have another reason to come here:

Stylemax is a small-ish but truly on-trend order-writing circuit for the trade, all on one floor of this gigantesque building:

The Merchandise Mart was the world's biggest office building before the Pentagon was built. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Certain floors of the Merchandise Mart itself are open to the public and feature design-forward showrooms {gaspworthy kitchens, etc.}.

View of the Mart in daylight. That's it on the left with the million windows. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

A little closer up. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

I shopped the show for four hours yesterday, then came back my hotel and ordered room service:

Beautiful Caprese Salad. I've been craving Buffalo Mozzarella {I like to say it "Boof-alo," like Giada does} for weeks and was so glad to see this on the menu.

But back to the show.
An apparel show is decidedly different from a home and gift show. I was relieved to at one point step into a booth where I didn't feel underdressed in my burnout tee shirt {slubs and striations and all}, vintage wash jeans, and flip flops. And I told the similarly tee shirted reps so! I have to remember that I dress to reflect my store's aesthetic {casual with special, bohemian, luxe touches} and my own style, and that does not mean black slacks, a ruffly blouse, and kitten heels! Apparel buyers just have a different vibe to them than gift show buyers. At one point today, I actually overheard a woman say, "That is SO yum-yum." I also found it interesting how buyers {other retailers} would sit down in chairs in the middle of the booth space and the reps would pull looks for them and hang them up on racks, like a mini fashion show in the middle of the Mart. Then the buyers, with legs crossed and pen touching their chin, would go down the line and say, "Uh-huh. No. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. NO, NO, NO." One rep also surprised me by saying, "Let me know if you want me to throw anything on." Oh. Some of them will model, too.

I also learned a new industry word and it applies to how I buy apparel for THE BLISSFUL: "item-y." I heard it five times before I asked one rep about it. "Item-y." Refers to garments that do not need to be sold or merchandised as a collection. Think un-matchy stores like Anthropologie who show various designers together instead of stores that sell collections that must be shown together to make sense. {Putting your own outfit together vs. buying a total look off the rack.} Item-y means each piece can stand alone as its own little statement and is great for stores like mine who don't sell apparel collections. {In my store, you're likely to find knitted capes or PJs mixed in with candles, Moroccan wine glasses, and little notebooks.} I like the word so much I'm going to start using it. Item-y.

I feel a little guilty that I'm not out there enjoying the city today {in 95 degree heat}. Chicago has so much to offer in the way of boutique shopping, food, and entertainment, not to mention taking in the amazing architecture everywhere. Some of my retail mentors-from-afar are located here. But I don't think I'll be making it into their stores this week. There's too much to see at this show and my time here is brief.

View from my hotel room window.

Right now, I'm going to make a cup of coffee and read through my notes from yesterday, crossing out anything that doesn't wow me in retrospect. Today the order writing begins.

Oh, one quick thing: our Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway entry deadline is approaching. You still have until 10 PM on Thursday the 13th to enter. Click here to enter.


05 August 2009

Book Giveaway Deadline Extension

Hey, guess what? We're extending the deadline of our Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway another week. What? You haven't entered yet? Click here to do so now. This is a wonderful guide for the new and aspiring blogger as well as for the intermediate blogger who wants to learn a few new tricks {this blogger included}. The new entry deadline is 10 PM EST on Thursday, August 13th. Why the extra week? Truthfully, it's because I'm a bit behind schedule on sending out my latest customer e-mail and I'd like my local customers to be able to get in on this. By the way, if you'd like to join our e-mail list, simply send a blank message to info@theblissful.com with the word Subscribe in the subject line.

In compensation for the heightened competition {more time=more entries}, we're going to give away not one but TWO copies of the book. No duplicate entries, please. The winners will be chosen by random number generator and will be notified by e-mail. Bonne chance!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

04 August 2009

I Blog for Bliss

Thanks to Kari from Artsy Mama for inviting me to participate in today's Blogging for Bliss Book Release Party. Click here to be transported to Kari's blog, where down the righthand sidebar you'll find a list of other bloggers who are "partying" on their blogs today. This is all in celebration not only of Tara's new book, but of the blogging way of life.

Kari said, "Write a post about what blogging for bliss means to you." Tall order. Blogging has changed my life--and changed me--in so many ways that I wasn't sure where to begin. So I decided to do a Top 5 list: my top 5 favorite blog posts here on Lettres from THE BLISSFUL since its inception back on 20 December 2006. This was NOT easy, let me tell you. As I clicked back through two and a half years of photo-filled posts, I grew pretty nostalgic. The shop has come a long way since our beginnings--and so have my photography skills! I started jotting down the post titles and dates of my favorite posts and quickly had a list of 16! There were so many posts with glorious, sun-dappled photos and fetching commentary, but ultimately the posts that resonated most deeply with me were the ones that were a little quieter and a lot more personal.

So here they are, beginning with...

No. 5 "Bonjour! (and How We Came To Be)"...20 December 2006
This is the first blog post I ever wrote. All I can say is WOW! Little did I know where my new blogging life would lead me. Notice that this post is even on a different URL {our original blog digs}. It looks so funny to me to see my posts couched in this old Blogger template.

No. 4 "On Faith and Fearlessness, Parts I and II"...21 and 24 February 2007
I was surprised to rediscover these posts I'd written on entrepreneurship and going for your dream. While the heart of these posts would probably be much the same were I to write them now, I definitely would have a whole lot more wisdom to impart in the practical and financial sense! Also notice on Part I our old store sign. We were The Blissful Home back then.

No. 3 "I Love Chi-Town"...18 April 2007
It's not so much the writing or the photos in this post that I love but what it represents to me. This chronicles a trip I took to Chicago with my girlfriends Lindsay and Kate.

Linds and I at a great Mexican restaurant in Chicago. April 2007.

We met up with our friend Laura there, who had just given birth to her second child. On this trip, I stumbled into a great little shop in Wicker Park with the most amazing blue walls called Tatine. While the shop's doors are now closed, the owner has an amazing candle line which we stock at THE BLISSFUL. {Anthropologie likes it, too.} Two and a half years later, that candlemaker {Margo Breznik} is a dear friend of mine and one of the people who inspires me to keep pursuing my entrepreneurial dreams every day. What a great trip it was.

No. 2 "Café Love"...18 February 2008
It's the first two paragraphs of this post that get me: the longing for my life pre-boutique ownership {it's okay to do that every once in a while, right?}. As an English teacher with a satchel full of essays to grade and an aspiring poet and fiction writer, I lived out many solitary hours each week in cafés throughout the Columbus, Ohio area. I still get wistful for those days.

Photo above courtesy of Flickr.

And finally, my very favorite post of all. . .

No. 1 "Shopkeeping in the Vernacular"...21 October 2007
For me, this post marries my twin loves: my shop and my writing. The "vernacular" is the local language that real people commonly speak. In other words, it's not necessarily the "King's English." In this post, I compared THE BLISSFUL's retail point of view to the "language of the people." There's never been anything hoity-toity or exclusive about us and there never will be.

Thanks for taking this little jaunt with me. To all the bloggers out there, may this next year bring you great new discoveries about your life and about yourself from post to post. And to all the new and aspiring bloggers out there, do it from your heart as only YOU can do.

There are still TWO DAYS LEFT to enter our Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway. Simply visit this post and answer the one-question questionnaire. Post your answer there {not here on this post} as a comment and you'll automatically be entered. Good luck to all!


01 August 2009

Our Literary Debut

Ready for the exciting announcement I mentioned yesterday? Okay. Here goes.

See this book cover?

This week is its official debut in bookstores nationwide. It's the story of one popular blogger, Tara Frey of typing out loud, along with snapshot stories of various artsy, crafts-y, and boutique-y bloggers from throughout the blogosphere. The book is chock full of ideas, how-to's, and strategies to get new bloggers started, as well as some very good ideas for intermediate bloggers who want to take their blogs to the next level. We find it quite helpful and inspiring.

And guess what else???

We're in the book!!!!!

The fair Tara contacted us several months ago requesting an interview and permission to use screen shots of our blog for inclusion in the book. We were thrilled but decided to keep this little secret under wraps. Until now! Get your copy of Blogging for Bliss here or here. And very soon, we'll be carrying the book in the store. Watch the blog, as well as our Facebook fan page and our Twitter, because as soon as we slit the box open on these babies, we'll let you know!

So many of our local customers who read Lettres come in asking questions about how I got started blogging and how they can start their own blog. Well, Tara's got everything you need to know to get started, plus interviews with inspiring bloggers and lots and lots of photographic eye candy, all between two covers. In my opinion, it's even a great beach read for those who just can't wait to move into the blogosphere.

Now for the fun parts:

No. 1 We're participating in a blog party hosted by Kari Ramstrom of Artsy Mama on Tuesday, August 4th. Please meet us here on Lettres from THE BLISSFUL on Tuesday the 4th as we celebrate blogging for bliss--both the lifestyle and the book! Also, Kari has kindly provided a list of other participating "blissful bloggers" {Tara's nickname for us} in the sidebar of her blog so that you can check out other parties throughout the blogosphere on Tuesday.

No. 2 We're hosting a Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway right here on Lettres and it begins NOW! One lucky winner will be chosen by random number generator to receive a complimentary, brand spankin' new copy of le book. How to enter our giveaway? I'll get to that part in a minute.

First, please humor me as I make a few private {now public} confessions:

First of all, while we are featured in the book, I surely don't consider myself or my blog to be the epitome of blogging glory. No way. I'm just a busy shop owner trying to find the time to get the oil in my car changed, much less blog in a way that touches people's lives. But writing is my first love and blogging here is always on my mind. I am thankful for every single person who stops by to read or check out our latest photos from the shop, and especially for those who take a moment to leave a comment letting me know you were here.

I have to confess: since my business has grown, I've hidden more and more behind the facade of it, to the point where I feel that my personality has almost been obscured on this blog. And yes, I guess I have to admit that it was intentional. The more photos of the store I could show and narrate, the less about me I had to show. I never wanted this blog to be about "Abby and her little shop." I wanted it to be about THE BLISSFUL--this store that has always felt bigger than me. I wanted the blog to be about my customers' experience of the store, like a peek through the shop windows, independent from me, its Proprietor. I felt that I had to take myself almost entirely out of the equation in order for people's experience of the store via the blog to be pure and natural. As humans, we judge everything we behold even without meaning to. I knew that people might be judging the store, but I didn't want them to be able to judge me. But in trying so hard to get out of readers' way, I feel that I've lost my way a bit. I miss the joy and freedom with which I used to blog here, on our old archives, before we rebranded and moved into these chocolate polka dotted blog digs back in 2007.

So I say all of the above to share this: that I'm taking back the blog. I'm returning to the kinds of personal posts that make me happy. I'm ready to open up again and share more of the heart of what makes this store what it is. And I hope you'll keep reading and enjoying all that is to come. It's always a scary prospect to reveal more of yourself, but I can honestly say that Tara's book is inspiring me to do just that, along with so many of the amazing bloggers that I enjoy reading every day.

In an effort to better connect with all of you reading, I'd like to tie a simple, one-question questionnaire into our Blogging for Bliss Book Giveaway. By responding to this questionnaire in the form of a Comment, you are automatically entering the giveaway to win a copy of Tara's first book. I say 'first' because I'm pretty sure this authoress has more books in her future! {Please be sure that your Blogger ID allows me to trace your e-mail address so that I can notify you if you're the winner.} Entry deadline is Thursday, August 6th at 10 PM EST.

To enter our giveaway, please leave a comment with your responses to this question:

Which of the following types of posts would MOST interest you here on Lettres from THE BLISSFUL? {Please rank your top 6 or fewer.}

a} posts showing new products in the store and in the Online Boutique
b} posts showing photo coverage of in-store events {Trunk Shows, Holiday Open House, etc.} and seasonal debuts
c} posts discussing behind the scenes goings-on of the shop and what it's really like to own a boutique
d} posts offering advice/tips/encouragement for aspiring shop owners
e} posts offering advice/tips/encouragement to artists desiring to sell their work to boutiques
f} posts offering design ideas/advice
g} "Dear Abby" style posts answering readers' questions on a variety of topics
h} interviews with other bloggers/shop owners/designers/friends of the store/other specialists
i} posts delving into personal stuff and non-shop related observations on life, design, inspiration, etc.

I'm looking forward to reading your comments. Once again, the entry deadline is Thursday, August 6th at 10 PM and the winner will be chosen by random number generator. We'll contact her/him by e-mail shortly thereafter and announce it here on the blog.

Meanwhile, see you here on Tuesday the 4th for a blog party!