Monday, August 25, 2014

Confessions of a Shopkeeper: 20 Things You May Not Know About Owning a Shop.

If you are like a whole bunch of people I see on the regular, you want to open a shop. 

An antiques and decor store kinda like ours.

IT WILL BE SO FUN, they say.
SO WHAT, YOU JUST SLAP SOME PAINT ON OLD STUFF? (my favorite), they say.

(photo source:


Now, don't misunderstand me. I am all about supporting and collaborating with pretty much everyone all the time. 
I believe you can TOTALLY DO ANYTHING! 
Get it! 
But go into it with your eyes wide open. 
Over the last few years of doing this whole thing, I have learned a lot. 
I have so. much. more. to. learn.
In the meantime, I made this list of things I have experienced that you may not know about owning a shop. 
Your experience may vary.
Or, if you are a shopkeeper too, feel free to add to it.
It's a little bit tongue-in-cheek.
Take it with a grain of salt and a bottle glass of wine.

20 Things You May Not Know About Owning A Shop 

1. You will never have money. At least, not for, well...I don't know when you get the money.
Look at it this way: if you sell 1000.00 worth of product, you will take home about 6.00 of that. (approximately)
Let's do the math:
You spent at least 500.00 for that stuff to start with. Probably more.
That leaves you with 500.00.
You will then need to take that 500.00 and spend it on stuff to make the next 1000.00.

2. See above. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

3. Your "free time" will be spent scouring Craigslist for the one remaining item that doesn't
A: cost more than the stuff that's in your shop.
B: involve a drive so lengthy that you need to schedule in a bathroom break, a traffic report, and at least one Slurpee.

4. Your "free time" will also be spent ordering, procuring, driving, accounting, making things pretty, painting, restocking, paying bills, posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogging, photographing, pretending you know how to build websites, answering emails, answering the phone, quoting custom work, doing the custom work, delivering, picking up, putting on painting classes, and moving heavy things from one spot to another to another.

5. If you are somehow doing all of those things and are not physically in your shop for all of the hours of the 7 days a week that you are open, you will hear (say it with me) "You're never here anymore!". Or if you have set up your operating hours so that you are closed in order to do those things, you will hear (sing it loud) "You're always closed!".

6. Unless you are some sort of robot/trust fund baby, you mind will never stop thinking about work/money. You will have to dig deep to find your awesome sometimes. While you are in there, will you look for the balance?

7. People will promise you the world and let you down. It happens, things happen. You will live, you will learn. And you will move on. The best of intentions can and will turn out to be just that, so refer to #8.

8. Get everything in writing! Get it signed. Make copies. Refer the people that signed said documents to the said documents frequently.

9. Instead of chewing your tongue bloody, learn to be a good, firm communicator. This is something I struggle with. Sometimes people will not like what you say or the way you say it, but you have to be honest.

10. Somehow, at some point, your very being will piss someone off and out of nowhere someone will be mean to you. You will turn yourself upside down worrying about it. It will happen even if you stand on your head, bend over backwards, are grateful and kind every day, go to church, volunteer your time, it doesn't matter. It just will happen. Yes, it totally sucks. Sorry dude. 

11. Every now and then your blessings will feel like burdens. You won't want to feel that way, but you will. The late nights will take their toll. Get some sleep. Get out of town. Listen to gangsta rap. Whatever. Get yourself right.

12. There will be some sort of lame political hierarchy in your field of work, your town, your street, your strip mall. Bleh. Who cares. Do you and do your best to lift up the businesses around you.

13. While you are building your business, you will be stressed out a LOT. When you are most stressed, you will lash out at those you love and appreciate the most. Over two years in, our business is still in the baby stages of being built. Ask Mr. P or Mama P, it is still DEFINITELY a thing that happens. *sorry, guys*

14. It is hard to live in the moment as a retailer. Thinking of Christmas in June is like 3 months later than other retailers do...ugh. I get NUTS when I hear Christmas music one minute before the day after Thanksgiving. Mr. P loves to randomly turn Pandora to Bing Crosby Christmas radio every now and then just to see my reaction.

15. Get used to this: being a hero or a zero. One day you will sell, like, everything and it will be awesome and you will be like WHOOO, and then you instantly will be like HOLY CRAP I SOMEHOW HAVE TO FIND STUFF AND PAINT IT ALL AND IT ALL HAS TO BE DONE AND LOADED IN THE SHOP IN SIX HOURS. So you will scramble and scrape and then the next day, not one person will walk in and you will be like OH MY GOD WE ARE GOING TO DIE. I am super not used to this, still, and probably never will be.

16. Sometimes you will feel like you're on an island made of work. You will have very little social life. Unfortunately, you will lose some friends because of it. Reach out to the others that do the same work as you for commiseration, sharing of small victories. Hold tight to your family and be crazy grateful for them and the folks that stick around while you're building your very, very, tiny empire.

17. Taxes? SUUUUUUUUUCK. The number one driving force behind this business has always been building something that will take care of our parents. In a close second? Being able to hire a bookkeeper and accountant. Preferably a non-judgy one.

18. You will be shocked by the kindness of people. Totally blessed in ways you never knew to be possible, by people that you could never even dream of: your customers. That's not even the right word for the awesome beings that are solely responsible for making your dreams come true. (PS, #shoplocal because we really REALLY love you and appreciate you!)

19. It will be hard not to compare yourself with those around you that are bigger, more stocked, more experienced. As a tiny shop sandwiched between two awesome, larger, more established shops, I have admittedly had beat-myself-up moments about not being where they are. But I have to remember they probably started where I am. I still get pangs of inadequacy, especially when I see their beautiful displays, but then I think about the fact that they have employees. FANCY! 

20. Even though you will never truly relax ever again may have a really hard time relaxing, you will feel more gratitude and love in your heart than you ever thought you could. You will feel like part of a community. You will feel proud of yourself, and if you're like me, that is a new kind of feeling. It's amazing and surprising, still. And that makes it all worth it. That feeling runs in the background always, kind of like your shopkeeper soundtrack. Which, if it were an actual soundtrack with actual songs, would probably be sung by Kenny Loggins. 

You will hear it, however faintly, even on those zero days. 


  1. What a great article! Altho I do not have a shop, I used to sell TO shops. I would totally be just like you. Being creative can thrill the socks off of me and be a burden at the same time. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I needed to read it! I've been spinning my wheels a lot lately and I'm glad to know I'm not alone!

  3. We too have a creative business, and girl I feel you so much! It's fabulous and crazy all rolled into one and you never know what will win on any given day ;) Keep up the great work...there are many cheering you on! Great read today - thanks!

  4. What a perfect description of our business!...Are you stalking me? Of course not! You have no time!

  5. Oh this is GOOD!!!!! You captured it all and spit it right out perfectly!!! From one fellow shop owner to another, Onward and UPWARD!!!!!

  6. Oh yay! Is it not the best feeling in the world to know you are not on a work island all alone? We are a network of islands! Like a work archipelago. Thank you for your rad comments!

  7. Being a shop owner for 25 years, this all brought a smile to my face and it is all so true...the recession a few years back really did a number on us, only the most hardy survived, with that being said, I'm seeing a new generation of women getting back in the biz, so that makes me age 65 I'm opening another storefront next to my daughters shop, sorta coming out of semi-retirement, after all it's only a number, wish me luck and Junk Asylum as well, as we try to help restore our historic downtown...we ain't right in the head, but we'll always have a smile!

  8. #10 - NAILED IT!! I feel like this happens to me daily, just because I got out of bed, or something.

    This could not have come at the most perfect time for me. I JUST opened a shop. I thought of several scenarios that happened to me for each point you listed here. Unpredictability is the only predictable thing about this biz!

  9. Wishing you the best, ladies!!! Feel free to come vent here anytime you are running on empty/tired/ready to choke folks! Xo

  10. My consignment and resale shopkeeper pals are LOVING your article which I shared on the Too Good to be Threw Facebook page! Thanks for it (and for the earworm, not!)