The Violet Waffle

Posted in business-a-go-go, Look What I Can Do Wednesday, Main, Mind Wanderings, NC, Raleigh at 10:59 am by carrie


I used to be a prolific blogger back in 2006 before Facebook & snap-tube and all those social networking services came around. You had Friendster and Myspace. Period. And you were happy to have that.

But now there’s SO many platforms to explore, it’s surprising we talk to each other at all. I’m secretly hoping blogging will make a comeback… but most of them have ads every 2 inches. I promise not to do that.

So now I will ramble on about the last few years in retail. I tend to like to do that. If you’d like to just scroll down to the pictures, I’d totally get it.

After our first store called Violets are Blue closed in La Crescenta, California in 2007, I thought maybe retail was not in the cards for me anymore. But in 2015… I wandered into a really cool mixed-vendor store in Raleigh that I had found on Instagram (more social media!), met a charismatic, adorable store manager named Dale and signed up to be a vendor on the spot. A 10′ x 10′ spot. Not a huge commitment. But it was definitely a “did that really just happen?!?!” moment.

Then I expanded into the extra large window space, and then another space. And I was spending more time at Inspirations and getting to know everyone, and started doing some of their marketing.

As of January 2019, I was set to occupy even more floor space and then suddenly, we lost Dale. And… I wasn’t sure if I wanted any of it. Dale was the icing on the cake at the store and now it just felt like a muffin. (Dale and I used baked good analogies a LOT, actually.)

After a month of me basically feeling sad, waffling back and forth over wanting to stay, handing in my letter of intention to leave then retracting it… I decided to stay at Inspirations. The other vendors and the owner were so supportive through my indecisiveness, so it was clear that I needed to stay. The new store manager, Edward, had a vision for each vendor, and for me it was for my space to be more cohesive. And spread out. Because we all know I like things to look like a jam-packed Willy Wonka wonderland (it appeals to some!). So being spread out has been a huge challenge for this happy-cave-making merchandiser.

So, here are my sketches…

And this is how it turned out… (always a work in progress!!)

And Dale looking over us…

And even a video!

It doesn’t look exactly like the sketches, but close! Here’s a little behind the scenes…

Willy Wonka what now?

Starting to scare everyone…

It took WEEKS to get this all sorted out. It’s like moving your home while wearing a ball gown haha

Goodbye window booth… you were so good to me, thank you!

I definitely had a larger following and knew more of my customers at Violets are Blue in Los Angeles, but that’s slowly starting to change. I’m getting to meet my regulars in Raleigh because people are slowly starting to discover us, so it’s been fun to see familiar faces come back in. So now I have my West Coast retail memories and my East Coast ones and they sort of converge in the middle (where there is some doppelgänger activity going on! Ohmigosh, there was one day where I had about 7 people come in who looked and acted JUST like friends/customers I had in LA… got me all nostalgic and choked up!).

If you’ve read my older posts, I frequently talk about retail being an emotional roller coaster, very high highs, low lows, so much fun at times, a huge challenge others and like a “baby cemented in the ground” all the rest of the time. For some reason, you put so much of yourself into a shop like this. Maybe if you have a store you can elaborate… but we all do it. I think it’s like a lot of genuinely rewarding things in life, really.

One day there’s so much love, the other… total frustration and maybe even a huge loss to stop you in your tracks. Every January, as you are packing up Christmas trees you ask yourself, should I keep doing this? Can I really do this? Then something gets you excited about a display or a customer tells you how you touched them emotionally and you’re all in again.

Always a back and forth labor of love. It’s a violet waffle.


Pet Portrait Commissions

Posted in Art Journal, business-a-go-go, Main at 12:54 pm by carrie

Starting at $40, you can get a watercolor and ink drawing of your pet. I can also do landscapes, homes, still lifes etc, but no humans, please! The cost will depend on the complexity and detail in the photo you select.

Finished piece will be roughly 5″ x 7″ on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of card stock.

To get a cost & time estimate, please send me an email with the photo you wish to use. Please make sure the lighting is good and all the details are easy to see, especially the eyes! I’ll get back to you with the details.

To see more of my art, check out my Pinterest board.

Here are a few more…

Friends and Family Event 2018

Posted in business-a-go-go, Events!, Main, NC, Raleigh at 11:43 am by carrie

It’s our 2nd Annual Friends & Family event!

Join us while we don our Holiday best and shower our closest supporters with gifts, festive food and a great atmosphere as a huge THANK YOU for your support! You’ll get the store all to yourself while we mingle, shop, nibble and sip.

Friday, November November 2nd, 6:00pm – 8:00pm.

For more info, visit our event page on Facebook.

Hope to see you there!

Inspirations Home Decor and More, 8601 Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh, NC


Nominate us, please!

Posted in business-a-go-go, NC, Raleigh at 1:43 pm by carrie

Indy Week Best of the Triangle 2018 nominations are open, would you please vote for Inspirations Home Decor and More in the following categories:

Best Furniture Store in the Triangle

Best Gift Shop in Wake County

Best Home Accessory Store in the Triangle

Best Home Furnishing Store in the Triangle

Best Women’s Boutique in Wake County

You may have to add our name to the nomination name under “Don’t see your favorite?”. Please enter “Inspirations Home Decor and More” in that field. Thank you SO much!!!


Summertime Venting… a post from July 2007 that I never published

Posted in business-a-go-go, Main at 9:39 pm by carrie

okay, so it’s hot. I’m grumpy. It’s summertime now. Which in the retail world translates into slower sales and the store being a browsing destination for “getting ideas” and not quite the shopping destination. (I understand why though… we have lower inventory than usual because there isn’t a big holiday around the corner). I think Moms are starting to get overwhelmed with the kids home from school and they come here to get some much needed adult “me” time, and have an adult conversation. I have never considered myself an adult so I apologize that I may not have been that grown-up conversation you were looking for ;) But I am a good listener!

When it rains it pours and I’ve been getting bombarded by all angles and I’m slowly going insane. Poor Nathan has been so patient with me the past few days as I ditch dinner to come work on paperwork at the shop. He’s also been awesome on our nightly post office runs. I’m starting to hate being at the store. Every time that phone rings I think to myself… “What do they want… now”. That’s not a good thing.

When I feel this way, I pick up my copy of Be Our Guest, Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, by the Disney Institute. Disneyland is my retreat when I’m a big grouch, and I instantly turn that frown upside down (groan) when we get there. Disney has customer service down. I want to be like that and make people smile and leave here happy (or at least, happier)! So, please bear with me, I’m learning ;)

I guess part of my problem is that there is too much to do and I’m already dedicating my days off on top of running the store, to run the behind the scenes of the store. It’s like I work my 11-7 or 8 each day, work on things at home on Sunday, run around doing errands most of Monday and I still don’t get everything done. It’s enough to make you want to run, screaming. I thought the “startup” days of not being organized would go away, but alas, I’m still learning how to juggle this… and I’ve lost friends in the process (Which is SO hard)

*side note/tangent* Small tip… learn how to separate business from friendship/favors… otherwise, it WILL bite you, and it’s usually super petty. Another tip… get everything in writing, even if it takes you weeks longer to put together. Have it all on a form in triplicate and go over it with the person you are going to work with more than you feel is necessary. You may think something is obvious, but sometimes, scratch that, most of the times… it’s NOT obvious to both parties involved. That’s one sure fire way to lose a friend or colleague. And I have to admit, I can be hyper sensitive and when a not-so-friendly comment is made regarding how I’m running my business, I get defensive. That’s my fault, the store is an extension of me and I need to start a mantra… “I am not the store, the store is not me” until it sticks.

Sometimes, I’m scattered. Sometimes, I don’t get things done right away. Sometimes, I’m not the best communicator. I’m an artist struggling to be a bookkeeper, class scheduler, publicist, janitor, shipping and receiving manager, supplies manager, buyer, merchandiser, accountant, blogger, plumber, repairman, window cleaner, landscaper, etc and so on (whine whine whine). When someone calls and says… “May I speak with the person in charge of….”, I just cut them off and say, “That’s me!”. Now throw Christmas into the equation and I may be passed out on the floor… just ring the bell on the counter when you need me :)

I share this because some of you enjoy hearing such things. To know that running a store has its ups and downs and that you can’t be an android with a wonderful demeanor every moment. This job takes acting sometimes… even if the laundry ate your favorite sweater, you have to be here… smiling (I guess that goes with every job you would have, but here… if you are unhappy, the customer will go to another store where that person behind the counter IS happy… in all honesty, I would go somewhere else, too!). And for goodness sake, numero uno, most importantly, don’t do what I did… Have money (or a loan) set aside to hire people! I’m not quite there yet and I really wish I was. I could be out there promoting the heck out of the store, instead I’m standing behind the counter. And I do enjoy the oohs and ahhhs and pats on the back from some of the customers, and I do like to have the confidence in knowing that 90% of the time I’m the smiling face of Violets are Blue… BUT… being here… all the time… is a tad much. My wholesale line is calling me! I wish I could answer that call ;) All in due time.

So… if you own or have owned a store… what do you do to keep your sanity through the summer? I’m trying to be creative, make jewelry while I’m here, occupy my time selling on ebay… but… all I want to be doing is sipping iced tea while floating in the pool (anyone have a pool I can borrow?)

If you have any other questions about running a store, please ask! I haven’t seen much out there besides the “you go girl!” inspirational books on how to open a store… or very form-y formal books on business. There is SO much more to it, I could go on and on and on…

On the other hand, if I’m being a downer, tell me… I’ll leave this to my private blog ;) I vent a small fraction of the time (I would like to think that, please correct me if I’m wrong) and all the other posts are (hopefully) love letters to the store… because in all honesty, I do… LOVE it :)

A New Facebook Page

Posted in business-a-go-go, Main at 9:10 pm by carrie

I spent some time with a brick and mortar boutique owner the other day. She was frustrated with some things going on in the store and wasn’t sure how to address them, other than going to a therapist. I listened to her articulate her problems and feelings and oh boy, did it all sound familiar. A flood of memories came back to me as I attempted to give her advice. And I honestly thought it was good advice, too. It all sounded so easy 6 years after closing my own store. That buffer of time had also allowed me to remove so much of that emotion that used to overwhelm and paralyze me, too.

I read my old blog posts and cringe with embarrassment. I’ve never been the best at writing, but those passages made it wildly obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing with writing or running a store.

I started this blog in 2006 to talk about owning a store, to share my merchandising pictures and for general marketing purposes. It quickly turned into a venue to vent and clearly convey to the world that I was lost, but trying to have sense of humor about it (and to show them that I liked using winky faces liberally). If you’d like to read those passages, click on the business-a-go-go category on the right.

Opening, managing and running a store is an art. An exhausting, rewarding, ever-changing art. I’ve worked retail for years and put my wares into craft fairs and swap meets, but never owned a physical store. There’s the paperwork, the initial setup, the buying, the merchandising, the self evaluations, the unpacking, the bill paying, the form filling, the law abiding, the shoplifting, the overwhelming amounts of cardboard, the surprises, more surprises, the cleaning… but the emotional. Nobody tells you about the emotional. Only the owners know about this. And in 2006, I finally got to know what it was like to be a brick and mortar owner, with those dreaded huge emotions.

I’m not sure if the emotions come from realizing that your work is never done, or you could always do more or do better or work harder… or is it the ruminating on how you interacted with a customer that day or a vendor that was flip. Or maybe it’s only the sensitive store owners that go through this. I’m really not sure… but I’d like to explore it.

All I know now is that I have a story to tell, advice to give and if you or someone you know is going through “Brick and Mortar Emotions”, I invite you to join my brand new Facebook Page, “Retail Therapy” and share your story, ask questions or give advice to anyone else who needs it.

Hope to see you there!


Happy 4th Blogiversary :)

Posted in business-a-go-go, Main, Mind Wanderings at 8:58 am by carrie

Four years of blogging. Almost 300 posts and over 2100 comments. Wow.

I really wish I could make this a more regular occurrence, this blogging thing. I just need to go out and do exciting things and be creative so I can share more often ;) Having the store made it easy to share. There was so much to talk about all the time.

It’s been just over two years since we closed Violets are Blue. I miss climbing the steps to the store, iced nonfat caramel macchiato in hand, opening the door to the familiar Violets are Blue collective scent, hearing the beep of the alarm… opening the little squeaking shutter door that we fixed dozens of times and setting my purse down and turning on the CD player. Keys onto the bulletin board that I wish I would have kept. Using that strange little metal key to turn on the hose, hearing the traffic whiz by me on foothill blvd, cordless phone clipped to my back pocket as I watered the plants. Lavender and roses. Go back inside, wash my hands and start tidying up a bit. The first little bell jingle of the day at the front door… is it UPS Brian, Joe, Michele or a customer? I really didn’t realize how wonderful all of that was until now. (But dang it, I complained about the holidays every year, didn’t I? lol)

I’ve had dreams lately that I’m in my old space but the landlord doesn’t know I’m there. I sneak inventory in and out at night and refrain from advertising or posting a sign. I think it vaguely resembles a speakeasy. Towards the end of the dream, I’m driving my Volvo up to the store in the night, in a panic, thinking that the store is gone, empty or the locks have been changed… that I’ve been found out. Then I wake up in an overly-emotional panic and ask myself… “what was THAT all about?”

I know that Maylene has several photos of me scraping the hand-painted logo off the window… with a smile on my face. I turned to her after the flash to say “Gee, I’m not emotional or sad at all… I’m really surprised by that”. Bits of paint flaking off to the ground, in a little blue, purple and white dusty puddle. I sweep it up and throw it out with little more than a “goodbye”. Looking back, I should have saved those paint shavings in a little box and put it on the mantel.

That’s morbid, isn’t it?

Switching gears now…

So… today… what am I doing?

I’ve started several projects. Scratch that, my husband and I started a few projects and I have started multiple projects.

First off… starting businesses with friends? Not so much a good idea. Makes me really sad to say… but it’s the truth. Unless you have a bullet proof business plan. Just. Don’t.

Moving along… we joined a film making group and made one little film. We’re always coming up with other ideas for new films and animated pieces, which is a lot of fun.

I started selling digital art sheets on etsy and have done pretty well with it. I’ve also thought about doing interior decorating, party planning, photography, production art for websites, animation, graphic design… just to name a few. I guess I’ve been reinventing myself a bit, and working on a portfolio is part of it.

And there’s also violetcottage.com, amazon.com and the reopening of my ebay store. Mostly my favorites from Midwest, but I’m branching out into other areas, too, including more handmade things, which I’d like to start creating daily. I like pretty little things, what can I say?

I think I’m a gypsy or… what’s the term… I’m a renaissance woman? That’s a good thing, right? :)

Several of you that used to come to Violets are Blue have emailed me to say hello. I have a folder called “Love Letters” for these emails. I reach into that folder when I’m “Blue for the Violets” and it really brightens my day. So to each and every one of you who have reached out… a HUGE thank you. I miss you all more than you know!!

I think “Violets” is a part of me… and it will continue to exist in one form or another for as long as I can imagine, even if it’s only in cyberspace. But wouldn’t it be nice to be back on that busy Boulevard with the familiar schedule… which included that daily caramel macchiato ;)


Epiphany in the Bathtub…

Posted in business-a-go-go, Main at 12:03 am by carrie

Do you ever soak in a bath and then *bam* you get an idea that you think is brilliant… although, I’m not sure HOW brilliant this is, I’m just thinking out loud.

So, I need some input…

I miss my store & I miss my customers. Duh.

Why not have an open house/trunk sale/tea party one weekend in October, November or December in La Crescenta, CA? Or sooner? :)

I need a venue. I’ll need tons of help. I need more vendors and I need a pack mule to help me move merchandise from this coast to the other.

Just a thought.

Is it any good? :)

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