Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day Haitus

As we pause to remember those who have died defending this country, we'd like to remind you to keep our disabled veterans in your thoughts as well.  There are so many that need our help.  You can find out more about them at their website.

Scott and I hope you have an enjoyable day off and a wonderful week ahead!  Don't forget that Art on Millionaire's Row is next Saturday!  Sounds like it's shaping up to be quite an event.....find out more at
Altadenablog

Until next week,

Lori & Scott

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Independents For All!


July 1st through July 7th is Independent’s Week and I’d like to take a few moments of your time to talk to you about why that’s important. I think the American Independent Business Alliance sums it up pretty well on their site’s home page:


“Think of your favorite shop, restaurant or service provider. We'll bet it's a hometown business. Independent locally owned businesses are essential to a vital local economy and community character. They use the goods and services of other local businesses, serve as community hubs, and are vital components of healthy neighborhoods and strong city centers. They're where the locals go. They're owned by our friends and neighbors, or maybe even by you.

The threat to our communities is real. Dependence on absentee-owned businesses and corporate chains carries many unhealthy consequences. It's not just local businesses that suffer -- our communities are losing social, cultural and economic strength, a place for entrepreneurship, and the ability to determine our own futures. But we have a choice.”

Yes, indeed, we have a choice, and I’m asking that you consider making it. There have been so many studies done on the benefits and effects of shopping at locally owned business and all have hard data to back them up. You may investigate yourself, starting at AMIBA’s link, above, because, as their home page states, “community matters”.

All of us at Webster’s Fine Stationers think community matters, too. For almost three years now, we’ve been engaging you via this blog, our newsletters, our Facebook Friend Page and Twitter. We’re reaching out to you in real time, hoping we snag your attention long enough for you to hear our message. Help us keep our town economically healthy by investing in it. Patronize your local businesses, reduce your carbon footprint and let’s keep Altadena moving forward! Those of you who’re reading this that aren’t from this part of town, county, or even this state; this applies to you, too. No place in the U.S. is safe from the encroachment of huge, corporate businesses and nothing is sacred to them.  You might think that what you do doesn't matter, but it matters a great deal.  A movement is born one person at a time.

 
To jump-start the celebration of Independent’s Week, we’re hosting a Very Special Afternoon With Altadena’s Own Andre Coleman! Author of A Liar’s Tale and Blackbirds, Vol. 1 and ace reporter at The Star News and Pasadena Weekly, Mr. Coleman will be here Saturday, May 29th to discuss his books and sign any that you purchase here at the store. We’re staying open late for this event, which starts at 4:00 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m. We’d love you to join us, meet Mr. Coleman and enjoy a lovely afternoon with complimentary libations, hearty appetizers and stimulating conversation!

We have many more informative and fun in-store events like this planned throughout the summer months, so keep an eye on your inbox or Facebook page for further information. There’s never a dull moment at Webster’s Fine Stationers!

Here’s to an excellent week ahead!

Scott & Lori Webster

Sunday, May 16, 2010

CATCHING THE BUZZ

So many things happening in beautiful Altadena lately! The spring weather has been gorgeous and everyone’s gardens are looking lovely. I’m really missing getting out in our garden at home, but hope to have some time off to get in the dirt later on. At least my roses are still blooming nicely with all the rain we’ve had. My special baby….my beautifully scented old Bourbon climbing rose,  a Zephrene Drouhin, is finally doing well. But, until I can satisfy my gardening cravings, I’ll just have to settle for helping you satisfy yours!

Now in store are adorable, 100% organic and compostable grow kits for lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, edible flowers and basil. These kits are all-inclusive, contained in their own planter made out of rice hulls. Once the plants are started in your home you have the option of planting them in your garden, pot and all! They’re already to go, including a pretty ribbon and to-from tag, just perfect for gifting. Other kits are available without the planter, but still containing all you need for starting organic sunflowers, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries and pet grass inside for transplanting later. Raising your own vegetables is becoming more and more prevalent these days – who wouldn’t want fresh, organic produce available from their own garden or container garden? Compostable container kits are $24.99, recyclable grow kits are $19.99 and pet grass (dog and cat) are $9.99.

We’ve also gotten in many new summer entertaining items and have changed the store d├ęcor to an elegant beach theme. Come in and see our fabulous marble servers, summer themed napkins and shell motif serving platters! Sparkling glass apothecary jars full of shells, summer-scented candles, stunning blue swirl art glass vases and absolutely beautiful punched tin lanterns from Mexico will transport you directly to Margaritaville….no ticket required! Be sure to take a look at the lightweight, fair-trade scarves from Open Hand Designs, as well. They’re the perfect accent for your summer wardrobe and what could be better than purchasing something that helps someone else? We’ve got beautiful fair-trade jewelry, also, and just arrived are wonderfully fabulous, real stone necklaces, pendants and bracelets from Tobias & Alysha, a local  Los Angeles company. These stones are selected carefully for their healing, magical qualities and are made by family-owned, fair trade exporters in India.

Have you caught the buzz yet about the new restaurant opening on upper North Lake Avenue? The vacant building that housed the defunct CJ’s Wings is now a Mexican eatery called El Patron and we hear they are really, really good! Scott, Leilana and I were lucky to meet the owner a few months ago while she was shopping at WFS. She was asking us about the vacant building up the street, and then told us of her plans to open a Mexican place there. We are so thrilled she was able to arrange it and we welcome them to our Upper North Lake family! Wow, all the buzzing about this new place is great….kind of makes me wish that when Scott and I opened WFS, there could’ve been that much excitement. Unfortunately, I guess everyone was too shocked, or mad, at the changes to Webster’s to celebrate our new ownership and the promise it represented.
We’re still dealing with those issues today, almost three years after having taken over the old stationery department at Webster’s. Almost three years of Webster’s Pharmacy Corporation not saying a word to the public about why they decided to break up the stores. The parties responsible for the changes decline to comment, let alone mention our store. It’s just Scott and I, and our crew, feeling like voices in the wilderness, explaining it to customers time after time. It makes you wonder why they don’t work with us to promote the entire complex, even though we’re separate stores….you’d think that would be a no brainer. We like what Seth Godin says in his latest blogpost and believe it to be apropos to what’s happening here.

Every holiday or occasion, we talk to hundreds of people who visit our store and ask us about what happened to Webster’s. This past Mother’s Day we actually kept track and it was roughly every other person who came in who asked. That’s actually staggering, my friends….every other person shopping at Webster’s last weekend hadn’t been there for nearly three years! For a store to survive it needs loyal customers and shopping with any store only once every couple of years won't help much.  We would love you to be a loyal customer and have been hard at work to regain your trust.

We’ve also been working hard to bring you information on the importance of shopping locally, supporting your local businesses and thereby, your community. I know that there are many of you out there who do, and we thank you, but the number of people who don’t are greater. We need to get the word out, to let people know we’re trying very hard to be more relevant to the residents of Altadena and nearby areas by the products we carry, the knowledge and services we offer and by our involvement in the community. Please help by spreading the word. Do what Webster’s won’t and tell your friends and neighbors about Webster's Fine Stationers! That would help very much and we’ll keep doing what we do best - serving you and our community with with genuine pleasure.

Have a wonderful week!

Lori and Scott

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Mother, Helen V. Elliott - A Tribute For Mother's Day



My mom was born in Grinnell, Iowa, on a farm, in 1911. Second to the oldest of five children, her parents both died when she was 11 yrs old. Not long after they passed, she lost her youngest brother, and then the farmhouse and everything in it to fire.  She and her sister went to live with their grandma in town and her younger brother stayed with family friends closer to school. They helped out their grandma, Hattie Eichhorn, at the tea room she owned, and learned the fine art of cooking and baking.  All the siblings could cook like champions, except for the oldest boy, Shirley (old family name), who took off on his own after his parents' death.


My mom married her high school sweetheart right after her college graduation and lost him two weeks later in a motorcycle accident in the mid 1930s. She later married again to a scoundrel who drank and cheated on her. In the early 1940s, an era where women didn't do that type of thing, she was strong enough to divorce him and escape with her friend to California.  There she met and married my father (we'll talk about him on Father's Day).

Her health was never that great. As a child, she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis so badly that her legs had to be wrapped up and she was bed-ridden in the winter. Possibly because of the rheumatic fever, she was never able to bear children and had to have a hysterectomy shortly after her first husband was killed. She and my father adopted me in 1957 after having waited on a list for almost 10 years....she was 46 years old. They adopted my sister 17 months later.

In the very early 1970s, my mom decided she wanted to go back to work. This was not the norm for wives and mothers in our neighborhood and my father was dead set against it. This was the only argument I ever saw my parents have and she won. She worked for Fashion Fabrics in Westchester and eventually became their West Coast Regional Manager. By this time, my dad had semi-retired and worked out of the den at home. My mom loved what she did, but truth be told, she was very glad to be out of his way as he watched all his sports on every TV in the house!

She was diagnosed with colon cancer in March of 1981, two months after her granddaughter, my daughter, was born. They found cancer in her liver simultaneously. She had a partial colostomy and steadfastly refused chemo treatments. She did a round of radiation, called it good and went back to work as soon as she could. She loved being surrounded with fabrics and made most of the clothes my sister and I wore when we were young.  She tried to teach me to sew, but I was much too worldly for that....now I could kick myself in the butt for not learning.

The cancer eventually made its way into her bladder and she had it removed when she was 79. After recovering, she went back to the fabric store - a different one in the local mall, because Fashion Fabrics had closed all their California stores. She finally stopped working at 81 and she passed away in 1994 at age 83.
 
My mother was an incredibly strong woman, despite her health issues....or maybe in spite of them.  From Scandinavian stock, her resilience to adversity was legend in our family.  She was the epitome of perseverance, grace and hospitality.  She and my dad were open minded enough to want to adopt children back in a time when it wasn't that common.  She never lied to my sister and I about our adoption, either.  I don't remember a time when I wasn't aware of it but she made sure that we knew that she loved us more than life.  And to start raising children at the age of 46 showcases her strength of character....she was 48 when my sister was born.
 
This is my mother's story.  I'm sure there's a lot more, but she wasn't a woman to talk of herself much.  I can only hope that I mirror her outstanding qualities.  What a compliment it would be for someone to say that I remind them of my mother!  Happy Mother's Day, Mom....I miss you! 
 
I hope you and your family enjoyed Mother's Day.  Have a wonderful week!
 
Lori Elliott Webster
 

Monday, May 3, 2010

If You Want To Get To Heaven, You Got To Raise A Little Hell

I never read it in a book,
I never saw it on a show,
but I heard it in the alley
on a weird radio. 
If you want a drink of water,
you got to get it from a well, 
if you want to get to heaven 
you got to raise a little hell......

----Steve Cash and John Dillon
      Ozark Mountain Daredevils, 1973


To me, this song has always been about wanting something enough to fight for it.  It urges us to be vocal about things we care about, maybe make a stir about what you think is important.  Thirty-seven years ago, in 1973, kids all over the world learned to be vocal about things they cared about and people started taking notice.  Things changed because so many young people demanded it.  Opinions were challenged and mind-
sets were changed forever.

As I've said before, time is a circle and what goes around, comes around .  People are again starting to stand up for their core values, especially when it comes to issues like affordable medical insurance and state policies on immigration.  People are also becoming more aware about their neighborhoods and local communities, keeping tabs on and working towards their area's fiscal health.  Of course, in this time of financial uncertainty, it's more important than ever to know where your community is headed.

There were a few things that spurred me to write this blog post.  First was the fact that sales have been down this past month at the store pretty dramatically.  April is traditionally a slow month because of tax time, but I attribute it to more than that.  Economic issues, certainly, but intertwined with that, I've heard, is a general uncertainty about what's going on at Webster's.  If the store were more communicative about all the changes, i.e., if someone other than I talked about it, perhaps  the situation would be better understood..  Until that happens, it leaves Scott, myself and the rest of our crew as the de facto mouthpiece of not just our store, but Webster's in its entirety.  I wish I could give you the answers you want to hear, but I can only tell you that we're all committed to making WFS the best it can be.

Another thing was Altadenablog's posting of this article about Don Thomas' return to Altadena Hardware.  Reading the comments, I noticed a common theme - uncertainty about what was happening there.  Also stated more than once in the comments was a thing I've heard repeatedly since we took over the old stationery department - that the inventory is not as complete as it once was.  I had to leave a comment about that, which you can read at the link above, but I'll paraphrase it simply here.  If patronage drops off, when people stop coming to the store (our store, or any store) because of an ownership change or a change in the economy, that means that the store is not making the money it once did.  Yet the store is still responsible for paying its employees, the taxes and if it can, the rent.  If there's enough left over, it's invested in inventory.  If you don't buy, we can't buy, it's as simple as that....we independent retailers don't have a huge corporation backing us, the way the big-box stores do.  Speaking of big box stores, Greg Sweet, one of the commenters on the thread on Altadenablog I've linked above, posted this fabulous cartoon video from JibJab.  Thanks, Greg, for sharing this funny yet truly sad commentary on this fact of American life.....one I think we can change with some education.

That leads almost perfectly into the third thing that inspired this post.  We had a customer in today, a young man looking at a Moleskine notebook.  The price of the notebook is $21.99.  He asks crewmember Sean Fitz Gerald if we "match prices", which left Sean a bit nonplussed.  I walked over and asked if I could help, and the young gentleman tells me that he could buy this particular specialty notebook off the Internet for $9.00, and could I match that price.  He wants to support local businesses, he said, but it's hard when things are priced higher than big-box stores or the Internet. Where does that extra $10.00 go, he asked....in my pocket?  No, I had to tell him, it certainly doesn't go in my pocket.  Right now, all money received for purchases is going toward paying our employees, keeping our taxes paid and refreshing our core inventory of home office products.  Well, he says, I thought I'd give you the opportunity to earn my business, but I see that you won't work with me.  This young man has now put me in the position where I feel like a highway robber and that I need to justify my prices....even though I know that our margins are deliberately kept to a moderate level.

It's like there's some sort of unwritten law against having your customers familiar with the way retail sales operate.  I say, the more informed you are, the better!  If we in the retail industry were more forthcoming about how we price things, how we buy and what the requirements for retail buying are, we'd have more savvy customers who choose where they shop and recognize what value truly means.  That Moleskine notebook the gentleman asked about cost me about $9.00 to buy....it's also what he wanted me to sell it to him for.  We don't have the customer volume to make it worthwhile to sell things below margin, let alone make no money on it at all.  We do run specials, I told him.....heck, I just spent the evening before handing out 20% off coupons!  Join us on our Facebook Fan page and take adavantage of the promotions there. Become a regular customer and I might be more amenable to working something out  But whatever you do, please realize the value of shopping locally!  Spending your dollars at independent businesses is what keeps the wheels of your town turning!  My employees go out and buy things from other local businesses.  The store buys goods and services from other local businesses, we contribute to our local charities and so on and so on and so on....do you see what I mean?  Now multiply that by the number of independent businesses in your area and you'll see that the amount is substantial.  What if the majority of people in the community shopped locally?  The results would be staggering!  You can actually see how it works at The 3/50 Project and The American Independent Business Alliance.  I urge you to take the time to educate yourself....your community will thank you.

Economic recovery won't really kick in until we jump-start it from the bottom up.  Meaning, help won't come from the top and trickle down, it needs to happen at the lowest rung of the demographic totem pole.... in your local community....and spread upward! Until people realize that spending a few dollars more in locally owned businesses, where the money actually works for the town and isn't sent out of state or even out of the country, we'll continue to face hardship.  I know that some folks out there truly don't care about  things like this.  Like the young man I spoke with, they don't want to be educated, they just want what they want.  He wanted that notebook at $9.00 and was frustrated that I wouldn't "deal" with him.  When I explained that buying off the Internet gives nothing back to his community, he just shrugged. I'm not going to reach everyone, but that's okay.  I'm not trying to reach out to those who don't want to learn, I'm trying to reach out to people who do.  I'm trying to reach out to you!  It's time to raise a little hell, don't you think?

Have a great week, my friends!

Lori & Scott