Monday, August 25, 2014

Gremlins in the System . . .

I got at e-mail about 3:05 EDT Monday afternoon and the subject was “Marco’s Paper Blog Post” – which seemed rather strange to me since I haven’t written anything since Friday.

Then I looked at the heading – “Arizona on My Mind” – and realized that it was a post from back in May.  I assume it went out then – I have no idea why it went out today.  Similar reruns have happened once or twice before, so I guess there must be gremlins in the blogging system somewhere.

But I can assure you that I’m in Ohio – and so are my parents (I saw both of them Saturday and Sunday).  Dad just got back from a week of hiking in the Rockies – by himself – so I got to hear his stories over the weekend.

So to those of you who subscribe to the blog, please accept my apologies for clogging up your inbox . . .

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Answering the Challenge . . .

Anyone who knows me well knows that there are two things in life I truly dislike – cold and wet.  Therefore, I have kept a very low profile during this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge sweeping the nation through social media.  And still, Sandy Sandrus (her sister and brother-in-law are Debby and Rick from Just for Fun) called me out Wednesday night.  So I share my response with you (those I challenged are all local friends of mine) . . .

Here’s a link to the video in case you can’t see it here . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEKCBcV4Y80

Saturday, August 16, 2014

More Proof That Our Customers Have the Best Ideas . . .

I was home only two weekends between the last weekend in June and this one – one of them was the Fourth of July Weekend and the other was the weekend that my nephew got married.  So all of my weekdays have been filled with either preparations for the coming weekend’s show or family gatherings.

So this week has been a blurrrrrrr . . . as I tried to catch up with all of the e-mails and new items and such that I have missed.  All the while, Gary has been wandering through my little corner of the mail center asking the same question – “Has the e-mail gone out yet?”  He is being your advocate – he knows that many of you have been waiting for the new toys and trinkets and goodies that have been released in the past few weeks – and that you’re also waiting for us to get them on our site so you can get the special pricing for advance orders.  He also knows that I don’t like to do anything until I’m sure that it’s complete and just as close to perfect as I can make it.

So he and I walk both sides of that fine line between perfection and speed . . .

I finally had it all ready on Thursday afternoon, so I wrote the e-mail and hit the “send” button.  Because there is a “speed limit” on the amount of e-mails our system will allow to be sent per hour, it takes almost 36 hours for all of them to go out (which is why some of you didn’t see that e-mail until you woke up this morning).

And then I opened my inbox this morning, where I discovered the following note from Kathy English in Texas . . .

Hi!  I love your blog and your website!!  I just noticed that the last of the Tim Holtz mini ink pads are coming soon.  Wouldn't you love to package an entire set of all 12 of these sets and sell it for a really good price?  Such a good idea--'cause I really want them all!
Thanks for all your years of supplying us with things we need.
Kathy

Now I will admit that stroking my ego a bit is always a good way to start a request!  But beyond that, I will also admit this – “That’s a great idea – how did I miss it?”  I have always said that the best ideas come from our customers, and over the years I have had enough requests for complete sets that you would think it would have sunk in at some point.  But until it does, I am grateful to Kathy and others like you who keep me on my toes.

That said . . .

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This banner is now on our homepage, and if you click on it (or on this graphic), Kathy’s wish was my command . . .

Thanks to her – and to all the rest of you who help me do my job.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sights from a Sleep-Deprived Weekend . . .

So many have have assumed over the years that the Cincinnati show must be the easiest weekend of the year for us – and seem surprised when I snort in response.  Nothing could be farther from the truth – when we’re on the road, anything that isn’t in the booth is simply out of stock.  When we’re this close to home, anything that isn’t in the booth is “I’ll pick it up at the store tonight and have it for you in the morning.”  Such was the case during the Preview Party on Friday evening – I left the Sharonville Convention Center at 11:10 p.m. and finally hit my front door at 2:45 a.m.  Made for an early wakeup call at 6:15 a.m. – thankfully, a building full of excited customers makes it easier to stay awake . . .

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The Friday night “costume” theme was Crazy Hats – and yes, it was a rerun from last year.  So are these pictures of my chapeau – you’ll find them in the blog post from last year’s show as well.  Ted Cutts saw me and shouted that wearing the same getup as last year was not allowed – my response was “Connie didn’t change the theme – I didn’t change the hat.”

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But Karen did – her headgear was quite different from last year.  And after Friday evening, it spent Saturday atop the gridwall above her cash register.

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I wasn’t the only one who pulled out last year’s hat – but Bill from Repeat Impressions did add more recyclables to his previous entry.

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Speaking of Ted Cutts – it won’t be long before his son Trevor will be looking down upon him.  We have watched a lot of kids grow up on this circuit.  It was nice to see Ted looking so good – he parted with his appendix in mid-June after gutting out the misery through a weekend show (and a couple of trips to the emergency room) in Arlington, Texas.  By the time the diagnosis was confirmed, the surgery wasn’t nearly as simple as it should have been – and Ted now has a nine-inch scar as a reminder.

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It was fun to see so many vendors get into the act.  I didn’t get far away from our booth – Our Daily Bread and Sweet and Sassy Stamps both shared the same aisle with us.

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These were two of my favorite customer entries . . .

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And then there is this sinister looking individual – who wears a hat at all shows . . .

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On my way in the door on Saturday morning, I had to get one last image of our good friends Nicole and Lucie from Luni Stamps – this was their last show, as they are headed into retirement (or at least semi-retirement).  We love them dearly, wish them well – and will miss them terribly.

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I spent some time catching up with Pat and Paul from Northwoods Rubber Stamps – my stories were about Ryan’s wedding, and theirs were about their infant grandchildren.  Both made sure to inform me that their grandson was named Maddox Paul . . .

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Our booth rocked all day as usual.  Faber-Castell sent their crack demo artist Rita Barakat in from Texas to show off their wares . . .

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. . . it isn’t as easy to see in this picture as it was when I noticed it, but the crush of customers during the early part of Saturday pushed Rita’s demo table in at an angle from where it was originally positioned.

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Always on alert for distinctive t-shirts . . . this was my favorite.  Had to get a closeup to send to Ryan – and of course he loved it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Novi in the Summer (But It Feels Like Fall) . . .

It has been much the same everywhere we have been this summer – the temps are lower than normal, humidity is down, everything is green from excessive rain.  I want all of these degrees we have been missing put into a fund so I can withdraw them in January . . .

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This weekend, we are in Novi, Michigan – and this is what’s new since we were here last August.  Big TVs near the box office – I even saw a copier/fax/scanner in the hallway for use by convention guests, and now there is free wifi (which I am using to type this blog just before the show opens on Sunday).

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Nikki and Sheila from Heirloom (Nikki is on the left helping a customer get ready to enter the hall) escaped the west coast for the first time this year to join us at a show.

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Obligatory shot of the loooooooong hallway leading into the convention.  There was a cat show on the other side of the building, so when our line started getting in the way of that entrance, Nikki let some of our line into the “holding cell” (my term) – but some of them got the idea that the show was opening early and had to be herded back.

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A view from my cash register – I guess Steve from Toomuchfun was playing on his iPad.  I just thought the shot was too good to pass up . . .

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I heard this “whirring” sound all day Saturday – finally turned around late in the afternoon and saw what was causing it.  Joel from Heartfelt Creations has attached a power drill to his Grand Calibur.  As much as he uses it in his demo, it’s a good idea – but read the disclaimer and don’t do this at home . . .

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I got a kick out of this t-shirt when I saw the first one – a minute later when I saw the other sister wearing the same shirt, it became my favorite shirt of the show . . .

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But this was my favorite mental image – these shoes walked into the booth in mid-afternoon and this picture does not do justice to just how neon they are.  I have not reached my neon phase of life yet, but I kept being drawn to them.  I have reached the point where some of my polo shirts have small neon stripes – and soon I may have to search for a quieter version of these.  A couple of customers told me that if I wore a shirt in these colors, the cash register would be easier to find . . .

Monday, July 21, 2014

“Yep, I Made It!”

I know that quite a few of you have been waiting for a report on Walter’s 100th birthday celebration.  I intended to get a couple of pictures when I got back from last weekend’s show in Texas – but I spent all day Monday at an International Trucks depot in Memphis while repairs were made on our company truck.  So this will have to suffice.

I talked with Gary on Saturday, and he said that a nurse at the facility where Walter recently moved greeted him on Friday morning – “Good morning Walter, it’s your 100th birthday!”

And Walter’s response was “Yep, I made it!”

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Here are a couple of shots of the big card that was made in the store so that customers and friends could add a personal greeting.

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And a shot I took of the box where your cards for Walter were being gathered as they arrived – I suspect it was overflowing by the time the day actually arrived.

Thanks to all for being part of this special celebration!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

They Grow Up So Fast . . .

One of the best perks of traveling as much as I do is the acquaintances I have made along the way.  Every time I return to an area, there are faces I look forward to seeing again – and the show is not complete until I see all of them.  Over the years, some of those acquaintances have become good friends . . .

In September 1999, we went to Greenville, South Carolina for the first time.  And in those days, the first time we went to an area meant we got a big stack of cards with new names and addresses for our mailing and e-mail lists.  I usually glanced at the card as the customer handed it to me, to make sure I could read the e-mail address so I could type it correctly when I got home.  So it was when I encountered a nice lady with a daughter a year or two younger than Ryan tagging along – I glanced at her mailing list card and the e-mail address started with “MarisaNMom”.  So I pointed at her daughter and asked the obvious question – “Is this Marisa?”

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It was.  I have no idea if they were dressed identically that day (it wouldn’t surprise me), but I enjoyed visiting with them and that e-mail address stuck in my mind.  So a year later when we returned to Greenville, I saw that same mother and daughter and greeted them with “Hello, Marisa!”  I also saw the startled look on her mom’s face and felt the need to explain why I remembered Marisa’s name – and my friendship with Kathy Markwardt was born.

I honestly don’t know if I have actually seen Marisa in person in the past 14 years – but I have seen lots of her pictures at shows in Greenville and Atlanta when Kathy and I have crossed paths and updated each other on our children’s activities.  Through our conversations, I learned that her husband took a job in Wisconsin for several years while the rest of the family stayed in South Carolina, but he has been back in the south for a couple of years so I should have been caught completely off-guard last weekend when Kathy walked into our booth at a show near Milwaukee . . .

Kathy was in Wisconsin visiting family and they all came to the show together – but Kathy’s cousin beat her to our booth and told me she was the the room!  So I wasn’t surprised to see her, but Kathy still had a surprise for me . . .

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Marisa is engaged, and the lucky guy’s name is Louis.  Kathy and I spent several minutes reliving Ryan’s wedding and talking about her plans for Marisa’s.  And I felt a little older with the realization that the catalyst for our friendship is now preparing for a walk down the aisle.

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Here we are, 15 years later, and our friendship endures.  And her e-mail address still starts with “MarisaNMom” . . .