Sunday, March 27, 2011

History Lessons

As Women's History Month winds down to the last few days, I'm amazed at what an eventful month it's been.  The horrible disaster in Japan and the deaths of icons Elizabeth Taylor and Geraldine Ferraro have struck a chord in our hearts this month. Catastrophe and loss surround us on a daily basis and women the world over take it in stride, as we always have.  The circle of life, emanating from woman - the struggle, the toil, all the joy and pain - ending, only to begin again.

This is what we do, all of us women.  The givers and sustainers of life, most of us deserving of headlines yet moving through our lives unheralded.  My friend, Roberta Martinez, posted a question today on Facebook.  She asked who were the women who've most influenced your life.  I enjoyed reading the various responses posted.  It was a great question and I haven't stopped thinking of which women have influenced my life, whether they were historical figures, family or celebrities.  This is how I answered Roberta's question:

The women who've influenced my life are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mother Theresa, Marlo Thomas, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor. In my own family, the first women I knew who left their indelible impression on the child I was were:
1. My paternal grandmother, Anne L. Babcock Elliott, who taught college-level Latin
2. My maternal great-grandmother, who raised my mom and her 4 siblings after their parents died and still ran a tea-house in Iowa
3. My mother, who overcame rheumatoid arthritis as a child, had considerable health problems as a young woman and had a complete hysterectomy in the 1930s. She married my dad (7 yrs her junior) in 1947 and waited on a list for 10 years to adopt me in 1957, when she was 47 years old. She fought with my father to go to work in the early 1970s and fought cancer for 16 years until she died at 83 in 1994. She worked until she was 80.
4. My birth mother, whoever she was, who had the good sense to know she couldn't take care of me and put me up for adoption to a couple who could.

I like my answer, but as I continue to think about it, there's one woman that I left out.  A woman who I never met, and don't know that much about, but who had a hand in guiding the business that Scott and I are involved in now.  That woman was Scott's paternal grandmother.  The wife of Harold Webster, the founder of Webster's Pharmacy.  You see, Harold died when Scott's dad was only 19.  She had the responsibility of running the store after the death of her husband, and also assumed the task of seeing that her children who worked the business were properly trained on how to actually run it.

That she did a good job of that goes without saying.  The store was very successful for many, many years.  I'd like to give her the recognition here that I can't find any mention of anywhere else.  She has inspired both Scott and I to continue the heritage of Webster's and constantly strive to bring you the best.  We'd like you to join with us in acknowledging a true Altadena pioneer.....thank you, Mrs. Webster!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

One For All And All For One....Sustainablity In Altadena Or Anywhere

When I mentioned "slow money" last week, I imagine many were scratching their heads, wondering what I was talking about. was founded by Woody Tasch, a pioneer in merging investing and philanthropy.  Slow Money's mission is to build local and national networks, and develop new financial products and services, dedicated to:
  • investing in small food enterprises and local food systems;
  • connecting investors to their local economies; and,
  • building the nurture capital industry.
:  At their recent Healthy Money Summit, the topics they went over included:
  • Earning and spending habits that liberate your time and passion for your real life’s work
  • Investment strategies that favor the triple bottom line and sustainable business practices
  • How to practice the state of being that favors generosity and sharing over hunkering down
  • New currencies that favor connection and community over hoarding and lack
  • New economies that favor Main Street over Wall Street, and prioritize community well-being as the new bottom line
  • Developing a new money spirit of “enough for all,” rather than “winner takes all”
A healthy economy, healthy habits and healthy attitudes toward money are possible, as are healthy retail practices.  Here at Webster's Fine Stationers, our own mission statement encompasses these ideas and determines our purpose on a daily basis.

So how can a retail store (or any independent business) affect positive changes in their community? Research shows that if you shift a portion of your spending from national chains and the Internet to independent locally-owned and operated businesses, you can have a dramatic effect on your local economy.  That’s because a significantly greater portion of the money you spend with local businesses stays in your community. This means more money for roads, schools, services and jobs. A small change in the way you shop can have a big impact on your community.

In addition, cooperation between our business owners also makes a huge impact on the community.  Take, for example, the cooperation between Winsome's Pretty Woman on Marcheta Alley and WFS.  We gladly display a few hats from Charmain's store here so other people will see them.  We will sell these hats for her and gladly give her full proceeds.  We display other business' cards and information at our community table, and we all patronize local businesses here on North Lake. We sell Christmas Tree Lane Association's merchandise and they receive 75% of the proceeds. We eat brunch weekly at Amy's Patio Cafe and have lunch during the week at El Patron and Everest.  We take our clothes that need dry cleaning to Merit, use Ms. Dragon and the Manning Press for our printing needs.  We have a local accountant and insurance brokers.  I personally use our Facebook fan page to highlight other local business, because I believe that we should all be doing this for each other.  Imagine the impact on our community if we all did this for each other!

It wasn't all that long ago that business was pretty cut-throat on Main Street, USA.  You did for yourself and no one else.  Back in the day here in Altadena, the old kingpins of commerce locked themselves in as such and we're experiencing the backlash of it today.  The parking regulations that everyone bemoans is a direct result of such dealings.  Times have changed and the old ways of doing business are no longer working. These days, we must adopt more sustainable and cooperative practices if we're going to survive. Webster's Fine Stationers is elated to be on the forefront of this movement.  We invite you to climb aboard and make a difference here in this community, or in your own can only get better from here.

Enjoy your week, my friends, and a very happy Spring to everyone!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thoughts On Independence

Last week we discussed the small town of Thomasville, Georgia, and its thriving Main Street independent businesses.  We reported that despite the downturn in our economy, these shops have been able to keep their heads above water with the cooperation of their city government and their residents.  I pointed out that even though we are County-governed, if we had their (and your) cooperation, we could see a similar effect here.

I'm proud to say that I heard from a gentleman who now lives in Colorado but used to own a shop in Thomasville.  He saw my blogpost and gave me a call.  I was surprised but very happy he called to voice his support!  He says he'll be watching us and hoping that "those who shop Rodeo Drive will start shopping in our area".  Well.....we won't hold our breath for that to happen, since logistics in Southern California can be so misunderstood by those who live out of the area.  But I certainly appreciated the thought and we will continue to strive toward educating the public about the benefits of shopping locally at independent businesses. Mr. Arnest, thank you for contacting us, we so appreciate your call!  Now, it's time to watch a little video by our friends at JibJab (no, we're not advertising their ecards, although they are funny):

This last Wednesday, lawmakers in Maine heard testimony on a bill, LD 322, to repeal the Informed Growth Act, which Gov. Paul LePage also has listed among his priorities for reforming Maine’s regulatory environment.  Enacted in 2007, the Informed Growth Act was championed by supporters as a way to protect Maine’s downtown business districts and local stores from the effects of large-scale retail developments such as Wal-Mart, Target or Home Depot. The law applies to proposed businesses with a gross floor area of 75,000 square feet or more.  If this bill is repealed, it would set a precedent for other communities across the county to do the same, if they agree with what Bill sponsor Rep. Tyler Clark, R-Easton, argued that the law is inherently biased against larger retail operations.

Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that promotes “environmentally sound and equitable community development,” said that before the act’s passage, many town planning boards were unable to consider how a big-box store would affect jobs and small businesses in town.  Imagine the impact that having a WalMart in Pasadena would have on neighboring independent retailers!

We recommend reviewing organizations like The 3/50 Project, the Institute for Local Self Reliance (link above), Independent We Stand, and the American Independent Business Alliance for information on the importance of shopping locally.  Investigate and find out how you can support your community's economic health and improve your shopping experience.  Those large corporations aren't all they're cracked up to be, as many of you are aware.  One of them even ticked off the venerable Seth Godin and prompted him to write his latest blogpost about broken promises - one thing that we independent businesses have more control over, since we're not so huge and impersonal.

My friends, I leave you with this last little bit of truism from The Localism Index:  the minimum amount having a grocery store, bookstore, coffee shop and restaurant within half a mile of a house increases its value:  $21,000!  Wow!

Have a great week and we look forward to seeing you at the next Fancy Food Truck Fridays on 3/11/11 (that's this Friday)! Thanks to the Altadena Chamber of Commerce for helping us get our permit!

Lori & Scott