Friday, January 26, 2018

What Toys R Us Needs

18 years of my life I dedicated to Toys R Us. I had the Cinderella story, which began as a 16-yr-old kid making $5.25 an hour during the fast-paced Christmas season. My career quickly progressed upwards, and I worked in 6 different states during my tenure finally parting ways much further up the ladder's rung into corporate. You have to have blood type: T (for toys) to survive in this dysfunctional, often times manic environment, and I had it. All my lifelong Toys R Us friends, most with similar stories like mine, have T blood too. 3 years later, it just doesn't go away.

It's painful to watch a company that I love so much slowly sink.

So here's my humble, "non-politically correct" opinion of what Toys R Us needs:

In the history of Toys R Us, a company whose #1 customer by an unbelievable margin is MOM, a woman has never been at the helm. One or two women have sat at the "table" the last few years, but none have called the shots. It doesn't take a fancy MBA or a case study to recognize the irony of this.

What Toys R Us needs to turn the boat around is a "She-ro."

Yes. I said it. Toys R Us needs a strong woman leader, with a pack of strong men & women leaders behind her, to lead this company out of this mess. Sorry fellas. A company with over 90% of their paying customers being women SHOULD BE LED by fellow women.

 (Side note: Before you judge or eye roll, please note that I am a woman who spent over 1/2 my life dedicated to this company, and I never once felt "unequal" to men or "inferior." When I entered into HR and had privilege to real salary information, I discovered women were paid the same, and in some cases better, than men at the same level. So, if you think I am going down the path of constructing a women's march or putting on my pink beanie, you are poorly mistaken; however, I did have the experience of sitting around with 11 other men discussing sales strategies. I would be lieing if I didn't say that I felt for a moment self-conscious about my purse taking up too much space at the table, but never once did I think that it was a "man's" fault. Any woman who was willing to pull the long hours and grow her leadership skills could have been at that table with me. But I digress.)

Gone are the days when moms are going to trek across town, fighting traffic, to haul their kiddos into a store filled with germs and uninspired teenagers to be badgered at the checkout line about warranties and opening up additional credit lines. Give me a break.

 A She-ro understands.

Somehow, someway, what should be a very simple business model of selling toys and baby products has become grossly over-complicated. Toys R Us lost it's purpose, which should always be having mom's best interest in mind.

Toys R Us needs a "She-ro" who can win the support of Moms again: Not credit companies, not vendor support, not real estate companies, but Moms.

Wouldn't it be amazing to see a She-ro get out from behind what appears as a closed door to the public and win the hearts of Moms again?!

 Perhaps it would go something like this....

I am so sorry that Toys R Us forgot who made us successful to begin with, and that's you, all the mom's out there. I am sorry we tried to trick some of you into shopping with us by offering you attractive coupons with small print full of ridiculous exclusions, such as essentials like diapers and formula. I am sorry for the times when you had come into our stores and our team members were so stressed getting freight out from the back or meeting their credit card sales quota that they didn't notice your cute little baby bundled up for their first ever public outing.

We want to do better and be better.

We know you probably spent hours researching the best toys to help your little baby. I am sorry that you have to take the time to go to amazon to read product reviews about things because you can't trust that our employees will know their product well enough.

We should be the master of our industry but you are getting better service through your computer screen than inside our stores. How embarrassing!!

Although we live in your community, we know we are terrible community leaders. I mean, we  should have been there bringing joy to your kids faces during their school's fundraiser when you asked.  Legal said no, so managers said no, so you quit asking!  We dropped the ball.

For you moms who worked for us during Christmas, I am so sorry that we didn't value your product knowledge and reward you for helping out other moms pick out special products for their children.  That's probably what you thought you were going to get to do, huh? Instead, you were only acknowledged positively by your manager when you pushed a credit card on that young mom. That must have been shocking! We know you would have much rather had your manager notice you for teaching that expecting mom all the ins and outs on different car seat models. She was so lucky to have gotten help from you! We failed you and we need passionate people like you back working in our stores.  We will make it right.

Going forward, we know we must do better. We are going to stop wasting our customers time with manipulative advertising and instead partner with a group of amazing moms and dads, who you can trust and who can keep you informed on the latest information on products that you can easily access from home. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to quickly ask a question on a toy and get a quick response vs having to call a 1800 number?!

 Anyways, we've got some work to do. Lots of unwinding a ball of yarn where things just got way too complicated. Bear with us. And please forgive us for losing sight on you as our customer. Somehow, we got distracted. We hope you accept this apology from the bottom of our hearts.

 Signed, Your She-ro.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

FUN gift ideas under $50!!!

Y'all, I LOVE Christmas shopping for people..... like I love picking out things that YOU should buy for people.  (haha  😜)

Now in all seriousness, when I'm the one buying the gifts, unless there is a real "need" there, I love buying gifts for people to 1) make them laugh or 2) who would NEVER spend that amount on themselves, but will love it and appreciate it.

Are you stuck this year???  Here's just a few of my favorite gift ideas!

1)  For the wine person:  This hilarious glass holds an ENTIRE bottle of wine.  Seriously... I may or may not have tested this theory.    This makes a great gag gift.  A wine drinker will totally "get" it and will secretly love it.

2)  I didn't quite understand this backpack UNTIL I began learning to drive a motorcycle.  Now, I totally get it!!  Basically, this is a hand's free way to carry a bottle of water, easily accessible, without needing 2 hands!

This is perfect for someone who rides a motorcycle, hikes, cycles, kayaks, etc.  Just make sure to only use water, as anything with sugar will mold (yuck!)  AND they can be a bit of a pain to clean.  So best to use for water only! (This one is on my list this year!!)

3)  So college kids are already ALL over these little "packable" hammocks already; however, have you actually tried one of these things??  Wow!!  So fun and nice to keep in your vehicle for those spontaneous road trips.  Clip it and relax.  Big enough for the Mr., Ms., and the dog too!

4)  Smartwool socks.  They are EVERYTHING!!  I remember the first time someone told me about them, and I was like, "$20 for a pair of socks???  Yeah right."  (Insert eye roll here.)  Then someone gave me a pair and I just couldn't get over it.  

Even today, I have a hard time spending $20 on a single pair of socks, let's be honest.  But as a gift??  They are WONDERFUL.  They keep your feet warm, but not hot, and your feet don't seem to sweat in them.  They are rather magical if you ask me.  

TECHNICALLY they are for hiking, BUT they make the perfect gift for nurses, retail workers, food industry, service industry folks, and I bet your UPS guy/gal would LOVE a pair!!!

5)  Cablz Zipz.   A $10 gift that MIGHT not make sense at first UNTIL they use it and then they will love it!!!   I bought mine with the first pair of expensive sunglasses I ever purchased (meaning more than $20 😜)  

Once attached to your glasses, you kinda forget they are there.  BUT, when you take your sunglasses off after driving, you can now easily hang them on your rear view mirror.  When you walk indoors, you can take your glasses off and let them hang around your neck.  I mean, this little do-dad makes it nearly impossible to lose your glasses!!   It's a definite must have for people who drive convertibles, ride boats, etc.  Love them!

So, who are you stuck on buying for this year???  Comment below!!!!  I'd love to help you find that perfect gift!!!! 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

1 year! (Warning: lots of TOOT TOOTING to follow)

I feel so tempted to start this blog entry out as, "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret."  If you are a Judy Blume fan like myself, then you totally get where I am heading.    If you are not, then I really have no idea how you made it through your childhood and I have probably already lost you.

Any-hoo, its been an unbelievable year, and I am past due an "update:"

We just hit our "1 year" of opening mark, which fell on Jan. 3rd, but we are celebrating in store on Feb. 6th (yay!!  Store sales and door prizes in the works, btw.) This year has been crazy exciting.  We killed our yearly sales goal in 3rd quarter, won Chattanooga's Times Free Press "Best of the Best" antique store in the area, and we are fortunate to have a list of talent waiting to come onboard.  (<---------  the toot, toot part)

Insanity.  I am so thankful and grateful for our wonderful vendors who have poured so much time, money, creativity, and ENERGY into making Vinterest successful.  I am equally thankful and grateful to our amazing customer base who chooses to come stroll the aisles of Vinterest- the ones who let us kiss their babies, allows the Mr. to make up "nicknames" for our repeat offenders, and then choose to spend their hard-earned money with us. Truly thankful.  Without vendors and customers, there would be no Vinterest.  We totally get it.

People have asked me, "would you do anything differently?"  And I have to say, not much.  If I could change anything, I would just call us "Vinterest." The Mr. disagrees and loves the ring "antiques" brings to the end of our name.  Sometimes I wonder if it would have made a difference?!  For example, if we had come to the community, posted a sign with just "Vinterest" with our tag line, "Where Artisans and Pickers gather," would people have still "gotten" what we were about?! Would it had made any difference??  (Seriously- I'm curious what you think!?!  Post your opinion in comments!)

Now, as I'm sure most of you know, we never intended to be primarily an antique store.   What we intended for was to have diversity and to provide an additional outlet for local artisans to feature their wares that would be available to them other than sitting in the heat or freezing cold at a market festival somewhere.  We also wanted to provide a place for folks to sell their vintage and antique finds.  Personally, I think we nailed it.  2 folks on Google Reviews disagree.  (This is where I insert a shameless plug that if you AGREE we nailed it, please go to Google Reviews and let folks know.  If you DISAGREE, please do not go to Google Reviews....haha.  Is this a legal request?!? haha.  Don't report me to "google police, please.)  Anyways, we are so proud of whats been accomplished in the City of Hixson.

With all that "tooting" behind me, this year hasn't been without heartbreak, which I accept is just life.  There's not a moment that I don't wish to be able to pick up the phone and call my mama and tell her all the good news.  Mom, as many of you already know if you have followed me, has Alzheimers and is in one of the latter stages.  Paul lost his mom several years to Pancreatic Cancer, and I know he aches to speak to his mama as well. I feel fortunate that I can still travel and visit mine each week in Nashville, although she doesn't know who I am. Oh, and boy do I miss my mama when it comes to handling the critics.  My mama could become "Mama Bear" quick-like.  I miss her.  It's funny how grief works like that: it happens during good times and bad.

Anyhow, as we look ahead in 2016 and the future of Vinterest, our mission is to stay the course of doing what we can to contribute to the local community wherever we can.   We want to keep Vinterest a consistently fun and inspiring place for folks to come and enjoy (and occasionally escape life from with some "retail therapy.")  We want to continue to help folks grow their small business dreams.  We also "may" have a few surprises up our sleeves to be revealed in the upcoming months.   I hope you come share in the excitement.  Bring the family, and see you soon!

Saturday, February 28, 2015


If I was to create a "FAQ" section for Vinterest Antiques, I think one of our top 5 questions that I get asked, right after "How much are booths here?" "How do I get on the waiting list?," "Where did you move the dog food?" and "How did y'all come up with this idea?" (just about all answered on our Website) "where do you guys find all this stuff?"  

My answer is always, "everywhere."

It's not uncommon for hard core "pickers" to circle once or twice by a dumpster or purposely take a side road the night before trash pick-up seeking inventory.  I once found the most amazing pair of 8' tall wooden doors sitting by our neighborhood Outback restaurant that I flipped for a quick $200.

Many of us vehemently troll Craigslist day and night, are members of several Facebook yard sale sites,  are "friends" with estate sales planners, and sit hours (and I mean countless H-O-U-R-S) several times a week at a local auction often competing with our friends for that special treasure- sometimes to only leave empty handed. 

We often travel far out into God's country to shop places we refer as "honey holes" that look condemned just to sort through piles of dust and filth to find that "item."

The Mr. and I have taken a shovel, a BB gun and gloves to venture out into the woods to an old trash pile, climbing under barbwire fences, watching intensely for snakes, to dig through compost for old glass milk and medicine bottles.  (If you have one of these old trash piles buried on your property- call us!  We're game!) 

We often stalk "newbie" pickers who price way too low in order to find our inventory.  We know how to power walk to a yard-sale and our children (and my step-son) knows to buckle up, no questions asked, when it's game-on, yard-sale time.  Countless times, I've dug in the middle of the night by flashlight in storage units.

It's not always glamorous.

I cannot tell you how many times in my lifetime I've just about pee'd on myself by sticking my hand into a box filled with cast-away junk, digging to find a hidden treasure, only to scare the be-jesus out of myself by pulling up something completely unexpected, such as an old fishing-lure worm.  

Once, up in the mountains, I got chased off a man's front porch when I bravely entered through the gate into his fenced front yard, knocking on his front door uninvited on a Saturday morning to beg him to sell me the old vintage metal glider that was rusting away in his front yard, and sitting right beside a toilette bowl.  

"Hi!," I say in my sweetest voice while the Mr. sits in the running truck, "I was hoping you may be interested in selling me your glider."

Without hesitation he says in his not so sweet voice, "Nope!!," then the door was slammed in my face. 

"But, I'll give you $100!!!!" 

Door opens and then the dog is let out, as I quickly make an exit.  Oops.  The signs were all there, but that GLIDER.  I MUST SAVE THE GLIDER!!!  (I have not given up hope!)

Pickin' is sometimes a test of your faith.  It's sometimes a matter of how far are you willing to go??

On a recent picking trip from Chattanooga to Texas, the Mr. and I decided to go rouge and pull off the main road and drive some side roads seeking yard sales.  We found ourself in a little neighborhood,  chasing down a yard-sale trail in a neighborhood with houses 1,000 sq. ft. or less.  When we finally found the yard sale, we were met with a little sign that read, "Yard sale behind house,  located inside."  Maybe it was Texas, but without even saying a word to each other, nearly synchronized, we pulled out our holstered pistols from out of the glovebox and under the seat and discreetly concealed them under our shirts before walking inside.  Once in, we found ourself in a small kitchen with 2 seemingly sweet ladies who did not speak English and a baby  to find 1 folding table of used plastic food containers.  After first a good laugh, we were off to the next one. 

I have not met a yard-sale yet that scared me off.

Oh, but that moment....that glorious moment where you dig through rubbish to find underneath a pile of old encyclopedias and VHS tapes, to uncover in its glory that precious Pyrex bowl.  "How much for this?," you say in your most calm voice possible through the junk-drunk shakes, and then the owner tells you that you can have it for $1.  "Score!!!!"  Those are the moments that I LIVE for. 

The picking.... the true picking.  That's my drug of choice!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I must say NO to good ideas.

With the recent deterioration of my mother, I am committed to drive every Monday night from Chattanooga to Hendersonville, Tenn., so that I can spend all day Tuesday with her.  I am so thankful to be in a position with Vinterest Antiques to do so.  This time with her has become precious.

It takes approximately 2 1/2 hours from doorstep to doorstep, one-way, and typically a lot longer as I have a few "pickin'" spots that I like to hit along the way.

Apart from the obvious and very personal reasons Monday nights and Tuesdays are important, the drive time alone in the car has also become extremely valuable and is quickly becoming an intricate part of Vinterest's business-growth model and strategy.  This quiet time gives me a moment away from distractions, including distractions that I cause myself, so that I can reflect, strategize and simply re-focus. 

I think one of the most difficult things to do when trying to execute any type of "business plan" is learning to deal with all the distractions that cause us to take our eyes off the main purpose and vision.  So, with that being said, one thing that the Mr. and I have to constantly challenge each other on is on our abilities to say "no."

(As a side note: he has gotten really good at telling me no and I think has reached "expert level." I, on the other hand, have not mastered the art.  For example, I would have a complete FARM, complete with chickens, pot-belly pigs and lots of goats in my backyard if I could.  Why should it matter that I live in a subdivision!?  That's the real reason for tall privacy fences, right?! To keep the neighbors out?? ha!)

Anyways, there are countless business-type blogs, articles, webinars, business books, videos, conferences, (you name it,) on the simple art of utilizing the two-letter word, "no."  All because we, as a society, are terrible at it.  Yet, failure of the ability to say "no" poses great risk to a business's success.  

Alas! If that isn't painful enough, in executing "saying no" effectively, it typically returns very little immediate reward and/or satisfaction.  It can cause conflict and hurt feelings with people.  And, quite frankly, our "flesh" hates saying "no" and especially being told "no."

So, let me be real with you and "very classy" for a moment (tongue in cheek) and say how I really feel:

Saying "no" sucks.

Ugh, but I know if we are to take Vinterest Antiques's future from "good" to "great," I must get over this. Like, quickly. And, guess what..... Unless you are like my husband, you probably do too.

Here's the problem: the Mr. and I, between us, have had probably 1,000 good ideas about our future and Vinterest; however,  it would be very difficult to execute every good idea that pops up, and even if we tried, it is nearly statistically impossible to execute every idea very well.

These ideas can range from what product lines to carry, what vendors to bring onboard, who to conduct business with, how much labor to spend, how much to invest in advertising and with who, where and how,  all the way down to the smallest details of what we should sell on our front register counter and what candle to burn in the restroom.  Then, there is complex ideas such as long-term strategy and growth.  Add on top of this aforementioned problem, there are 1,000 more good ideas and suggestions that we've received from people, who all have good intentions, that we must carefully evaluate and not grow distracted by.

In the end, I have learned that all decisions have to be made with 2 things in mind:  ROI (return on investment) regarding how and on what we spend our money AND our time and 2) is this getting us closer to where we want to be, achieve and be known for?!

5 hours of alone time in the car per week may not be enough.

Anyways, with all that being said,  in our worlds that we live in, whether you are a business owner like me, the President of the United States or the CEO of your family, the problem is definitely not us being short of having good ideas.

What the problem is, however, is having the ability to be able to be self controlled enough to say "no" to a good idea, so we can get focused back on and have enough energy and resources to say "yes" to a great one, so as to be able to execute the hell out of it!

So, tonight, for those who are "yes" people,  I leave you with a link to one of the greatest examples I can think of that whose success was partly made by his ability to say no, Mr. Steve Jobs.   And I leave you with this question: when's the last time you said "NO" to a good idea?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Taylor Swift says "Shake it off!"

So, I am having an absolute blast at Vinterest Antiques now that the "kinks" are getting ironed out, booths are fully rented, and customers are giving me some peace of mind that they will actually show up! ha!  (Seriously, there were days during the construction phase that I was freaking out, scared out of my mind that people wouldn't know about us, much less come out and shop.) Tomorrow marks 1 week of being open.  Yay! And come shop with us, you did!!!

At night, I like to reflect and think about all the things we've had thrown at us since starting this venture.  In fact, just in the past 30 days, we've battled the flu x2, a series of sinus infections, a leak in the ceiling, a rusted fire exit/panic door stuck to the floor that was dead bolted shut (now fixed,) and our home's heater stop working (due to my puppy, Jake, getting under the house through a crawl space and eating the duct work.  Yes, that really happened.)

That's the short list, but I'm sure if I threw my "short list" in a pile with your "short list," I'd probably want mine back.  So, I'm very thankful that's all we've experienced thus far.

Alas! Since coming to Hixson, there hasn't been any shortage of drama, but fortunately NOT on "our side of the river."  There's been some accidental insults (I think the Lord wants me to give benefit of the doubt) with people who don't know us, and there's been funny situations where people don't realize Paul and I are the owners.  I'm not sure who they are expecting, but for some of the folks who don't read our blog or follow us on FB, it's not us.  I also don't think people expect to find us running the cash register or hauling furniture.  Or maybe it's the purple hair?!  Who knows.  It makes me smile.

[As a side note, for those NOT in the Chattanooga area, the "river" is a very big deal.  Like huge deal!  I didn't really realize how huge until a lady made it very clear to me that she "never" crosses the river for anyone or anything, but she did just to see what all the fuss was about.  You see, there is a bridge over a dam that must be crossed to get to us from Chattanooga/Knoxville.  I haven't quite pieced it all together as to why that's a big deal, so if someone would like to enlighten me, please do.  But for now, let's leave it as a huge deal and we are very thankful to those who have "crossed" the river for us!  ("Crossing the river," by the way, has given us a GREAT t-shirt idea!!  So stay tuned.)]

Anyways, I will admit,  in my exhaustion, there have been days that I've had to "check" myself and my attitude a couple of times, such as the time a lady said, "I've been doing this a lot longer than you have" when discussing renting a booth with me, and she didn't agree with some of our policies.  "Swallow. My. Pride, and grin and nod, Katherine.  Grin and nod," I have to remind myself.

As another example, Day 2 of being opened, I had a sweet Veteran go a little crazy on me due to how an American flag was displayed in our store (hung, not touching floor, nor no rips/tears) which left me a tad bit dazed and confused, and all I could think to say was, "thank you for your service."  Oh, and I heard a rumor "allegedly" started by another business owner that, while we were in the process of renting out booths, that I "snuck" into this person's antique store and snapped a "photo" of a "top secret" clipboard that had all their vendors phone numbers as to "steal" them.

We also had a totally different situation where we were told by a reliable source that another store (in a different state) was trying to get ahold of us because they wanted to plug in and sell with us and advertise, so the Mr. immediately called them as soon as we were told.  He spoke to one of the owners (excitedly, because this partnership would be HUGE and very powerful,) and the owner bashed us and called us just about everything but a white person before hanging up. Oops!  (And, I LOVE this store!!!)

This, I kid you not, is our life.  I cannot make this stuff up, but I am so thankful because it sure does make for some funny stories around the kitchen table!

"Shake it off," says Taylor Swift, so "shake it off" I will!!

That's the crazy .001% part of this venture that would make for some pretty entertaining reality TV I do believe (HGTV- call me!)

The other 99.999% part of our experience thus far has been truly joyous and has God's hands all in what we are trying to accomplish.  We are surrounded with some of the most giving, supportive vendors and customers. Every day, it is a complete joy to wake up and "go to work."

So tonight, I want to thank you for "crossing the river" and visiting with our little Vinterest Antiques family.

I hope when you come to Vinterest, you leave with a smile!



Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why shop "small"

The Mr. and I literally entered last night into what I think may have been a slight coma post our initial grand opening. Leading up to the morning, I worried and played out in my mind just about every bad scenario that could happen.  Luckily, the only thing that I noticed that came close to "bad" happening was that the manager from Steak N Shake (our neighbor) was upset because we ran out of parking spots and people used their back parking lot.  I'll take that "problem" any day!! ha!  (For the record, we buy something from Steak N Shake nearly daily.  Seriously.  I think they may have accidentally "forgotten" about that on Jan. 3rd.....But I digress.....)

The day was a HUGE success.   Everything went smooth like butter, and we had the best people possible surrounding us.

I often post on Facebook to "shop small" or "buy local," and  I just assume that people "get" why that's so important.  You know what assuming does, right???  So, I want to break it down and perhaps give someone a new perspective.  This is also why I don't mind the long hours and perhaps why I think about our responsibility at Vinterest Antiques as my "ministry."

When you shop stores and places like Vinterest Antiques in Hixson, Tenn.,  University Pickers in Huntsville, Ala., Chatt-R-Bug in Chattanooga, Tenn., or Marietta Antique Mall in Marietta, Ga., let me explain what you are actually doing...

Stores like these (and there are 1,000's more throughout and I'm sure one in your city) give folks (your neighbors) from all different walks of life a place to make some money.  When shopping small, think about Kate who is a mother of twins who makes and sells beautiful jewelry so she can bring in extra income; think of Jennifer, a single mom of two little girls, who lives in a small apartment, works full time at a highly demanding job, and then comes home to paint her furniture at night in order to provide a better life for her girls; think about Karen, a 67 year old grandmother, who also lives on the 3rd story of an apartment, who spent over 30 years working at the post office and is now retired, who lugs up 3 flights of stairs cast-away furniture that she reupholsters and brings back to life to supplement her retirement. Those are just some reasons to shop small business.

For some, selling at a place like ours is actually NOT about the money at all.  For some, its a way to bring families together, like the brother/sister who have a booth together, whose relationship is rekindling after the loss of their father.  Think also about the mother and adult son who now create beautiful pieces of furniture together and for once, have "something" to really talk and get excited about.  It about makes me cry when I think about my own family, and how it's brought my father and I closer as I text him "Pinterest" photos, and he figures out how to make it happen, then I get to help him sell it. 

For others, this "venture" is a way to nurture their creativity and gives them a stress-reducing outlet. So when you buy from a small business, think also about how you could be buying from a preacher who prays for and listens to "other people's" problems all day long, and this gives him an outlet so he can have time to relax his mind and enjoy some quiet time alone while rejuvenating his spirit through reviving furniture rejects; think about the Dr. who hears complaining all day long or the "IT Manager" who stares at a computer screen for 9 hours a day.  When you buy from these folks, you are literally filling their life with joy and purpose.

This are just "some" of the reasons that I encourage you to consider buying from small business when you can.  I think this picture floating around sums it up perfectly:

 I would love to hear from you!  Why do you think it's important to buy from small business??