As 2017 comes to a close, I would love to recap the fabulous year we have had. Here are some highlights from the past 12 months.
Although I was still at school coaching new teachers, I was busy planning what would become Place & Gather. After finally settling on a name a few months prior (which was a fun, but tiresome process), I printed up business cards and headed to AmericasMart in Atlanta. At the time I was going to start just as an e-commerce business because I was struggling to find a store front. I went to "buy" strictly for tabletop as that was my original plan. I left knowing I needed to find a space and I needed to do it fast.
NY Now was my next buying trip. I got to meet Jill Rosenwald (who you all know I love) and Gray Malin. I explored the city alone-which I have never done, gathering inspiration from everything I saw. I even carried around a huge trash bag full of fake boxwood that I just had to have.
After spending countless days driving around writing down any available space and feeling totally discouraged, I learned the cutest space in Charlestown was becoming available. My whole world turned upside down especially because I knew the school year was coming to an end. The end of the school year would bring my permanent end to working at a school-and zero income. (Which is simply terrifying!) I was so excited I tried to pretend like it wasn't happening so I didn't jinx myself. I finally found a space and it was in the neighborhood I wanted to be in. Luck was totally on my side.
By the end of the month I had a logo (which I had been working on for months but needed someone to help make come alive) and everything finally felt real.
I signed my lease April 15 and the next day we left for Hawaii. Jason had a work trip that had been booked for months. I couldn't believe I finally could get into my shop and get to work and I had to go to Hawaii! It was the weirdest thing to complain about! (Talk about first world problems...) I just wanted to spend all my time in the shop. Luckily I chatted with so many of his colleagues and their spouses and gathered even more inspiration. I started to order goods for the shop when we had downtime (or at 4am because that time change is crazy).
When we returned it was full steam ahead. I brought on Sonja Haviland (who is amazing and the nicest!) to help me map out the space. We started cleaning like crazy and began shopping for fixtures. A lot of what is displaying products in the store are antiques we collected. Jason and my friend Lauren drove around and shopped with me. Then they spent days helping me patch holes and paint everything-including the ceilings. Poor Lauren came noon and night and even painted part of the back room (which used to look like one of the scariest places on Earth because of how old the building is). We spent evenings eating pizza in front of the shop meeting neighbors. My neighbors at home started to laugh and joke that I used to look put together and now they only saw me covered in paint and exhausted. I knew all of the hard work would be worth it though-and I tried to save money by doing a lot by hand.
On the 14th we launched our Instagram page-and started off with about 8 followers.
This was also the month that I said goodbye to teaching and school for good. It was bittersweet but I still communicate with so many students (some who call the store) and that keeps me feeling connected.
The beginning of this month was tricky to say the least. The floors were in very rough shape and we knew we needed to lay carpet. The issue was that inventory was arriving that couldn't go in the store until the carpet was down. Cue living with 40+boxes for a few weeks. Also, when you receive inventory you have to unpack it immediately and check for damages. So, I unpacked and repacked 40 boxes just to unpack them again in a few weeks. I am so fortunate I have the best neighbors who helped carry boxes up and down my stairs with me. 15 boxes stayed in our neighbors hallway because we just couldn't fit anymore.
This was the month when I brought in Alex my handyman to help me out. There were jobs I just didn't know how to do, and some that were so time consuming that I needed backup. (And unfortunately Jason & Lauren do have to work sometimes...) Alex and I spent days working on everything from hanging the chandelier to fixing the track lighting. Jason spent his weekends repainting the outside of the shop.
On the last day of May our signage went up. My friend Stacy came to visit when it was happening and I was so glad someone was there to experience it with me!
What a month! We planned on opening for Bunker Hill Day (a Charlestown Holiday for all of you non-Boston readers) for a test run and then planned on opening again when the Tall Ships arrived. My in-laws came and helped move all of the boxes out of my house and into the shop. I spent every hour of the day unpacking boxes, emailing vendors and trying to do whatever I could to make our opening a success. Early in June Hygge & West the wallpaper company came to shoot their paper in my shop. It was so exciting! The power of Instagram is just crazy-they have a huge following and it helped mine grow too.
On June 17th we opened our doors. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Although teaching throws unexpected curve balls, I was comfortable and confident in a classroom. This was a whole new world-and I didn't know all of the answers. I knew situations would occur and I would be put on the spot and have to figure it out. And I did. Everything went as smooth as it could and any mistakes I made I knew I would grow from.
Shortly after, Robin from A Modest Life blog stopped into the store by chance. She came back and took professional photos for me-something she does as a hobby but could clearly do as her full time job! These photos allowed me to reach out to news outlets with some credibility. Our chance meeting was instrumental in the media coverage I received.
Somehow by the end of June I was featured in the Sunday Boston Globe and had a full page spread in the Boston Herald. Marni Kazi of the Globe called me a Teacher-Turned-Tastemaker. Me, a tastemaker?! I couldn't believe it.
This was a whirlwind of a month. I spent time trying to work on my organizational systems and researched new Point of Sales systems because my original plan just wasn't working the way I wanted it to. I met with tons of vendors and continuously looked up new products. I also started to recognize trends of what people were buying.
At the end of July, ABC's Chronicle came to film in the shop. I spent hours practicing in front of the mirror. (And hours doing my hair and makeup the morning of!)
I spent this month changing over my Point of Sales system and barcoding every item in the store. (Jason spent his weekends doing this too) I finally felt like I had a better hold on my inventory management. Also, a ton of customers complemented my "professional" barcodes-because I was writing out tags by hand to start. Although I felt frustrated at times I kept reminding myself that I had to start somewhere and to stop being so hard on myself.
Chronicle aired on September 5th of this month and man oh man did it bring in a lot of customers. And it still does! It has been said to be the best form of local advertising and I believe it. If you don't live where it airs-it has been on for 35 years and has a massive local following. It comes on each night from 7:30-8 and they do a brilliant job highlighting anything and everything local.
We also took a quick trip to Iceland this month. Another trip that was in the books before I knew I was going to open the shop in June! It was by far the most adventurous trip I had ever been on. I loved visiting local shops and restaurants when we were not off-roading, hiking (just try to imagine that) and swimming in the Blue Lagoon.
I was also invited to my first photoshoot this month for Southern New England Weddings Magazine. Kate Murtaugh styled the shoot and invited me to bring products from my shop. What a cool experience!
The month that Emily arrived! And thank goodness! As you know, we hired the super talented Emily Quigley as our Creative Director in October. She spent this month creating our peacock Halloween costumes, painting pumpkins and learning the ropes (as well as doing about 5 million other things like the Place & Gather newsletter!!).
A lot of this month was spent preparing for Christmas. We tried to order the perfect products as we continued to learn what our customers look for. We hosted an amazing Charlestown Mother's Association Night Out, which brought in more than 50 shoppers within 3 hours! The brilliant Donna Garlough also taught us so much in her Bookshelf Styling Workshop.
Getting tagged in so many Thanksgiving pictures of our products around your table was fabulous and truly felt special. Small Business Saturday and the Charlestown Holiday Stroll were so much fun and taught us that our neighborhood really does shop local!
We were open 6 days a week to support all of the holiday shopping this month. The neighborhood was all dressed up for the holidays and it looked like an adorable, quaint New England town. We were featured in a gift guide where Robbin Mangano served as the model and our friend Kate (from the photoshoot) did the styling. Emily painted over 130 ornaments!! The support we received this month was incredible. You came, you shopped, you sent your husbands, partners and friends. It is always amazing to see how many repeat customers we have, and how many stop in on a weekly basis. Our customers are now becoming our friends and it is just the coolest!
As we close out 2017, we have some big plans for the coming year. We will head back to Atlanta in a few weeks to buy tons of new products. Then, we will do the same in New York in February. We hope to get our website updated, so you can actually buy items online in the next few months. More events will be on the books and a few secret projects are in the works as well.
Thanks for making this year amazing! We appreciate each and every one of you!