Monday, August 31, 2009

Prayer and Card Request

Most of you know by now that my writing style is usually light and upbeat (some might even call it corny). But not today . . .

Many of you know Karen Ihle -- if you're local you've seen her in the store and if not you've seen her in the booth at shows. You may not know her name, but no doubt you've seen her face -- this was her costume at the Cincinnati show earlier this month.

Karen had a stroke on Friday evening, and is currently in the hospital. She is stable and seems to be doing better, but it's not easy to get much information at hospitals over the weekend. She had an MRI yesterday and is scheduled for a CAT scan today, so hopefully we'll know more soon. The stroke is affecting her speech and her left side. She was awake and quite alert and talkative when I got the hospital Friday night, and was sleeping peacefully when I was there Saturday (so I didn't wake her).

Addendum -- I went to see Karen at lunchtime today and she looks much better. She is able to get around a little with help. The doctor said the MRI showed that she had a "very strong" stroke and is fortunate -- many in similar situations have ended up paralyzed or worse. He told her she should be able to get back her normal duties again.

Karen is the sister I never had -- we have been close for nearly 30 years and helped raise each other's children. Your prayers would be appreciated.

So would cards -- if you'd like to send her one, please send it to the store and we'll make sure it gets to her:

Karen Ihle
Marco's Paper
25 West Whipp Road
Centerville, OH 45459


Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom's 70th birthday. My birthdays have never bothered me a bit, but Mom's milestones give me pause. I have always enjoyed having young parents -- Mom was only 19 when I was born. When she turned 40, I was a senior in college -- I mentioned it to my roommate and he looked at me and said "my sister is older than your mother."

We offered to have a party, but Mom preferred a quiet evening with the family. With two grandchildren in college, it's hard to get everyone together. Last night was the best we could do (one grandchild short), since Dad just got back on Wednesday from 10 days hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

My brother Blake and I started planning for a special gift while we were hiking the Grand Canyon back in April. Blake wanted to get her a TV for her kitchen in Arizona. So we put our "personal shopper" to work (Ryan works in home theater at Best Buy) -- but Ryan said nothing comes that small anymore, and suggested we get something for her kitchen here in Ohio and send the little one she uses here to Arizona.

Of course, Ryan wanted to try to confuse her, so she opened the small gifts first . . .

First the card, and then the surge protector -- Mom was confused, but gracious.

Next came the telescoping mount so she can keep it under the kitchen cabinets when not in use. Since the mount said it was for a flat screen TV, she had to know what was coming next, but she still wasn't sure.

The family is enjoying the spectacle -- left to right, my nephew Tyler, my brother Blake, my sister-in-law Lisa, and my son Ryan.

And finally she opens the big box, and then the tissue comes out . . .

And a quick picture for Blake before the boys herded everyone into the kitchen for desserts. We usually spend more time in the kitchen when we get together than anyplace else.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Reasons to Make a Pilgrimage to Lovely Dayton, Ohio . . .

We travel a lot -- most of you know that. And at every show, we get a handful of people who tell us that they used to live in/near Dayton. The emphasis here is on "used to" -- I usually refer to them as "escapees". But they all make a point of stopping by our store when they're in town to visit family or friends.

Our Fourth Annual Fantastic Fall Sale starts the first Sunday in October and runs the rest of the month. But we do all kinds of special stuff for a week ahead of time. So for the locals, this is your warning to clear your calendar.

For the non-locals, it's time to plan your travel schedule. If you have to drag a male along, go here first -- The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force (around here, we just call it the "Air Force Museum") is less than 15 minutes from our store. It is VERY cool, has lots of big planes (and may soon have a space shuttle) and it will keep him busy most of the day. It is also FREE . . .

Now, back to the Fall Sale plug. Before the store opens on Monday, September 28, Gary will place discount stickers on 1,000 items in our store (Gary is the Exhalted Grand Poobah of Marco's who is never seen on the road) ranging from 25% to 75% off. Then we'll keep track of how many of those items sell during the day, and the following morning he'll replenish the supply. So there will be 1,000 stickered items at the beginning of each day that week!

There will also be classes and free demos and make it/take its throughout the week -- check the classroom page at for updates throughout September. While you're at it, check out the early September classes from Dreamweaver's Rep Beverly Anderson (September 8 & 9), Pat Adams (Classy Tulips Workshop September 15), and Dawn Cutter/Donna Sheetz (Fantastic Four + 2 September 16).

Here are some events that are already scheduled:

Donna Weibel will be holding Tim Holtz Christmas Card classes on Wednesday, September 30 and Saturday, October 3 (the Saturday class is already sold out) and a Tim Holtz Autumn Tag make it/take it (date to be announced). Donna is currently on her way to Arizona for Tim's Creative Escape, so we'll talk with her when she gets back to see if she can add another session of her class!

Pat Adams spent three days late last month with Susan Pickering Rothamel in her USArtQuest studio learning Sue's best techniques and will be offering her first USAQ class, Checkbook Cover Workshop and Napkin Exchange on Tuesday, September 29.

Ginger Deaton (our own "Domino Diva") will show you how to create beautiful jewelry pieces from dominoes during a class on Tuesday, September 29.

There will be free make it/take its all week long from Marco's instructors, including Donna Sheetz, Dawn Cutter, Sandy Livingston, and Judy Davidson. They'll all be free, but signups will be required. So watch the calendar page and sign up early!

And Ellison/Sizzix Rep Debbie Zegarra will be on hand from 10:00-5:00 on Friday, October 2 to demo the new Big Shot Express Motorized Shape-Cutting and Embellishing System (yep, it's electric). She will also be introducing our newest line of cardstock -- Core'dinations. Yes, we're finally taking the plunge . . .

All of this leads up to Sunday, October 4, and a day so packed with events that I plan to be 400 miles away (I'll be at a show in York, PA all weekend):

- Super Sidewalk Sale -- the sidewalk in front of the store will be crammed full of items and they'll sell for only $1.00 each! Rain or shine!

- Trunk Sale -- Our Lucy's Paper Garden Club members will be selling their lightly used stamps, paper, media, magazines, and other craft supplies right from their car trunks and tables in the parking lot! Rain or shine!

- Fantastic Fall Sale -- First day of a sale that lasts all through October, with great deals, specials, and coupons!

So make your plans and clear your schedules! And then check back Friday for a recap of my mom's gala 70th birthday celebration . . .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Moving Toward the 21st Century

The question we are probably asked most often is why there is no shopping cart or search button on our website. I wish there was -- it has been my pet peeve for several years. The short answer is money -- with a catalog our size, it costs thousands of dollars to implement. And I understand the frustration -- I'm one of those who likes to shop at odd hours and wants to use only a few clicks to get everything done. Hopefully, we'll get there soon. But we'll always have people around to take calls and answer questions -- it frustrates me more when I call someplace and can't get a human being on the line. I have no interest in pushing button after button, hoping that eventually I'll get a category that will help me. I'll push one button, but after that I push "0" -- and if I don't get a real voice after that I hang up. Yes, I can be an old grump at times . . .

Here's the long answer on the shopping cart/search button issue -- it's my fault. Twelve years ago, I got my first computer (other than the Atari 800 I played with back in the mid 80s) and got my first real look at the internet. I knew immediately that we needed a website, but had no idea what to do next. A guy we knew said he worked in web design and could set up a good website for us. So we gave him a bunch of stuff to work with and waited . . . and waited . . .

What we got wasn't usable -- it wasn't customer friendly and was just BLAH. And this was at a point where our whole catalog fit on both sides of a trifold sheet of paper. So I decided to try it myself, even though I barely knew how to turn a computer on -- I bought a copy of Microsoft FrontPage and then went to the bookstore and bought a manual when I discovered the manual that came in the box was lousy. Then I barricaded myself in our computer room at home and went to work, and called a friend for advice whenever I got stuck. I called him A LOT, and I worked at home for a month. The first page I built took two weeks -- the last page I built before the website went live for the first time took 20 minutes and was infinitely more complex.

Ours was one of the first websites in the industry, and it grew exponentially the first few years as we added items to the catalog and information for our customers to other pages I built. Then this great new idea called "online ordering" was born -- no one had even hinted at it when we started. And then I discovered my mistake -- I had built our catalog out of pages and pages of tables rather than a single database, so there was no way to add a search box and no way to link the catalog to a shopping cart. I didn't know any better -- and now "solving" this problem will involve a complete rebuild of our website and catalog. I have tried working on it myself, but little by little I have created a monster over the years. That catalog is HUGE, and it's more than I can handle by myself. But hopefully we'll get there at some point.

All of that rambling (I do a lot of that) leads to this -- I rebuilt the index to our online catalog over the weekend. The old index (and it's still there underneath the new one if you have gotten used to it) wasn't alphabetized and had little rhyme or reason to it -- if we got a new item and it didn't fit into an existing category, I just built a new page and added a link on the index. Some constructive criticism that came in a couple of e-mails over the last few weeks made me realize that, shopping cart or no shopping cart, our catalog wasn't functional if our customers can't find what they're looking for in a couple of clicks (just like me on the phone).

So I went to work. When you click on the "Pricing Guide" button on the left side of our homepage, you'll go to an alphabetical listing of just about everything we carry, linked to the page on our site where it appears. You may still have to scroll down the page a little to find it, but it's there. Give it a try and let me know what you think -- you can get there directly from here at Just the address should show how little I knew when I started -- I hit the space bar between "Pricer" and "Index" when I built the page back in March 1998 without knowing that the computer would fill in that blank space with something.

I've learned a lot since then . . .

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Classroom is Just Not Enough . . .

Our store was absolutely rocking during the Summer Stamping Gala that led up to the Cincinnati convention. When customers came to our store last Wednesday, they were greeted by a handwritten directional sign at the front door . . .

I guess this is one of those times where the economy worked in our favor -- there are two empty storefronts in our strip, and the landlord allowed us to spread out and put them to use. Completely unrelated side note -- back in the day, this whole strip used to be one big grocery store called Phil & Jerry's Foodarama. They had an amazing bakery, and 27 years ago they did my wedding cake.

Right inside the front door, Nora Bussell and Judy Davidson were having a bake sale and canned food drive, with the proceeds going to the food pantries at St. Vincent de Paul and the Good Neighbor House here in Dayton. They raised over $150 and collected dozens of cans of food.

Karen was busy at the front counter -- looks like everyone here got the memo that it was red blouse day . . .

Karen's daughter Ashley had just stopped by to visit and immediately plopped down on the floor for a visit with Zoe.

Polly Weed from Polly's Pals was holding court in our classroom. Polly was making her first appearance in our store and she sold out three stenciling classes.

Polly's husband Norm was on hand to help out. Norm was hoping that my Wednesday golf league would need an extra sub, but everyone showed up for a change. And everyone wanted Zoe to come around the table and greet them (I am not making this stuff up -- when we walked into the store, two people I have never seen came racing to the front shouting "Zoe's here!").

Pat Adams was conducting a class called "Dicrofiber Butterflies" in our prep area in the back. And yes, that is a man taking her class -- we get several around here!

In one of the vacant storefronts, customers were enjoying a Candy Box make it & take it. Gave me a chance to explore the building -- if we could work out the parking, I would love to move our store down here. Lots more windows out front and nooks and crannies galore inside.

Different room, same dog, same reaction . . .

And in the other storefront, Ginger Deaton was leading a "Fragment Fun" make it & take it featuring Tim Holtz fragments. This is also where our costumes were created earlier in the week.

And this is also where Alexie Cutter was hanging out. If there was a Zoe Fan Club, Alexie would be the president -- she is often in the store with her mom, and she always wants to know if Zoe is there.

And this concludes three days of convention/store recap. I'll try not to bother you quite as often for a while . . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two Floors of Fun at Stampaway . . .

If you have never made the pilgrimage to Stampaway USA in Cincinnati, you really should. There was a time back in the 90s when this was the only rubber stamp convention within 300-400 miles in any direction. Even now, if you combine venue, vendor list, and promoter, this is as good as it gets. 50+ vendors on two floors in a nice convention center surrounded by hotels and food -- and it's only 40 minutes from our store! Plan ahead -- next year the show will be on Saturday, August 14, with a Preview Party the evening before. You'll want to get tickets in advance, especially if you're coming to the preview party -- go to for more information.

The Preview Party ran from 8:00 to 11:00 on Friday (see yesterday's post for pictures), so it's a short night for the vendors and customers. But there were already people in line when I pulled into the parking lot at 7:45 on Saturday morning.

By 8:30, the main parking lot was full and the lines were stretching around the building on both sides.

Connie opened the doors a few minutes before 9:00 and let early arrivals stake out spots at the top and bottom of the stairs to lead the charge as the show opened.

Connie would have made a great traffic cop . . .

This was the view at the top of the stairs just a minute before the show opened. Time to retreat to the booth . . .

Sue Rothamel and Mary Jo McGraw were getting in a last-minute visit as I walked into the hall. You'd be amazed (maybe not) -- we spend a lot of time together, but since we're always setting up or tearing down our booths or helping customers, we rarely get a chance to catch up!

Once the show got started, I rarely had a chance to step back and take a picture. So this is the best shot I got of the area around our booth.

Sue Rothamel from USArtQuest was with us again, and her friend Frankie Fioretti wore herself out helping customers find ArtQuest products after Sue dazzled them.

I cheated and took this picture and the two below on Friday night -- I would never have gotten close enough on Saturday to get a decent shot . . .

Libby Friel and Donna Weibel both teach in our store. Libby loves to emboss on vellum and metal -- she does amazing things with Ten Seconds' tools that Cheryl Darrow doesn't even attempt. Donna has been hooked on Tim Holtz' tag art lately -- she went to his workshop in Phoenix last fall and has sold out several classes in the store recently.

Every show brings something unexpected. This balloon was attached to the lady in the brown blouse at left, and floated with her through the building all day. I told her it would be ironic if it wasn't really her birthday (but it was).

And the nice ladies from Christy's Main Street Memories have been back in the kitchen again! This time, they made my Chocolate Mint Cookies and brought along samples to share. Karen and I made quick work of them and they were great!

Tomorrow, come along for the ride as Zoe makes a trip to the store during the Summer Stamping Gala!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friday Night Costumes at Stampaway . . .

I have collected A LOT of pictures and info over the past week from the Summer Stamping Gala at our store and Stampaway USA in Cincinnati. Considered putting it all together into one very lengthy post, but instead will divide it into three sections over three days. So today will be costumes, tomorrow will be convention, and the next day will be store . . .

The theme for the Friday Night Preview Party at Stampaway this year was "Wear Your Art Out". That left a lot of options, and no obvious costume choice. Some years are easier . . .

Left to right:
2001 "Pajama Party" -- nightshirts and caps
2002 "Dress to the Decade" -- three versions of Elvis on the 25th anniversary of his death
2003 "Wild Midwest" -- riverboat gamblers and a barroom floozie

A note about my 2003 costume -- I was going to be the riverboat gambler, and Karen and Melinda were going to be barroom floozies. But when we got to the costume shop, the women's costumes had no bustlines, so we had to improvise. I was terrified coming out of the motel next door, but once the customers started howling in the parking lot, it got easier.

2004 "Freaky Friday" -- my son Ryan designed my costume (and the fake lip ring was painful)
2005 "Hawaiian Luau" -- I loved the Magnum idea, but the customers expected a grass skirt and coconuts
2006 "M*A*S*H -- Karen as Radar was classic, especially the teddy bear. I loved the Mud Hens jersey, but the customers expected Klinger in drag

So we gave up and gave you what you asked for . . .

2007 "Wizard of Oz" -- the ruby slippers made the Wall of Fame in the store
2008 "Pajama Party" -- you can't see it, but the toenail polish didn't come off for weeks

And that brings us to 2009 . . .

Karen's hair is real -- she let it grow out this year and it looks great! With all the tags hanging from my hat, I felt like Minnie Pearl. I sent a copy of the pictures and a close up of my wrist to Suze Weinberg, since my "bracelet" was a roll of Wonder Tape!

We owe some thank yous -- to Ginger Deaton, who designed and painted the scrubs we wore; to Lisa Budenz, who did our makeup; to Bama Glenn, who loaned me a wig for the past two years; and to everyone in the store who pitched in to add the charms and embellishments.

There were a few other interesting costumes . . .

At left is Gary Ihle, the president of Marco's (don't you just love his costume?). He is more than a little claustrophobic and quite camera shy, so he is rarely seen at shows and this was the best shot I could get of him. At right is Nora Bussell, the second person to come to Stampaway wearing our logo.

Several of the customers dressed, too. These four ladies were dressed as green, blue, yellow and red daubers. I never saw them together until they got to our booth -- and even then it took me a few minutes to realize these were the ladies from Christy's Main Street Memories in New Concord, Ohio (Christy, Diane, Linda, and Leeanna) who made my mom's Sour Cream Drops and brought them to Adventures in Stamping in Akron back in April! They had another surprise treat for me -- more on that tomorrow.

During the show, the customers voted for the vendor with the best costumes, and the winner was announced at a vendor party on Saturday evening. We won (!) for the fifth time, and we appreciate your support.

But I would also like to recognize our friends Ron & Sarah Justison from The Paper Cut, who dressed as their logo . . .

Their costumes had special meaning -- Sarah has been wearing a lot of ballcaps and bandanas lately. She had breast cancer surgery in January and was off the show circuit for seven months -- last week in Novi was her first time back. She has finished chemo and is in the middle of radiation, so her hair is just starting to come back. It's great to have her back with the "family" again.