Six years ago I drove down a street in my hometown. It was the same street where my friends and I would stop in after school at the local pizza joint, and then head next door to the ice cream shop. As I approached the pizza shop, I noticed a “For Rent” sign in the old ice cream parlor, and I stopped the car. I don’t know what possessed me to take a picture of the sign with my phone, but I did. In that instant, I’d decided that I wanted to own a storefront in that building.
I had always dreamed of owning my own business; a bookstore, a gift shop – something you’d see in a Hallmark Christmas movie. It would have big windows and little white twinkle lights. It would be a place where the locals would gather on a Saturday morning to catch up on the latest gossip, while picking up some special treasure that only my shop would offer. I’d have coffee and tea and home baked goods. It would be a real, honest-to-goodness, hometown-feel place to be.
Six years ago I called the owner of that building and told him I’d like to see the space. And when we met there the following morning, and he asked what type of business I owned, I smiled and said, “I don’t actually have one. But you tell me the rent and I’ll pay it for as long as the term on the lease.” I signed the lease on my Papa’s birthday, October 31st. And I had myself a storefront.
I went to the bank with all sorts of optimism. Surely, they would offer a loan to a lifelong local, looking to own a small business in her own hometown. Right? I mean, right? Not so.
Panic snuck in for about a millisecond, until I realized I didn’t need anyone’s help getting started. This was my dream, after all. It was mine. I could not, and should not rely on someone – anyone – else to jump on the bandwagon of my dream.
I opened my store with plastic shelves from Walmart. I sold clothes that my kids had outgrown, dresses and gowns from many a New Year’s Eve gone by…and I called it a “Consignment” store. And I hated it. I hated having people drop off their unwanted items, their questionables…I hated having to come up with a price for other peoples’ throwaways. But I was already in business. What was I going to do? I couldn’t quit. I owned this storefront for one year. And I had 11 1/2 months left on my lease.
I started doing research online. I started connecting the dots from consignment to owning a boutique with jewelry and accessories. And within the first 6 months, I transitioned from a consignment store to a boutique. I offered jewelry, scarves, ponchos and hats from New York and Los Angeles. I invested every dime I made into inventory, growing the storefront to look like a storefront, with real boutique racks, hangers and all things boutique-y.
And after two years in business, I lost my storefront. The owner increased the rent, and I couldn’t afford it. He called me on September 30th to tell me I had until October 1st to be out, so the new tenant could take over. I was devastated. I was broken. I sat in the middle of the store that day and cried for about 2 hours. And then I realized I was not broken. The storefront was just an object. I would find another one. I would regroup. After all, this was my dream. Mine. Nobody could take that away from me.
Six months later, after trying to stay relevant online, at various Christmas craft fairs, and even opening up my home to my customers, I found another storefront. And when that one flooded, I found another one. And when that one flooded (what the heck, right?), I found my destiny.
It had big windows and within weeks, I added little white twinkle lights. It became a place where the locals gather on a Saturday morning to catch up on the latest gossip, while picking up some special treasure that only my shop can offer. I have coffee and tea and home baked goods. And I’m proud to say, it is a real, honest-to-goodness, hometown-feel place to be.
Six years. Six years of elation, of worry, of sheer joy and unwavering determination. And a dream that has come to fruition.
Never give up on your dream. Believe in yourself, even when it gets fuzzy. Even when you get scared. You can do it. You can live your best life. You don’t need a big bank or a corporate investor. You don’t need anyone else’s approval. You can do it.
with love & respect,
Owner, Simple Treasures Boutique