Brick & Order, Faire’s podcast for wholesale brands and independent retailers, is back for a special two-episode holiday season!
In this week’s episode for our retailer community, we heard from visual merchandising expert Gretchen Kroll and shop owner Barbara Mooney.
Today, we’re sharing Barbara’s story. Barbara owns Daisy’s Mercantile, a gift shop in Alamada, California, that opened its doors 16 years ago. Barbara shared her experience coming out of a 12-week closure after COVID-19-related lockdowns, and how she and her staff are innovating the shopping experience to keep their location and team busy.
Here, we’re sharing an abridged version of our chat with Barbara. Tune in to the tenth episode of Brick & Order to hear from our community and industry experts in the Faire network.
The biggest thing for me [during this pandemic] has been realizing my love of my community. My love of what I do.
Faire: Tell us a little bit about the community of Alameda.
Barbara Mooney: Alameda is an island… a big island! There are 80,000 residents and we are located underneath the San Francisco Bay Bridge and right next to Oakland.
It’s very family-centric and the majority of the residents are people who work in San Francisco or Oakland and prefer a suburban lifestyle, yet [still want] access to all the things they know and love.
What was the inspiration behind Daisy’s Mercantile? Have you always aspired to be a small business owner?
I’ve always looked at being a small business owner. When I was really young, my mother got a job working for a man that owned a small business. He had about 200 employees and, from the time I was about 10, I was allowed to come in on Saturdays and they would give me odd jobs. By the time I was 16, I was the only kid in the ’80s probably making $10 an hour!
I worked in the purchasing department, the accounting department, you name it. I had a good idea of what it took to run a business and then I met someone and worked for his family’s small business. We [eventually] got married and I opened up a catering company. That morphed into a bakery and cafe, and then into Daisy’s, quite honestly, by accident.
We sold vintage items and hand-letterpressed cards and cute little things for the kitchen and entertaining. And the landlord’s wife loved the setup. When the neighbors retired, they said, “Hey, you know, if you want to rent that spot, we’d love to see you do a full retail concept.”
I went, “Okay, I’ll do it!” My husband was out of town. You can imagine the look on his face when he got home! And that was 16, almost 17, years ago.
The holidays are upon us. Before the pandemic, what were the levers you pulled around holiday season to increase traffic and conversion in your shop?
Christmas at Daisy’s has become quite a thing over the last 16 years. Normally, it involves us closing for five days and bringing in tons of extra staff. Last year we hung 700 stars from the ceilings because our theme was Santa in the Stars. We literally were all covered in glitter 24/7.
We’d have an opening party for our best and favorite customers. All of my staff [members were] able to pick their 10 favorite people that walk in the door, and they got a handmade invitation. We also had a private party for our favorite little guests. Santa comes. Our photographer walks around the store and takes pictures of the kids reading all the little blurbs we have around the store to let them know about the magic of Santa.
How do you plan to keep your shop experiential and your team busy during this holiday season?
We are focusing more on bringing customers in all week as the majority of our customer base is still working from home. We’ve definitely seen a shift in how busy we are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We’re going to use that to make sure that we keep people coming in as much as we can during the week.
We are still doing delivery, curbside pickup, and shipping for people. Instead of doing our traditional gift wrap, which is very popular at Daisy’s, we’re actually gift wrapping inside a shipping box. We can either ship it for [our customers], or they can take it right off to get shipped.
We’re also taking appointments! I happen to live right above the shop, so meeting someone at eight o’clock for an appointment is not a problem at all. I do warn them that there might be slippers involved… but I will happily meet them!
Have you been able to take advantage of your outdoor space?
[Our parklette] is an extension of our storefront. We are very fortunate that we live in a city that is very focused on helping merchants get through COVID. They immediately changed the streets down to one lane of traffic each way and gave [shop owners] free access to add parklettes in front of our shops.
We have a space that is 20 feet by 17 feet out front that we had custom made. Planters are installed and we have seating that is socially distanced. It allows for our customers to wait, since we are limiting the amount of people that can come in the store. Or they can make a day of [their shopping]. We’re surrounded by great restaurants here so they can let us know if they would like to reserve a table, run and grab a bite to eat, enjoy it in our little parklette, and then come in and shop. It really helps people feel a little bit of normal. Right now, we all are grateful for that little slice of what was there.
Part of your job as a business owner is motivating your staff — keeping them excited and happy. How have you kept your team motivated during this time?
I am very careful about working in shifts. Everybody works a two hour shift either on the sales floor, at the register, or in one of the three [back-of-house] areas so that they can take a break.
We also broke up our breaks and added breaks so that people could stay hydrated. We switched full-time staff to four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. I’ve seen a great shift in how happy my staff is having that extra day. I’m so glad I [made that change]; we’ll never go back.
What is the biggest silver lining you found in all of this uniqueness of 2020? What is giving you hope this holiday season?
The biggest thing for me has been realizing my love of my community. My love of what I do.
There were a few times during [lock-down] when I realized how much I absolutely love what I do. I was really sick as a kid. I spent a year in the hospital, and then a couple years not really being able to leave the house. During that time, Sesame Street was my family. Mr. Hooper was my biggest hero, and I’m kind of living his life.
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