Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Vocabulary Vixen

Michelle and I share a love for words. We love to write them, speak them, dissect them, and even invent them. When we first opened our office together, we had a chalkboard (Michelle loves an old-fashioned chalkboard) on which we listed interesting words. We never really established what the criteria would be to qualify a word to make it to the board, which we should have. Most of the time we are in complete agreement as to the value of a word. But on occasion, one of us will laud the merits while the other is in total disagreement. It's at such times, that we really need some guidelines. We no longer have the board; now we each have a special book of Words to Remember. One would think that we each would feel the freedom to include any word we choose in our books, but we still critique one another's choices. Now I have to say that Michelle did present us with these books as Christmas gifts, but I'm not sure that means she can just override my decision to include a particular word. I did concede to duly note her opposition to the word "scurry." I, for one, like that word when used in the context in which I used it, which I won't go into here, but I will say it described my daughter Lindsey's movement across the racquetball court. I recognize that scurry has neither as many letters or syllables as Michelle's current favorite word "curmudgeon," but it does have its place on the list. And frankly, if she weren't such a curmudgeon, she'd know it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If There Had Been a Contest.....

If there had been a window dressing contest this year,I would like to think that our holiday windows would have garnered a wee bit of attention. I can't begin to tell you how many people have commented on how our little penguin choir practice makes them smile each time they pass. Those little guys are so popular that most of them have already been presold with plans for pickup Christmas Eve. We hope our windows, like our bubbles, always bring a smile to your face.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back to School

After being out of the classroom for a year and a half, I went back today to sub for a teacher friend. I have to admit that 20 years as a classroom teacher under my belt didn't keep me from being a little nervous. I know full-well what subs go through. I've heard the stories from the students and the subs and it's tough on everyone. I had a brief sub experience. It actually came several years into my teaching career. I was unable to start the 90-91 school year because I was on maternity leave, and my class was placed in the capable hands of a certified longterm sub. What I didn't realize was that the students saw her as their teacher. They didn't even know me. So when I started in mid-October, I was basically the sub. I can't count how many times the kids told me, "That's not the way Mrs. So and So does it." I barely knew Mrs. So and So, and I have to tell you, I didn't like her. She had sabotaged me! I know that's a little unfair, but you have to remember, I had a new baby, I was still a little hormone crazy, the students hated me, and I felt perfectly justified in blaming all my problems on Mrs. So and So. Things did not get better. However, heaven finally dealt me a card I could play. In December, 2 months into my prison sentence, I saw an interesting little tidbit on the Atlanta news. A convenience store had been robbed; that's not the interesting part. Get it is...the clerk being interviewed on TV was none other than expert teacher Mrs. So and So. The next time my class hailed her as the Classroom Queen, I threw that out there at them; their precious one was out of the business. And suddenly, I was back behind the podium, Mrs. So and So was safely out of the way selling lottery tickets, and once again I was Queen!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What's the opposite of arachnophobia?

You remember the nursery rhyme...little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, while their male counterparts are made of snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails. Well, throw that out the window. We've met an adorable little preschooler named Presley who's made of sugar and spice and puppy-dog tails and...spiders! That's right, spiders! She came into Mulberry for the first time a couple of months ago when her precious family moved to Madison, and she immediately fell in love with our remote control tarantula. Everytime she comes in, which is weekly, she has to hold it, to stroke it, to love on it, and then she insists that her dad put it up on a high shelf so that no one else can get it. You see, she just can't risk some other spider-lover coming in and buying it. Now we've sold lots of spiders, but honestly I don't think we've had another customer quite like Presley. She honestly loves the hairy, creepy, crawly little thing! I don't think she even realizes that it actually moves. She loves it because she finds it "cuddly!" Word from Santa is that Presley can expect to find one under her tree on Christmas morning. I hope Mom and Dad video. Since we at Mulberry have been a part of that love story from the beginning, we don't want to miss a thing!

Monday, December 1, 2008

What do we want for Christmas?

Michelle and I are excited about the next few weeks. It's lots of fun seeing friends like you come in and make a fuss over the toys that we picked out just for your family at Christmas. Last February, we went to NYC to Toy Fair and selected many of the toys you'll find in Mulberry Toys today. We searched many catalogs to add even more. Nothing was purchased without you in mind. We want you to love your experience with us. We want shopping at Mulberry to be a part of every special occasion, birthday, and holiday. We want your children to grow up and come back here to introduce their children to their favorite childhood toy store. We want to be your friends, not just two crazy toy women! It's important to us that you recognize how grateful we are for you. We want to be able to keep doing what we've been doing these last 19 months...that's what we want for Christmas!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Did you take time to focus on all of your blessings today? Did you find a moment in between all of your other tasks (preparing the feast, cleaning the kitchen, serving the turkey, cleaning the kitchen, organizing a family game, cleaning the kitchen) to focus on all you have to be thankful for? If not, do it now. Maybe this was a tough year for you. Maybe you don't feel very grateful. All the more reason to stop and count your blessings. Here are mine:

1. I am warm and dry. My house is not the largest (or cleanest) on the block, but it is home.
2. I am loved. I have friends and family who let me know that I matter.
3. Even better, I have people that I love. The older I get the more I realize that the capacity to love is an even greater gift than being loved.
4. I am a unique individual. There is no one else out there like me.
5. I have a career that I love. I can hardly wait to go to work everyday!
6. I have a few pounds I'd like to lose. There are people who don't have enough to eat. I obviously have more than I need; for that I am grateful.
7. My life provides plenty of opportunities for me to laugh. Sometimes I laugh with others as they laugh at me. It doesn't matter; laughter is a beautiful gift!
8. Today, I lived.
9. The mistakes I've made are behind me.
10. I have the hope of a bright tomorrow.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Have you been making plans for Thanksgiving? We have to be careful, or we start thinking about Christmas and forget all about it until it's right upon us. I love Thanksgiving...good food, good friends, and lots of family, without any of the stress of the Christmas holiday. We always spend our Thanksgiving holiday with my family. My parents live a couple of hours from me and I don't get to pop in as often as I'd like, so I always look forward to a nice visit. My mother always overdoes it. There's too much food, which she then practically begs us to take back home with us, and I'm happy to oblige. Something happened between my mom's generation and my own. Or perhaps it just happened to me and all the other 40-something mothers out there have it all together in the kitchen. I still kind of flounder around in there. For starters, I wouldn't think about cooking without a recipe. I have a really hard time replicating my childhood favorites unless my mom is standing beside me because she never uses a recipe for anything. If I call her and ask her how much garlic I need, she doesn't know. Just add it until it tastes right. How much flour? Until it looks right. How can I cook with directions like that? What will happen when my mom is no longer doing the turkey and dressing? I guess my sister will have to stop going to her in-laws for Thanksgiving and stay home to fix my dinner. Sounds reasonable to me!

Monday, November 3, 2008

We got into our new space just in time for Christmas shoppers. We have had lots of encouraging words from people who tried to navigate our old store with strollers and toddlers. They all say how much easier it is now. We have tried to keep the needs of all of our shoppers in mind when deciding where to place a new display. If you haven't shopped with us yet, come give us a try.

Some people hate the crowds of Christmas shopping, but actually, I kind of enjoy a good crowd. I know what you're thinking...of course, I love crowds. What merchant wouldn't??? But even as a shopper, I love the crowds. I'm a people watcher. I imagine the story behind each shopper. Standing in line behind someone for 15 minutes gives me time to analyze and dissect who I think that person really is. And don't we all have a story! Now maybe I'm totally wrong, but that's okay. It makes the time pass more quickly, and I often learn a thing or two about myself. For starters, be careful what I say and do because there's also someone standing behind me!

As you shop this Christmas season, be on your best behavior. It's not just Santa who's watching...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Changes, Changes, and More Changes

Michelle and I seem to have this thing about downtime. We certainly haven't had any in awhile. Since we opened in June of 2007, it's definitely been a ride, not a roller coaster ride though. There haven't been any lows, just hairpin curves and amazing hills to climb. We already told you about our move. Before we could get a breath, we began work on our first television commercial, getting back on radio, and posting lots of online ads on some really cool sites. We're continually working to make sure that our website is the best out there, and we're going to be the featured toy vendor at a Holiday Gift Show in Atlanta next week. And all of this during 4th quarter, our already busiest time of year. Of course, there are always those little unplanned tasks that greet us on a regular basis, know what I mean. Things like quirks with the computer system or phones, speaking with toy companies about why a scheduled delivery never happened, and handling all of the family issues that require the attention of mom and only mom. But guess what...we've never been happier. We laugh everyday, all day! Come visit us anytime. If you can't make it to Madison, is the next best thing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big Move, Part Two

You've read Michelle's take on our relocation. She mentioned that the construction was, as we like to say in the South, a whole nother story. I'm here to tell you that story! It indeed involved blood, sweat, and tears. Mostly Builder Tim's blood, which was spilled on the sidewalk as he carefully checked to make sure that his circular saw was not cutting through Builder John's saw horses. I am glad to say that after an impromptu trip to the emergency room and several stitches that both the lacerated fingers and the saw horses are doing well. I tried to cheer Builder Tim with a big kiss which did seem to make him feel better. As a matter of fact, he invited me home afterward. Did I mention he's my husband of over 22 years?

There was lots of sweat involved, especially after the air quit working, not once but twice. As it turns out, sawdust, of which we had much, isn't so good for the air conditioning system. Who knew?

And the tears....yeah, there were tears. I cried one day when Tim didn't show up to eat lunch with me. I guess it was the stress. I mean I like him and all that but I don't typically cry when he cancels lunch with me, which happens pretty often. Michelle cried one day when she didn't get to go to Zumba class because of a mixup concerning what time the electrician was coming. It didn't help that I did get to attend Zumba class and perhaps pulled slightly ahead of her in my performance. (Now I have to pause to say that if you know Michelle and me, then you know she is a born dancer, while I am pretty much just born.) I think Tim's eyes may have welled up during the aforementioned saw incident and they definitely did when I informed him that the beautiful checkout counter that he built exactly to our specifications was no longer what we wanted. Builder John got a little misty everytime Michelle started a conversation with the words, "Hey, you know what would be cool?"

But we're in, Michelle and I are still friends, the men still love us, and business is great. And in the words of the late Mae West, "Come up and see us sometime."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We've Moved to Main Street!

It finally happened. We got a little too big for our britches. Not really, we just got a little too big for our store. So we packed everything up and moved it around the corner to 137 S. Main Street.
It wasn't quite as easy as I'm making it sound. It took 5 weeks of preparation, construction, sweat, and a few tears....but that's another story. We really need to thank our incredible husbands for all the work they put into our new spot. We're all still washing brightly colored paint out of our hair and clothes.

We love our new location and can often be found Zumba dancing down the store's spacious aisles. We settled in so quickly that we've only just recently found time to look around and admire our handiwork. I can honestly say that it's a really cool space. We are so happy!

I'm including a few photos that highlight the incredible transformation.

Stop by and see us soon!


Monday, August 11, 2008

A True Mulberry Moment to Remember

First Day of Kindergarten
This entry was written by LaChelle our VP of Finance and documents her daughter's first day of school.

Well, she boarded the bus without any tears! She actually got on! I was prepared for her to refuse! I don't have any pics because she freaked out when I brought out the camera and was bordering on shut-down mode. I put down the camera, trading a picture for a calm departure. I will get pictures as she gets off the bus this afternoon. Hopefully by then she will be all smiles and forget that I have a camera in my hand a just be excited to be home.
When it came time to hand over the blankee she asked me to put it in the fridge for safe keeping. Why the fridge, I don't know. But I was willing to do anything to keep her calm and give up her blanket for the day.
Since I don't have any pics, I will fill you in with a visual. She had on black legging style shorts and a black Hello Kitty shirt with red croc-style shoes. Her hair was nicely brushed by daddy with minimal tears. Her backpack is half the length of her body and has her cute little lunch in it. There were no smiles from her as she boarded the bus, but she bravely walked up the stairs and turned left past the driver and walked down the aisle to a vacant seat. She then slid to the window and looked out with sad, "Why am I doing this?" eyes. I waved, smiled and blew her a kiss and I could see the tops of her fingers peak up over the window in a tiny wave. And her bus drove off down the to a land of reading out loud, crayons and play-dough.

Later that day.....
My baby has come back from the land of reading out loud, crayons and play-dough in one piece...and smiling! First day of Kindergarten was a success!
She told me that she followed some neighbor girls through the hall and they finally noticed she was following them and they helped her get to her classroom! How sweet!
She met a boy on the playground. His name is "Green Shirt" and he goes to our gym.
For some reason she did not eat the food from home and instead ate in the cafeteria...Not sure if they all did that or if she forgot it in the classroom. Maybe it was easier for them all to do the same thing? I will be emailing the teacher to see what happened. She actually remembered what she ate which is a new accomplishment! Last year in pre-K she ate "nothing" all year! Today she had pizza, chocolate milk and carrots. I have the menu now and they actually have roasted asparagus on the menu??! What happened to Veg-all? She'll actually eat asparagus though. She calls it "sportacus".
The little kiddos held hands in a long line to get on the bus in the afternoon. All the kids now have luggage tags on their bags telling their name, teacher name and the bus number and the stop they are supposed to get off at. Very cool!
Whew! Glad that is over.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June Happenings

Happy Birthday to Us!
Can you believe Mulberry Toys has been open for a full year? We couldn't have asked for a more successful first year....this has been more fun than either of us had ever imagined. Vanessa and I treasure our friendship, our customers and all the experiences we've had over the last twelve months.

To celebrate our birthday, we hosted the 1st Annual Mulberry Toys Bike Parade. Everyone gathered at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center on Monday, June 23, 2008. The day was beautiful, the bikes, scooters, wagons, and strollers were decorated in style and spirits were high. After a brief safety review, the Madison Police Department lead us around town. Afterwards, the children were treated to a concert in the Hall and an ice cream treat on the front lawn of the Cultural Center. Take a peek!

Earlier in the month we hosted our 1st Annual Art on the Square event. Everyone had a great time creating cards, painting pictures, stamping, creating tattoos, and beading. We look forward to many more events like this in the near future.
We want to thank everyone for all their support and partonage over this past year. It's all about having fun and we're having a great time!

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Officer and a Gentleman

What a day we had on Saturday! Nonstop sales, tons of traffic, lots of gift wrapping...can't really complain.

However, it was at the very end of the day, just before closing, that the excitement really started.

The story began to unfold when two soldiers on leave walked into the store. One had a girlfriend, the other alas did not. The three of them had a great time looking around and acting like kids. After a while, the soldier with the girlfriend rushed over to Mary Ann and asked her to ring up a Star Theater and book without his girlfriend seeing it....and could we wrap it too? It was perfect because just a few minutes later, the girlfriend walked up with two items and exactly the same request. So we were frantically ringing up and wrapping without the two catching on to what was happening.

All the while, our poor lonely, but very handsome soldier played one of the thinking games on his own....taking in the whole situation.

We successfully closed the transactions and the group of friends left to have an ice cream next door. It couldn't have been more than 5 minutes later that the solo soldier came back in and asked Mary Ann what flavor of ice cream he should get...supposedly, the line was long and he wanted to know what was best when it was his time to order. She told him that she loved their strawberry ice cream and he left to place his order....or so we thought.

It wasn't long before that same cute soldier appeared in the doorway with a HUGE strawberry ice cream cone which he presented to Mary Ann. It was all very "Officer and a Gentleman" I'd like to say that he picked her up, put his cap on her head and carried her out the door....but that's not what happened.

To be continued...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It's slightly overcast here at Mulberry Toys today, but we've really been rocking. I never get tired of overhearing the conversations between our customers. You know the kind I mean. The conversations in which they speak so glowingly of Mulberry Toys. "This store has the best stuff!" or "Oh, I haven't seen a toy like this in years!" I overhear things like this all the time. Of course, it helps that I'm kind of lurking around. I am really good at that. I recently made a new soup recipe and took it to church for a special luncheon. After several people commented on the deliciousness (not sure that's a word, but it should be) of my soup, I decided to make the rounds and discover what other comments were being made. If I got to a table and no one was talking about it, I would casually say, "Hey, did anyone have the Creamy Chicken Soup?" And then the raves would begin. Yeah, I am really good at lurking. Not in a creepy, "keep her away from my children" kind of way. More like a "Wow, this lady is so nice and is such a wonderful conversationalist" kind of way. Michelle and I would love for you to stop in and visit with us. You'll love Mulberry Toys. Great toys...great conversations...everyday!


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Our First Online Sale!

There should have been a hidden camera in our office yesterday when we saw our website live for the first time. By our reactions, you'd never guess that we'd been looking at it 24/7 for weeks! We giggled and screamed like two middle school girls. It was finally live. It was like waiting on a baby to come. You plan, you dream, you worry, you pray, you laugh, you cry...and then you cycle through all those same emotions again and again. That's what we've been doing over our "baby". So we launched yesterday and within minutes we received notification of our first sale. Then the giggling and screaming started all over again; actually it'd never really stopped. Now this customer, our first online customer, was truly a big deal. This wonderful, generous man purchased one of our favorites, Rush Hour. (Go check it out. You'll love it!) He wins Mulberry's Customer of the Year Award. He will forever be a part of Mulberry history. We scrolled down the page to read the name of this historical shopper....and discovered it was none other husband! Now let me tell you something about his man to whom I've been married for 22 years. He takes his finances seriously. If he didn't believe in a product, if he didn't love it, he wouldn't buy it. So there you have it....Mulberry Toys Online Store has earned the seal of approval from the customer who means to the most to me. And hey, if it's good enough for him, then it's good enough for you. Trust me; you'll love it!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to our blog. In this space, we hope to give you a peek into the exciting lives of two small town toy store owners who just happen to be moms, friends, and former teachers. We've had so much fun with this new adventure that we thought it might be fun to share our stories with you. Enjoy!

"The exciting lives of two small town toy store owners..." I'm still trying to figure out who those people are! I pinch myself everyday because I can't believe that I am living the dream. We're both so grateful that you are on this journey with us and as Michelle said, we want to share our stories with you. And how we southern ladies do love to tell a good story, slightly embellished at times, of course. We'll leave it up to you to sort the fact from the fiction!