Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where We're At Now, Con't

Along with the childrens' books, we also offer a large selection of educational (and fun!) toys, games, puzzles and blocks. We proudly feature toys from Melissa & Doug and although their line of toys is mainly manufactured in China, their testing standards exceed those of any large toymaker. Their toys are tested 3 times....once after manufacture, once after being loaded on the transport ships and again after docking at their destination. The trouble we've been hearing about with tainted paint, etc., is that larger companies subcontract out the inspection jobs so it's more difficult to coordinate and control. Melissa & Doug performs their own inspections and testing so they can be assured that all their toys are safe. These are quality toys at a very reasonable price point. We also carry learning aids such as school workbooks by subject and flashcards.....we even have workbooks in Spanish and flashcards in Spanish and French. We also believe that raising children with integrity, manners and good citizenship is important, so you'll find things that will help with that, too. We have the cutest Good Habits chart that you can hang on a wall at home to keep record of how your child is progressing....we have Good Manners and Good Citizenship flashcards, too.

So enough about the kids' stuff and on to what lies in store for the Easter Holiday. Check out the pictures above.....come in and browse, share a cup of gourmet coffee or tea and have a sample of our wonderful chocolate, we'd love to see you!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Where We're At Now

After a very busy holiday season (thank you to all of our customers!), Scott and I and our staff have been continuing to make more improvements. Scott's been working on the electrical.....he's got the back room done and Rosalie can now see when she sorts the mail into the personal mail boxes....yay! Soon we'll have electrical outlets on the walls throughout the store, where before they were placed about 3/4 height up the walls. The new outlets will make things so much easier....we'll be able to plug in the vacuum and other light sources, like our new lamps from the Mary Carol Collection. We've beefed up our selection of children's books, too.....Michelle and I spent a day at Beyda for Books and brought home a great selection we think folks will like. We think that books are an important and powerful tool for children (all people, really) and that a well told story, whether truth or fiction, can provide inspiration and empowerment. In addition to our always popular younger childrens' educational, we are concentrating on finding helpful workbooks for older kids, too. Above are two pics of our Kids' Korner. More later.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Renovation Story, Part III

Throughout the fall season, we all worked on painting fixtures, such as the gondolas and pegboard, in addition to planning out the addition of home & office decor. New merchandise started rollling in from our orders from the July gift show....and what a mess it was! We were just barely able to get out the Halloween things, but were really too late for it to show well and the same thing happened to Thanksgiving. Formally taking ownership of the store on October 1st, we discovered we were too busy to do it all so fast. Keeping that in mind, and aware that Christmas was quickly approaching, we made a snap descision to have a "small" open house in mid-December. Nothing like an immediate deadline to crystallize plans, eh? We called on some neighbors, Miller-Hawkins Event Planning, to help and Inger Miller pulled it all together for us. Through their wonderful services, we contracted costumed carollers to circulate through the crowd and served samples from our new gourmet lines, including Wind and Willow dips and spread mixes. The best thing that resulted from our collaboration was meeting Doyle Borden, principal of My Flower Guy, to help me pull together our displays. He and his fellow designer buddy, Ali, did such a lovely job....you see their work in the banner photo and in the smaller photos, above. Talk about meeting the nicest, most talented designers....it was truly kismet that Inger pointed us in their direction. It's not often that you contract someone that mirrors your own design sensibilities on the first try and I'm forever grateful to Doyle and Ali for being so selfless. These guys stayed for one marathon afternoon/evening decorating spree.....they even opened merchandise boxes and tagged it before placing.....I owe them a heartfelt thank you. His website and My Space addy are found in our links and I can't recommend him highly enough.....just take a gander at our Christmas photos and you'll see just how talented he is. Miller-Hawkins is also listed and if you're in the greater L.A. area, these folks can help you plan a fantastic event when you don't have the time to do it yourself. Enjoy the pics and stay tuned for more later!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Renovation Story, Part II

Just prior to our buying WFS, in early summer '07, the Corporation started construction on the walls between the stores. Oh my, what a mess that was! As I've said, there was no communication to the public about what was going on, so it was up to us and the employees of the store to explain it all. I'd like to take this oppportunity to thank all our employees and the other stores' employees for going above and beyond their job descriptions by acting as information conduits to the public.....it's through their repeated explanations that our customers were informed of anything at all. These pictures show how the store looked during construction.....first the walls went up, then our office and some storage space for the shipping business was built where the pass through to the pharmacy was, then we had the place painted and rearranged the floor plan. More later!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

First of all, let me apologize for deleting the wordy post about what Webser's Fine Stationers carries. I uploaded a few pics that I realized were not rotated correctly.....couldn't fix it so I ended up scratching the whole enchilada. Then I realized that I was jumping the gun a bit. I ran across some pictures I'd taken three or four years ago of the entire Webster's shopping complex and a couple of them show how our store looked prior to our renovation. I thought, why not continue the thread of the prior posts, and show what we've done with our store and how, in our humble opinions, improved it.

The picture on the right, above, shows Sherrie, a former manager, on the stairway between the Hallmark store and our Stationery store.....note that the passways between the stores is what our customers miss the most. Funny, though, that quite a few folks complained repeatedly about those stairs when they were there.....how difficult they were to get down and why didn't we get a ramp? The Corporation did end up putting a lift in at the stairway between the Stationery store and the Pharmacy a couple years ago....it ended up being sold when the walls between the stores went up last summer. The first picture is the old cash-wrap station in its old position in the middle of the store. Customer service (gift wrap, gift cards, utility payments) and the Post Office were located to the far right of the cash-wrap....they've since been relocated to the Pharmacy. The third picture, on top, shows the old Customer Service station along with part of the Stationery aisles.
Since I haven't figured this whole posting thing yet, I'm going to end this here and continue on tomorrow with more pictures of the store during construction (yes, we remained open throughout it all), winding up with a third post on how it looks today. Hope you're all having a warm and wonderful Valentines Day!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Our Vision For WFS and a Lament About Insensitive Customers

Since Scott and I bought WFS last October, we've made some significant improvements, as I mentioned in my last post. Not all of the improvements involve remodeling - much has changed on the sales floor, too. While we are trying to retain the integrity of the original stationery/office product mix, we're in the process of winnowing out items that are not specific to our niche. We found that there was a slew of merchandise that truly belonged in a hardware store on our shelves, contributing to a messy, disjointed look. We firmly believe that to be successful, we must narrow our focus to fine stationery, gifts and office products, but that's no reason why the store should look so utilitarian. This is partly why we added home and office decor, and we're very excited about this addition!

Previously to taking over WFS I dabbled in decorating, renovating our home and helping friends with theirs. I discovered that I love decorating and design, so adding these elements to our store allows me an outlet for creativity, just as building and design allows Scott an outlet for his (he designed and helped build our new office and storage space). Together I believe we're an awesome team. We love that our new look is fresh, can change with the seasons and adds interest to the store. Customers seem excited by it, too....there's no excuse why your office, whether at home or elsewhere, has to look like an end-cap display at Staples. Now you have the option to personalize it a bit with things that are functional and good looking. We've brought in artwork....some original oil paintings, some prints and giclees, adorable wall and door signs, faux florals and much more. We'd love for you to keep checking in with us, as we're receiving new things for Spring now.

We had a rough moment the day before yesterday....why do some customers have to be so unfeeling and rude? As I wrote in the first post, we understand how our long-standing customers feel about the changes the entire store has made and we certainly sympathize with them about Webster's  lack of communication....but that doesn't give license to be hurtful. An older woman walked through our store, apparently not noticing that I was down on my hands and knees on the sales floor, moving merchandise from one gondola to another. As she got nearer, I could her her making denouncements about the changes, loudly exclaiming to all in her path how much she hated it. One of my associates, Leilana, asked her if she remembered what the "old store" looked like, trying to point out the many improvements we'd made. This "lady" harummped and tartly said that it looked messy and crowded now. At that point, I popped my head up and asked her if she was serious. I really wish I had a picture of the way our store looked before we started the renovation....it was dark, cramped and as I've said, had a mish-mash of products jumbled around. We're trying to streamline our look and raise the bar toward higher-end merchandise.  There's no way we can compete with stores like WalMart, Staples, Target and Costco so why try? At any rate, I'm sure this particular woman and the myriad of other customers who've made it extremely clear to us that they don't like change, haven't really thought about how their comments make us feel when we've worked SO hard to bring the store to where it is now. I realize that there's a long way to go before we're satisfied, but we've made excellent progress so far.....I really wish they'd understand that we're trying to make it nice for them, not just ourselves. We couldn't control what Webster's Corporation did or how they did it, but we can be more communicative with our customers by using this blog. Thank you for allowing me to rant.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Little History and an Explanation

We're so excited about this blog! I have so many friends who've created some awesome blogs in the past few months (I'll link them just as soon as I figure this all out) and I've felt seriously out of the loop due to my lack of one.....now we can join the cadre.

Let me give you some background on our store. Back in 1923, Scott's grandad founded Webster's, a pharmacy located on North Lake Ave. in beautiful Altadena, CA. Back then, Henry Ford used to test his cars in the street in front of the store, a trolley system brought people to the area and Market Basket's first store was across the street. There's a lot of history packed into this neighborhood....along with some gorgeous examples of architecture, residential and commercial. Grandad (Harold "Frank" Webster) passed away when my father-in-law, William Webster, was 19 and Bill ran it from then on, taking time out only for military service. Though the years, Bill expanded and the little pharmacy became a complex of interconnected stores.....the pharmacy, a liquor store, a stationery and office products store, a Hallmark Gold Crown, a video rental store, a scrapbooking store and a UPS/FedEx authorized shipping outlet all had a home here. The video store couldn't take the competition from on-line outfits such as NetFlix, so that's gone now. The scrapbooking store was moved into the Hallmark store and shipping moved down to the Stationery store.....all in preparation for Bill's retirement. To facilitate this, two of the stores were sold to family members.....Scott and I were lucky enough to be able and willing to buy the Stationery store this past October.

Taking on an existing store, let alone one with this much history attached to it, is a daunting task. Making changes when people are used to it being a certain way is also an uphill battle, as we learn daily. Our challenge was this: create a "new" look without seriously changing the product mix and bring in new items that freshen and uplift the store's image. Early on this past summer, before we took ownership, the two stores at the south end of the complex....the Stationery and Hallmark stores....were separated by new walls between them. No formal explanation was given to the store's customers and for that we're heartily sorry. In retrospect, had the store let people know what was going on, there wouldn't have been such a resistance to the changes. By this blog, I hope to rectify this lack of communication and let everyone know what lies in store (ha ha) for Webster's Fine Stationers. Check back with us soon as we continue our story......