Sunday, March 28, 2010

Revitalization Dreams

I've mentioned before that I've been attending the Business Builder's Bootcamp at the Women's City Club in Pasadena.  Our ultimate goal is to write a business plan, which will be accomplished soon.  I'm learning how difficult it is to write a plan just for our store alone.

I've also learned that like so many other business traditions today, the form and function of a business plan is changing.  Banks and other lenders are so tightly regulated now that most don't even ask for a plan.  So inundated with loan requests, the beleagured banks are only looking at financials.  Of course if the financials don't meet their (the government's) standards, a loan won't be forthcoming.  It's even harder for a start-up company that doesn't have any financials yet.  Unless you're bankrolling the new business yourself, the search for funding is almost impossible. 

For Scott and I, the situation is worse.  Here we are, owners of a piece of a declining and now fragmented icon.  Webster's Pharmacy, of which we were once a part of, has been in Scott's family since the early 1920s.  You'd think that by our longevity in the community alone, we'd be able to secure funding with no problem.  Not so easy to do that now that we're a separate entity.  Because of the change in ownership and a new tax identification number, we don't have all those years to fall back on.  We do, but......well, you get the idea.  No bank loans forthcoming easily for us, either.

So we have to think outside the box if we're going to be successful in convincing someone to invest in us.  A regular business plan just won't has to be different.  Because I want to include not just our own store, but the entire Webster's complex and the North Lake Business District, I have to sell an idea.....a dream.  I need to convey my dream of revitalization to whomever I end up talking to in a powerful enough manner so they'll buy in.  I've done the research, studied the demographics and I'm certain that Altadena can support what we'll be proposing. 

I thought I'd use this blog as a communication tool when I started it in 2007.  It is that, but it's morphed into so much more since its much so that I plan to use parts of this blog in my business plan.  Doing it this way allows me the opportunity to share our plans with you.  Both Scott and I want to keep you informed, and involved, in what's happening here at Webster's because we think you deserve to know.

We think that now is the perfect time to make an investment in Altadena's future.  Even in this economic downturn when uncertainty is rampant everywhere, we are certain of this.  Did you know that Sunset Magazine named Pasadena as the 7th "20 Best Towns Of The Future" article in their March 2010 issue?  Citing JPL and Caltech as hotbeds of innovation, they say that young entrepreneurs are not hesitant to try something new, city halls are taking on the environment at a grass-roots level and universities are challenging the old ways of thinking.  We agree with them.

In the most recent issue of Los Angeles Magazine, their feature article is "10 Small Town Adventures".  The illustration on page 119, by Paul Rogers, depicts 10 towns, including Monrovia, Montrose, Eagle Rock and South Pasadena.  The article details all ten towns, their shops and eateries and why people love it there.  We think Altadena would fit easily into the ranks of these communities.

We know that people are moving into Pasadena by the hundreds, if not thousands.  You can see the builiding that's been going on lately and how crowded Pasadena proper has become.  More and more of these people looking to move to Pasadena will be looking at the outlying areas, like Altadena.  With real estate prices down, our community is poised to experience growth like it hasn't seen in many years, if ever.  That means our business centers ought to be ready for the influx.

If we can push forward successfully, work with County government to address traffic concerns and procure redevelopment funding, we will be at the forefront of this boom.  We need this funding to give Altadena what it wants - the preservation of our small town atmosphere within our urban landscape and a forward thinking center of commerce that meets the needs of its people.  This is what we belive in and this is what we're striving for.  We invite you to join us on our journey and we'll talk some more about our plans next week.

Lori and Scott

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Forward!

It's officially Spring and how glad we are to see it here at WFS!  I'm sure you are, too, and like us, are appreciating the longer days.  We consider Spring to be our chance to interact with our community and strengthen the ties between us.  That means a lot of fun is in store for all of us!


On our calendar now is WFS' Spring Celebration, starting with our coloring raffle for children ages 1-10.  Come by and pick up one of three different designs your child(ren) can color and return to the store by March 26th.  They will be entered into a raffle for exciting prizes, to be given out by none other than the Easter Bunny himself!  Winners will be announced in store on Saturday, March 27th, at 1:00 p.m. and fun and games will ensue.   All purchases made between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. will benefit Danny's Farm, who will receive 15% of net proceeds during that time period.  A representative of Danny's Farm will be on hand with some of their animal residents to help explain the good things that they do (and plan to do) for the Altadena community.

We hope you can drop by to see us on Saturday.  Nothing says Spring quite like a picture of your kid(s) with the Easter Bunny and his adorable cohorts from Danny's Farm - make sure to bring your cameras! The children's artwork will be displayed in the store for al lto admire!  If you have any questions about the Celebration and fund-raiser for Danny's Farm, please give me a call at the store at 626-797-1135.


We have found the most fabulous candymaker right here in Altadena!  Her name is Dana Gregoire, and she and her new company, Dip Me In Chocolate, produce luscious chocolate treats.  She'll be debuting her Spring line in store during our Spring Celebration.  You can't miss this chance to sample her decadent goodies and take some home for Easter baskets, or to enjoy yourself!  Dana is generously donating 15% of her net sales to Danny's Farm so come prepared to buy.  Help support not only our own local businesses but our very much needed nonprofits as well. 

Remember, the coloring pages for the raffle are available now until March 25th at the store.  Colored pictures must be turned in by the 26th.  The Spring Celebration is Saturday, March 27th, from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.  As always, coffee, lemonade, cookies and snacks will be served.  Drop by and help support'll be a fun time! 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stepping Out

This week, I'll be stepping outside of my normal Webster-centric topics. No worries, we'll talk about a couple store related topics at the end. I thought I'd let you know about two community centered issues that you might not be aware of.

The world of blogging has exploded in the past few years. With the proliferation of blogs out there to read, there are a few local blogs that stand out. Cafe Pasadena, that Virtual Underwire on the Bra of Life, is one such blogger. He brings to light a situation with the APS Store at Chantry Flats that is a classic example of bureaucratic insanity that's so prevelant today. Read about it here: Don't forget to read his follow up articles about it!

The other issue that sounds like it needs more clarification is the parcel tax the Foothill Municipal Water District is proposing. Seems troubling that there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the economic impact of such a tax, particulary in these times. Read about it here on our Facebook page: While you're there, take a moment and become a fan!

Speaking of blogging and bloggers, the 2nd annual Primavera in Altadena, aka the Blogger's Picknic, will be held this Saturday, March 20th, at Farnsworth Park. Come meet and greet with some of the San Gabriel Valley's most prolific bloggers and do bring something good to share because it's a potluck! Read about it here:

We've got lots of things to be excited about inside WFS! We're expecting a new shipment of Moleskine notebooks and related items shortly. Look for our post about the history of Moleskine - the legendary notebook of Picasso and Chatwin - on our Facebook Fan Page soon! Also on our radar are the coolest new readers (you know, those magnifying glasses you sometimes have to wear to be able to see the small print?), set to arrive in a couple of weeks. I'll give you a little hint about'll be able to read in the dark very well with these babies!

Until next week.....

Lori & Scott

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stand....And Deliver

I suppose it's evident by now that we're advocates of our community. It's no secret that Scott and I are working hard to improve the business environment here in the North Lake Business District, and hopefully in all of Altadena.

We don't think that this goal is impossible to acheive, although I've heard many opinions to the contrary. Every time I open an business magazine or industry-specific publication (and believe me, I read a LOT of those) I discover another inspirational success story. I'd like to share one of those with you now.

Dusty Durrill owns retail boutique Bleu Frog Mercantile in Corpus Christi, Texas. The neighborhood he chose to locate his store in was past its heyday. There were businesses and stores closing but that didn't deter him. Dusty had a vision of revitalization. He bought his building, renovated it and opened for business.

After five years or so, Bleu Frog Mercantile was firmly established and other entrepreneurs began to invest in the community as well. A restaurant and a cafe soon followed and the neighborhood began to thrive once again.

Dusty credits his success to the people in his community, his staff and his fellow business owners. It takes the cooperation of all these parts to create a successful store. His staff credits Rusty himself. When interviewed for the article that appeared in GiftBeat, written by Tracy Pulley, the store manager, Sue Iverson, says she's thrilled not only to head up a thriving store but to partner with a man whose vision is changing an entire community. "Dusty Durrill is doing wonderful things for this city", she says. "Bleu Frog is just the beginning."

We believe this can be done here in Altadena. There's proof everywhere, from the demographics I've studied in preparing our business plan to talking to residents, just like you, over the past two and a half years. You want a change and you want it for the better. We want to let you know that we're behind that concept one hundred percent.

This is our stand, for our store and for Altadena. We make no empty promises in ads placed in city newspapers. When you come to WFS, you get the real deal. We deliver by treating you as you deserve to be treated, like the friend you are. We deliver by offering you the best shopping experience we can, from our complimentary coffee, tea and cookies to our exquisite gift wrap to our flexible return policy. Delivering what we promise is what we do and who we are - it's part of our DNA.

Stay with us, watch us grow and let us you!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's All About Community

What an incredible week we've just had....and I can't wait to share it with you! We were all over the map - from meeting the staff (and the animals) of Danny's Farm to taping a short video at TVP Studios in Burbank - it sure was an eventful few days.

If you don't know about Danny's Farm yet, you should get acquainted with them. If you click on the title of this blogpost, it'll take you to their website....find out why they're so special. They do wonderful things in our community and they have plans to do more, which makes us very proud to help support their efforts. The picture here is of Scott and I standing in front of the sun shade our modest donation provided. We're happy that their menagerie now has a haven from the sometimes brutal Altadena sun. I'm holding Thumper, one of the resident rabbits, in the picture. Their petting zoo includes the most darling burros and goats, bunnies (with babies!) and chickens, all available for parties!

Providing support to our local non-profits is something that we believe strongly in. In times like these, we all must take extraordinary steps to ensure our non-profits remain operational. My father-in-law told me that charity begins at home. It does, you know. Our home, the place where we do business, needs our help. We need strong, healthy businesses that are committed to supporting the infrastructure of the community so that we may all survive this economic downturn.

We ran a benefit for Danny's Farm throughout the holiday season. I told Cathy Gott that we would donate a percentage of our sales of custom holiday cards to Danny's Farm. However, orders (besides Cathy's own) were non-existent due to the recession and I felt terrible about that. So we donated anyway, and I couldn't be happier. So little meant so much and even better, did so much....and that's the way it's supposed to work. One community pulling together to make sure we all succeed is how it's done and we're proud to be part of it.

On Wednesday, I had a short video produced with the help of some very good friends. Deb Halberstadt, of Half City Productions and Rich Tomayo of TVP Studios, lent their expertise to create the video, which you can listen to here: (due to Blogger's non-functional link insertion tab, you'll need to copy and paste the address into your browser window). The video tells you what we're about here at WFS, our core values and how we can help our community. Please click on the link and listen to it, I think you'll be glad you did.

Speaking of community, WFS is putting together a Customer Advisory Board. We have three willing participants and are looking for seven more. I'd like a sampling of all types of customers, from very loyal, to sometimes loyal to not so loyal. This will enable us to understand your needs and wants as it relates to our store. This is an amazing opportunity for someone to help shape their neighborhood store, and of course, there are benefits that go along with being a board member. Tenure on the board would be for one year and we would meet at a convenient time at the store once a month. Board members are entitled to a 20% discount on all purchases while they sit and refreshments will be provided at meetings. Please let me know if you'd be interested...let your voice be heard!

We're doing this because we want to listen to you. We're good at listening at WFS. We did try the suggestion box but that didn't work so well, and it's too one-sided. We got too many frivolous comments, like "don't smile so much, it's eerie" to "have Equal packets available with your coffee". I'd like to be able to sit down and discuss suggestions like rational humans. However, we have had some verbal suggestions from customers which we've acted on. Our good friend and customer Lori Paul has suggested a few things to us and we love her for that! One of her suggestions recently was for us to check out a U.S. company headquartered in Montana called DuckBoy. They manufacture greeting cards, postcards, books and calendars and they're a hoot! We purchased a small selection that are in store now - and they'll be signed with the fact that Lori recommended this product to us.

So here's our message for the week: Be a part of your community, because your community needs you. Everyone's busy, we know, but try to make some time to take part. Start with small things, like supporting a non-profit or supporting a store that supports non-profits. Start by taking part in the formation of a truly community-oriented retail store by speaking your mind and being heard....the long journey begins by putting one foot in front of the other. Have a great week!