Sunday, March 24, 2013

Reading, Writing, and.....Altadena!

Way back when Scott and I were mulling over buying Webster's stationery department as a stand-alone business, we discussed what we could bring into the store that would be different enough from the other stores next door and nearby.  What else would blend well with all the pens, paper, journals and other writer's accoutrements?  Books!  Books would be great, given my proclivity for writing, but we wanted whatever books we brought in to be very special.  We decided to concentrate on bringing in local authors, and soon, we had a growing collection!

The decision to support our local authors wasn't hard to make.  There are so many talented writers here in the foothills above Pasadena that deserve having their books displayed and sold .  There are also many writers out there who are frustrated trying to find a way to get their books published.  That's the beauty  of Authors Tour USA, a national group that formed from the Artisan Faire held last year at the Santa Anita Racetrack.  The brainchild of Wendy Anderson, of W.O.W. Productions; and LaQuetta Shamblee, of Instrumental Women Project;  Authors Tour USA provides marketing, networking and promotional support for published authors, with a focus on independent publishing companies and self-published authors.

Authors Tour USA will be launching this Saturday, right here at Webster's Fine Stationers!  On Saturday, March 30, from 3:00 until 5:00, you will meet four local authors, get their books personalized to you, and will be discussing their different crafts, from self-help to screenwriting.  On our speaking roster will be Altadenan Ellen Snortland; Pasadenan Kogi Steven Sakai; Monrovian Adrianne Marie Hall; and L.A,'s Christina Hamlett.  This is an incredible line up of experienced, knowledgeable, and prolific writers, that won't be duplicated in Altadena again - until we host the next one!

We invite you to join us for this extra-special event - come join in the learning experience this coming Saturday, enjoy meeting friends new and old, and have a tasty nosh or two - we'll hold a seat for you!


Have an enjoyable week, friends!  We'll be taking a short blogging hiatus and hope you all enjoy our lovely spring holidays. A joyous Passover and Easter to all of you!  We'll talk again in a couple of weeks.

Lori and Scott 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Local Love And Mayberry

Altadena Postcard by Hugo Arteaga

There's been a lot of talk lately about our town's identity.  Many people agree that Altadena is a bit like Mayberry, that fictional town Sheriff Andy Taylor and Barney Fife watched over in the early 1960s.  Aunt Bee cooked her homemade goodies, Floyd the barber cut hair and dispensed advice, and young Opie fished at the local pond.

Of course we're not actually Mayberry, this is California, after all.  But there is still much of that small-town flavor in Altadena.  Maybe it's because of our "remote" location and no direct freeway access - folks have to drive 3 miles north of Pasadena to get here.  Or maybe it's because there was such a strong community base of local businesses and business owners back in the day.  We think it's the combination of the two that keeps us unique in the eyes of not just our residents, but others outside as well.

Looking at the postcard (pictured above) designed by local graphic artist Hugo Arteaga, it's evident we have a vibrant town history.  The Altadena Historical Society would be happy to show you the ephemera they've collected through the years that proves the point.  We've always been an idyllic place to live in and also to do business in.

Then there are those who disagree.  No Mayberry here, they say, Altadena "mom and pop" businesses don't actually serve the community well any more.  Bring in chains, bring in Starbucks, bring in the big box stores!  The latter has already happened, and the rest can't be far away.  And while we argue amongst ourselves about it, Mayberry is indeed fading away.

We look at the situation this way:  while we are opposed to Walmart in Altadena, that doesn't mean that we're opposed to the growth of our community.  We welcome new business here, but we'd like to see those businesses be homegrown and independently owned.  There's a good reason for that, and it's not to keep our town from reaping economic benefits or good jobs. As we said above, it's to keep our town unique and prosperous.  How can we be prosperous if we don't have a chain business on every corner?  Easy, if we rewrite the Altadena Community Standards to accommodate and nurture small, independent business.

From this article in Time Magazine, author Judith D. Schwartz quotes New Economics Foundation researcher David Boyle as saying, " many local economies are languishing not because too little cash comes in, but as a result of what happens to that money. Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going. When money is spent elsewhere - at big supermarkets, non-locally owned utilities and other services such as on-line retailers - it flows out, like a wound."

In this article, the organization Reclaim Democracy notes that "Each year brings more national chains displacing locally-owned businesses throughout the country. We see clones replace unique establishments...", and asks two questions, "People across the country are losing sense of community in their town, and consider this trend a symptom, but could it be a cause as well? Also, what are the impacts of this trend on our economic well-being?"  They state, "The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real - even when it is unmeasured. The quality of life of a community changes in ways that macroeconomics is slow to measure, or ignores completely."

There is a lot to say about the importance of independent businesses in communities, much of which we've highlighted in past blog posts.  The problem is not the lack of positive information about it, it's getting people in our communities and civic organizations to read and understand it.  Right now there is a discussion on The 3/50 Project's Group Page on LinkedIn on whether local business organizations help small businesses grow.  The venerable Cinda Baxter - former retailer, retail consultant, speaker, and founder of The 3/50 Project - has this to say:  "an association's/organization's level of success has more to do with the its leadership than its charter or mission statement. I've seen entire towns thrive under the guidance of groups led by open minded, determined, positive men and women. On the other hand, I've seen well-funded, established associations fail their small business community horribly, simply because the President or CEO was so deeply pro-big box. Sadly, those are the cities and towns with sagging (or worse) downtown business districts, but jungles of big boxes on the outer edges, reducing the amount of revenue that returns to the community. The size of the community has almost zero impact".

She goes on to give her advice to local associations, which we believe as well: "Listen to your members, then deliver what they ask for. Too often, association leadership thinks they know more than the 'rank and file,' which only pushes the small business community backward; and, remember that what works for a national brand doesn't necessarily work for independent brick and mortars. The latter have no corporate office to refer back to for legal assistance, marketing tools, special vendor pricing, and national advertising. The independents need extra support---in response, they'll thrive, and return a greater percentage of revenue to the local economy".  More food for thought, and more to chew on here, on this latest report on local business and towns with buy local or local first programs.

We apologize for missing last Sunday's blog posting - our mainline at home got backed up and we were taking care of it.  We hope you're enjoying this beautiful Saint Patrick's Day - have a great week ahead, friends, and make sure you check this blog next week when we highlight the authors participating in the Official Launch Of Authors Tour USA on March 30!

Lori and Scott

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Springing Spring

All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.
--Helen Hayes

How'd you like that little taste of spring we've had this week, friends?  Didn't it whet your appetite for longer (and warmer) days ahead?  Of course it did, and we're no exception!  We're both very happy that Daylight Savings starts next Sunday, March 10 - so happy, that we turned the store into a Springtime Fantasy!  Weaving in flowers that herald the start of the season, mixing in some cute bunnies and chicks, and finally, adding some fabulous terrariums filled with all types of cool looking succulents, has turned WFS into a wonderland of color, scent, and texture!

Tillandsia Plants
Altadena photographer and artist Molly Tierney, has been busy transforming reclaimed barn wood into handsome hanging or sitting platforms for air plants, or Tillandsia, a member of the Bromiliad family and distantly related to pineapples.  We've been talking with her for just about a year now about bringing in some of her garden designs - now, you can finally see what she's created!  She's also crafted cunning little plants in sea urchin shells, if you don't want to commit to a wall hanging, and very cool looking little wood holders for the air plants.  We've also been busy planting up those great recycled glass terrariums from Roost, a little company up in Northern California.  Cute hens and chicks, the common name for the succulent sempervivum family, and so appropriate for this time of year, are arranged neatly inside - take a look at the largest terrarium....

We have smaller succulent gardens, too, in some very pretty small apothecary jars, even in a vintage 70s green pressed glass chalice!  You'll never know what you'll find here at WFS, but you can be assured that you'll always find something interesting!

In other news this week, our friends at Mother Moo Creamery (Sierra Madre) have announced that they're making the most excellent date shakes this side of the oasis!  See this post on Michael Copess' blog, East Of Allen for further delicious information!

Finally, don't forget to save the date of March 30, for the launch of Authors Tour USA!  This will be a wonderful event, with 5 different authors, tons of information, good food and friends - do make plans to join us, won't you?

Enjoy your week, friends, and we'll talk again next week!

Lori and Scott