Our Story - Starting Our Christmas Store Business at 65 and 70 years old
It seems appropriate our first blog should be about how we started (in 2004) .......
Eleven years ago, at an age when most people are retiring, my husband Ed and I (Donna) started a Christmas décor business. Why? Good question! We were considering different options to bring in needed retirement income. I had long dreamed of a Christmas store since it has always been a special time of year for our family. And I thought “How wonderful would it be to have Christmas all year around!”
After examining the possibility of starting this type of business, we decided to sell the Dog Grooming business we had for over 20 years and open this little Mom and Pop store. This is an excellent way to slow down and partially retire, we thought. I was 65 years old, and Ed was 70.
We knew we had a unique location where we could live and have a business on the same property. As we started collecting decor, especially ornaments, we were unsure if our little store would take off. After long hours altering parts of our home, creating space for the store, searching for just the right merchandise, and beautifully displaying what we found, we finally opened our doors in June 2004. For several months I opened my Dog Grooming Shop early in the morning then, after one of my groomers arrived, I would head over and open up the Christmas store.
Image notes: The brick portion is where we live, the white portion to the side leads to our Christmas store, which wraps around our home.
Image notes: Yes, that is what the clouds look like in Arizona (during Monsoon season the clouds form and produce heavy rains). To some up north and back east in areas where the clouds are more of a haze, it may be hard to imagine clouds this clearly formed.
Image Notes: The view below is from the front of our store. The Prescott mountain is known as Thumb Butte.
Thankfully, the residents of Prescott and surrounding towns thought it was also an excellent idea since Prescott is “Arizona’s Christmas City”, which allowed me to sell my Dog Grooming business and concentrate on just one business. At first we had a wide selection of cabin decor too. However with limited room, we had to choose between the two and Christmas won. I enjoy visiting with customers in the store. It has been so rewarding to hear about the special Christmases of others. Everyone comes into the store with a smile on their face, dreaming about or remembering happy times.
Image Notes: The white part of the warehouse by the car is what use to be Ed's garage, wood working shop and so much more. The store took over his space more and more each year, then that was full and my guest bedroom and dinning room were filled with shelves. Our Dining room doubled as a shipping room for a year too. Then we were able to afford to double the size of the garage, which we now call our warehouse. Ed now has a "shed" (that little brown thing behind the warehouse below).
Image Notes: The store also took over our back patio, including the lovely fountain Ed built during one of those "little" projects which just kept growing and growing.
A short time after starting the store, our daughter, Connie, set up our website, expanding our small business to the world market and greatly increasing our sales. She studied different sources for help with web design and has become an extraordinary webmaster. With the boom in business we needed more help. So Connie recruited her good friend and business partner, Joy, to help wherever needed. Connie is now full time and also retired her old business. Joy is part-time year round, slowly becoming full-time. Each of our gifted adult children have been part of our success. Husband Ed and son Ed have built everything from displays to a good size warehouse. Kathy has organized our warehouse, utilizing space effectively. And now Tammy is managing our presence on Social Media, besides working full-time. Each Fall my sister, Sue, comes in from Minnesota for our busiest time of the year, working in the warehouse and helping ensure our packages are shipped in a timely manner.
We are no longer a little Mom and Pop Business. Now at 75 years old, I am still waiting to partially retire. I work full time most of the year but I do have the help of others who work a combination of full and part time, depending on the time of the year. We are amazingly busy year-round, whether helping customers, pulling and packaging orders or preparing our store and website for the busy holiday season.
It may sound easy in writing but it has been a lot of work and at first it was a bit scary.
We had to go through the whole building plans process to make changes to our buildings. We had to create firewalls between our home and our store to pass the building inspections. We had to pay for a sidewalk along the side going back to our warehouse, make sure we were handicapped accessible, all expenses which kept adding up before we could even open our doors. We started on a lot of borrowed credit, a huge risk which kept us up many nights at first (and at times later as the economy went through changes). Though I had years of experience with a "service" business, creating and maintaining an inventory was a whole new experience, let alone the room to store the inventory and ability to keep it organized. Bookkeeping was so much more complicated. We started out at local sales, then moved on to small trade shows, then to larger trade shows, staying in some interesting "affordable" hotels. Each year we have items which sell wonderfully and items, which we really liked, not sell at all. We close our store doors Christmas Eve, put everything on the patio away for the winter, start our inventory and by the middle of January we are already off to start our purchasing by the new year (most of which needs to be done by the end of January). It is fun too though, we get to hear wonderful past holiday stories from our customers, in January of each year we start ordering and it's like Christmas when our orders arrive, as by then we have often forgotten much of what we ordered. Sometimes we say look at this, I am so glad we ordered it and other times, after seeing it a 2nd time, we wonder why we ordered it at all. Of course, we always hope you enjoy our selection as much as we do.
There is also an advantage.....each Christmas Eve I remove all the glass ornaments from a tree in the store, we carry it into my home through the sliding glass door from the patio, then add the glass ornaments back to the tree. Quick and easy holiday decor!
Now at 75 years old and my husband at 80 years old owning a retail store, that like Ed's fountain seems to be a little project that just keeps growing, I can say life is always interesting. We do rely on some younger ones more each year as we seek more retirement time.
And......... Yes, a little Christmas store can be a year-round business, and for more than just Christmas.
Why do customers buy ornaments year-round and for events other than Christmas? Ahhh… now that is a wonderful subject for future blogs!