Dear Blog Readers,
We have become the kind of blogger we never wanted to be — the kind who has a "read our blog" button on our website but the newest post is months old. We blame Facebook for this — it's so much easier to write something there and we seem to have more followers there than we did here on the blog. Still, we can't quite bring ourselves to give it up altogether yet — so instead, we're posting this little note to explain our lack of current entries. Please do check out our facebook page, we think it's fun, if not quite as long form.
sincerely, the Joie de Blogger.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We've been selling party poppers for twenty years - little plastic bottles with a cardboard bottom. Pull the attached string and you get a loud bang, streamers, confetti, and bonus, smell of gunpowder. At 15 cents each, 7 for a dollar, its quite a bang for your buck. I reordered them a few weeks ago. They didn't come. The packing list read discontinued. Oh no - and so close to New Year's Eve! I had to find a new supplier fast. It's the sort of item you buy from giant novelty companies - my tin toy distributor in Connecticut stocking them had been a happy oddity. Luckily, I had done some business with a novelty company in Nevada - a quick check of their catalogue, one phone call, and they were on their way. They arrived this week, just days before the 31st. Disaster averted !! and a very Happy New Year to all!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

You Better Watch Out

While making a cup of tea this afternoon I found myself singing a jazzy version of "Santa Claus is coming to town." When I got to "he knows when you are sleeping," I suddenly remembered one of our less popular holiday items - a sculpture of a woman sleeping in her bed. Santa Claus stands right next to the bed, gazing at her intently. The caption written across the bottom of the stand says "he sees you when you're sleeping." I thought it was very funny, but we didn't sell one. Several people told me that they found it slightly creepy. I still think it's funny, but to quote another song: it goes to show you never can tell!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


One more day left before Christmas. When I was in high school, I had a job in a gift shop; that job lasted on and off for ten years and influenced me a lot but that's another story. To continue: the owners of the shop had no children, and one year, I asked them what they did on Christmas day. They told me that they drove into New York, checked into the Plaza Hotel, and didn't leave their hotel room (or bed) for the entire day. I didn't understand this at all - thought it was completely crazy. Why wouldn't they want to be out and about, celebrating with friends? Now - after my 26th season at Joie de Vivre - though I love seeing my family and friends - I think I understand!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Wonderland!

The world is white this morning. White and silent, except for the hum of the heat, the purr of the cat on my lap, and the scraping sound of the occasional plow going by. Luckily, I don't live too far from Joie de Vivre, and neither does the Sunday crew, so we will be open for those brave souls who venture out. This happened last year too - a big snowstorm on the weekend before Christmas. I love snow, I really do . . . but my enjoyment is a bit tainted this morning by the knowledge that business will suffer. Oh well - you can't control the weather! We'll just have more time to help the shoppers that make it in . . . maybe we'll open a bottle of wine. For now, I'll drink my coffee and take in the snow show before I go out and start to shovel it. Hope to see some of you later!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I hope they're okay . . .

We have customers that we see only once a year, yet after 25 years in business it seems like we know them pretty well. And some of the toddlers from our earliest days are married with their own kids . Others of our customers have gotten - how to say it? - older - so I worry about them if I don't see them. I'm thinking of one particular couple who have come to shop faithfully in late November for many many years. They would bring a list of everyone in their family, and usually managed to cross everyone off the list. Then they'd go for lunch at the Thai restaurant next door. The last few years, I've noticed them getting a little more shaky . . . and maybe a bit crotchety the way people do when they have physical problems . . . and they didn't come this year. It's strange to think I will probably never know what happens to them . . . Joie de Vivre was a constant in their lives . . . but things change, and of course, even though they liked to come here . . . we're just a store they shopped in. It might be the economy, but they must be in their 80s, so more likely its their health. I hope they're okay.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We're number #21 !

It's always been difficult for me to estimate how many of any given item we will sell during the holiday season. I've always found it hard to grasp how much more of everything we sell in December - even in a slow year/difficult economy. Are we really going to sell 150 Food Face plates - or am I completely crazy? This year, there's a new factor - our web site. I got an email from a gentleman in Texas. He wanted a dozen Daily Mood calendars to give his office mates. We had them, and when I spoke to him to take his order (we're modern enough to have a good website but old fashioned enough not to have an online shopping cart) he told me he had gone down the google list of sites selling this item. We were the 21st site he tried and the first to have stock. And suddenly our Daily Mood stock was seriously depleted. So even if I try to predict how many of an item we're going to need at Joie, our customers now have new competition from internet shoppers. Brave new world - and something to think about - in January, after all this holiday shopping is over!

Friday, December 11, 2009


Since we're already practically sleeping here, what's another six hours? Come join us for the now annual Midnight Madness shopping extravaganza. We stay open til midnight - along with another half dozen great stores in the neighborhood. We will have chocolate, cookies, wine and seltzer to get you through the night, and you can shop until our cash register turns into a pumpkin at the stroke of twelve. Or here at Joie - til the elephant cuckoo clocks trumpets, and the bird clock sings. We'll be decked out in jingle bells and silly Christmas hats - come join us!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dear Readers

Hello, dear readers. I don't actually have any idea how many of you are out there - but - I'm going to ask for your patience with Joie de Blog for December - it's getting to be "I have ten million things to do and only two weeks to do them" time! After 25 "Holiday Seasons" you might think I'd have it down - but not really. Every day in December, I wake up hopeful, with a list of way too many things I plan to accomplish - and I barely get to half of them. And when I started this blog, I swore I would post at least two or three times a week - I'm worried I may not keep to my promise this month. I'll try. In the meantime . .. what am I going to give my mother this year?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trying to Save It in Pictures

Three generations were shopping at Joie yesterday - grandmother, a very pregnant mother, and a little girl who looked about two. The daughter was very interested in everything - I was keeping half an eye on her, to make sure she didn't reach for anything dangerous or breakable. After finishing with a customer I glanced at her - she was wearing our large chicken bag slung over one shoulder and the koi bag on the other. She looked - adorable. My camera was sitting in the back room, and I asked her Mom if I could snap a picture. "Sure," said Mom, so I ran and grabbed it. By the time I returned, koi and chicken bags were on the floor and little girl had wandered off. "She loves to wear things," said her mother, and started trying to convince her daughter to put the bags back on. No deal. "Show us how you wear a bag," she cajoled. But it's hard to recreate a cute moment like that. Realizing the moment was over, I tried to convince Mom to stop trying - but it took her awhile to give up on the photo op. Sometimes, you just can't save things in pictures!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thoughts on Black Friday

I was reading my niece's Facebook page - she's a pretty committed anti-materialist and posted a link to a Day Without Shopping - evidently what many are doing these days the day after Thanksgiving instead of participating in what the media now calls "Black Friday." I sympathize. And yet. I do make my living selling things - and things that other people make their living selling to me. I don't want people to come to my store and buy things they can't afford with money they don't have - though of course, I do want Joie de Vivre to survive. But I've come to hate the way the media reports on shopping - as though it was some kind of sporting event. It's how they report on everything that has to do with money - not what movies are the best each weekend, but which movie grossed the highest. Which mall is the fullest. etc, etc, etc. Endless discussion of what people plan to spend this holiday season, and where. I guess its part of the 24/7 news cycle - but I remember a time when nothing much was written about the shopping season until January, when all had settled down and the figures were in. Anyway, if you come on in to Joie, whether you spend one dollar or a hundred dollars or just say hello- we'll be happy to see you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 25th

It's the night before Thanksgiving. One month from now it will be Christmas night, and the holiday rush will be over and done -except for the clean up - and the staff party - which we now hold in January after we've all recovered. Who knows what to expect this year? The economy so crazy still . . . the days of predictability are long gone. But one thing I know - I'll be in the store working all day Thanksgiving day. My tradition is to do the window display and put out the Christmas merchandise on that day. I do this to honor and not undercut Thanksgiving - a holiday I love - for many reasons, but one of them surely is that Thanksgiving has remained amazingly uncommercial - and can be celebrated by all, regardless of religion. After work, dinner with friends. Then, Friday, we'll begin the countdown. And one thing I'll give thanks for tomorrow, besides family, friends, and life - will be Joie's customers - who have kept me in business, even during these trying times. Thank you all - and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dancing Ballerina - movie star!

Tiki drummers are no more — but we have a new "most requested" website item — the Magneto Dancing Ballerina. We have been selling this dancing girl for our entire 25 year existence thanks to Lydell Kahn and the folks at Merry Thoughts. It's a simple and charming toy that engages all — well, maybe not your average teenage boy — we'll amend that to "engages many." We were a little mystified by its recent rise in popularity on our website and talking to some purchasers, we found out why. It's played with in the first scenes of the movie "Doubt." We "doubt" we would be getting this many requests if not for that fact. They're coming from all over the country — I need to order more ballerinas first thing in the morning!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Visiting Celebrity

It was a quiet morning at Joie de Vivre. I was in the back at my desk, trying to knock a few things off my endless "must do asap" list. Nancy came back to ask if we had any copies of "Why Cats Paint" left. "Why Cats Paint" is a book we sold a lot of maybe fifteen years ago. It's a scholarly work on cats who paint - complete with detailed notes. criticism, and many photographs of cat artists in action. It is very very funny without letting on for a single word that - does it go without saying? - the feline subjects aren't really "painting." I knew we had a copy left so I came out to see who was asking. It turned out to be Burton Silver - the book's author! Meeting him was a completely unexpected and delightful treat. He was in town from New Zealand and had been told by a Boston friend that Joie was a must see. So I now am the proud and happy owner of an autographed copy of "Why Cats Paint" - and got to spend some time trading stories with Mr. Silver - like the afternoon I heard a woman reference the book on the NPR Show "Talk of the Nation" - a show about animal intelligence. She mentioned it to prove that animals are much smarter than we give them credit for. True of course - but possibly not the best way to "illustrate" her point. The stunned silence of the hosts was priceless. "Why Cats Paint" is still in print after fifteen years - a classic. I think I'd better order a few more copies!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shop Local

What does shopping local mean to me? It means I'm always running into my customers. Sometimes they know they know me, but aren't sure where from. It's the same for me - the older you get, the more worlds you've lived in - someone could be familiar from anywhere. Contra dancing 30 years ago? Montreal? Vermont? The craft world, back when I was a woodworker? Or maybe just the occasional visit to Joie de Vivre. Yesterday I was at the gym, washing my hands post exercise when a woman stopped me to tell me that what she had bought a month earlier had been a big success. "It was the jeweled pretzel necklace" she reminded me. "I was going to give it away but I decided to keep it. It's such a great thing, thank you so much for finding it. I just love it!" I was smiling as I opened my locker and took out my street clothes. Partly because a $15 necklace could bring someone so much pleasure. And partly because I was thinking - this is what shopping local means to me - meeting a customer in the locker room at the gym.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Never Hurts to Ask

A woman was shopping today, and asked if we could ship her purchases back to the west coast so she wouldn't have to lug them around town for the rest of her stay. Of course we could, and I asked her to write down her name and address on a piece of paper - actually, it was a bag as all our shipping forms had mysteriously disappeared. I looked to see where she lived - Corvallis, Oregon. I hesitated. One of my best friends from high school lives there. What were the chances? But I decided to ask - do you know . . .. ? Her face lit up. "Yes, I do!" she said. "I've known her for a long time - and my husband teaches with her at the University of Oregon." This woman comes to Cambridge every year or so and always stops at Joie - she says its one of her favorite things about the trip. And all these years we had a friend in common and didn't know. So, as my mom and grandmother taught me . . . it never hurts to ask!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Are All Sock Monkeys Cute?

Our answer - a resounding no! A sales rep sent us this, writing "Sock monkeys plus wine = best gift ever!" We think more like the scariest gift ever . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cafe Joie

Monday morning I came in and made a few new displays - my favorite was centered around the "Play With Your Food" and "Food Landscapes" calendars we just received. We have a lot of silly food things - fake icecream, the lego "Snack and Stack" silverware, bacon bandaids - the list could go on and on. Then I read my email. Former employee and cartoonist extraordinaire Crispin Wood had sent me another page from his Joie files. The theme? Playing with Food. Cosmic . . .
(Click on drawing to make it bigger!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Toy Heaven

Back when I ran a craft gallery, I used to enjoy visiting artists in their studios. It was always fun to see where they made their work and look at their environment . . . not to mention getting out of the gallery and out on the road. I haven't done it much lately -a lot of companies I buy from don't actually "make" their merchandise on the premises - but I visited one today, Schylling Toys in Rowley, Mass. They don't make toys up in Rowley, but they stock and ship from there, and Joie has sold many of their products over the last twenty years. I was doing an interview with Dave Schylling about the late, and much lamented, TikiTime Drummer. (for - in my dreams - my first New Yorker article.) I thought it would take half an hour or so, but I was there for two hours, getting the grand tour of their beautiful building, talking, and most exciting - seeing their four star amazing collection of antique toys. So many wonderful museum worthy tin toys, furry wind-up toys, with LOTS and LOTS of things I had never seen before. Just give me some wine and a sandwich and lock me in for the night - I would have a ball.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's This?

This blog written by guest blogger and long time Joie-ette: Julia Willwerth.

Glum, sourpuss faced lady enters store. Walks up to counter. "I am looking for a joke." Me: "Oh, you came to the right store. . . let's see . . " Lady, flatly: "What's this?" Me: "a bouncy glitter ball . . . hmm . . we have this yodelling pickle? or an emergency clown nose - that's good if you need a quick funny fix." Lady, flatly: "What's this?" (it's an itop) I explain the top. She proceeds down the front desk - pointing at random things and asking "what's this?" (ignoring all my excellent Joie gift suggestions) She presses every button on the sound machine. Zero change in expression. "What's this?" "Ear clips." "What's this?" "It's a keychain with sparkles in it." "What's this?" "An Etch-a-Sketch." "Show me that red bird." I demonstrate and explain breezy singer - her comment, "That's not very exciting." By now I have ceased to care if she finds something she likes. (She does ultimately buy the sound machine.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Art Imitating - YouTube?

You might ask, "is it art?" We say: well . . . it does have a lovely gold frame. And it is a painting. Let history decide. The artist, I mean company, that we purchase this from says it's a dramatic chipmunk painting. We beg to differ - it's clearly a prairie dog. If you don't recognize it, please google "Dramatic Prairie Dog" and watch the YouTube video. If you do recognize it, we recommend googling "Dramatic Prairie Dog Star Wars" for an even better version. Oh - I guess I should say that this beautiful painting is $40 and now available here at Joie de Vivre.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Odd Question of the Day

A customer is cranking the Happy Birthday music box and listening to the tune - she asks, "Does this song have a name?" (n.b. she was not a foreigner!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A New Favorite Thing

I saw this on a design blog recently. It's a light switch/clock. When the switch is in the up position, you see the time. The beautiful thing about it - you can turn the time off. A poetic concept made concrete by Ryan Harc in New York. If only I could order some - alas, so far, they are not a production item. If they are ever available, we'll have them here!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Do We Want To Be In Here?

A little girl, maybe three years old, with silver shoes and ballet outfit was in the store with her mother. As they started to look at things in the front of the store, the daughter seemed bored, and asked her mother, "Why do we want to be in here?" The mom explained that the store had a lot of interesting things and that it was fun to be here looking at them. They progressed toward a section of toys, and the girl picked up a slinky. She asked again, "why do we want to be in here?" but added a second, hopeful question: "are we here to buy some toys for me?" Her mother explained that it had just been her birthday, and she had gotten some new toys, so they were looking more for things for other people. In the meantime, the girl fell in love with a $50 jellyfish light, and started her questions again. They left without the jellyfish, but she did get a $2 pinwheel to match her sparkly silver shoes and seemed very pleased.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The best time to shop this weekend is:

Sunday afternoon !! The spectacular HONK parade - part of the HONKfest taking place in Davis Square this weekend, will pass right by our door between noon and one p.m. as the bands parade down Mass. Ave en route from Davis to Harvard Square. This is the 4th year of the festival, and the 3rd year of the parade - and we can say with assurance that you do NOT want to miss this event! Music, dance, crazy costumes, floats, kids, adults, puppets - and who knows what else? It gets bigger and better every year. Come hang out with us and watch - what could be more fun?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Magic Garden

We've been selling Magic Gardens for 25 years.

The photograph on the package is good, but it really doesn't capture the garden's full glory.

Here we have a set of pictures that capture not only the fully blooming garden but a special bonus: a captivated child.

He is Alexander, the son of my friends Danielle and Gayle.

I don't think there could be a better illustration of the Magic Garden's magic than this . . .

(click on picture to get up close and personal)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You Better Watch Out!

The Monday Boston Globe had a front page story about desperate retailers putting out their Christmas merchandise in September. They think this maximizes their chances of getting every possible dollar out of their customers. Maybe they're right. I don't know. The article certainly made me think - yikes, I have to do our Halloween display. After all, its almost October 1st - Halloween is just .. . four .. . weeks away. I have an issue with holiday creep - I kind of like to keep them short and sweet. I find snowmen less charming in September, and pumpkins and witches in August leave me cold. Reading the article, it seems many shoppers agree that holidays are more special when they truly come once a year - not hang around for months and months. Call me old-fashioned . . but you won't see much Christmas here at Joie de Vivre until right around here until one of our less retail oriented holidays - my favorite - Thanksgiving.
"Retailers give the Christmas shopping season an even earlier start, elicit few holiday cheers"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It could happen to you !

So, I went to our website this morning, and look what I found! I guess we should be flattered - just think of all the publicity we're bound to get now . . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And then - there were none!

Tiki Drummers three, two and one are gone. All to longtime friends of Joie. #3 went to Danielle, who worked here years ago and sadly (for us at least) moved away. She read the blog and decided she had to have one. "Feeling totally left out of tiki mania" is how she put it. #2 to Carmen, who also was reading the blog and grabbed her last chance. As I told her, with a name like Carmen, and that headdress photo - I wasn't surprised to hear from her. And the very last one, #1, went to Linda J. who has bought many of them over the years - awarding them her highest praise: "they're a quality item." So right! We're going to leave it on the website for awhile, with a little memorial and a link to the blogged stories of the last 25. And maybe I will actually write that article about them I've been thinking about for over a year . . . stay tuned. (and keep your eye on the New Yorker table of contents!!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Untimely Demise of Tiki 6

Tiki 6 did not survive his trip to Michigan - i received this picture from Annette a few days ago. So, tiki #4 has gone to replace him. We have just three left.

another good tshirt

A customer is out there wearing it right now - a gift from his niece. The sign on the door says "The Stuffed Dragon." !

Thursday, September 17, 2009

6... 5...

Tikis number 5 and 6 have gone to Annette and Mike in Michigan. As you can see from the photo, they already have one! They also have a blog:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

11, 10, 9, 8, 7. . .

A Tiki on Every Desk! That's the motto of Nest Collective. They purchased Tikis # 25 through 20 a few weeks ago. They call again. "Would you sell us some more? - you have 8 left, right?" We actually have eleven and suddenly I feel afraid they might want them all and end the Tiki saga in one fell swoop. So I don't confirm the number, just say "How many do you want?" She asks for 5. Phew! I'm going to be sad when the last one is gone. I'll have #13 to console me - will have to take it out of the store so I don't succumb to someone's desperate plea - I find it hard to say no to our customers, particularly when they're faced with crushing disappointments - such as finding out we have no more tikis.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So that's where it was - times 2

It's a very rainy Saturday and the store is quiet - the kind of day that either drives me to despair or to doing odd little jobs I didn't get to during the week. Today I chose odd jobs over despair and was restocking the plastic wind-up toys. Since we get them in dozens per style, and since we try to stock lots of styles, we "wind up" with some stock in the front of the store and some in back. So, when I want to check stock, I take the front boxes to the back so I can see both at once. I also try to keep them organized by type - so that when we're looking for that 4th wind-up yellow seal, we find it. It's easier to find a wind up yellow seal when all of the wind up yellow seals are together than when they are just thrown into the box randomly. So, I was lining up the little plastic marching musicians in their cardboard box, noting that we need trumpeting bears and cymbal bears, when something silver caught my eye. I grabbed it. It was my Lee Ann Herreid level ring. It's been missing for awhile. I thought I lost it at my house, and had given up hope of ever seeing it again. This reminds me of another ring story. I came in on a Monday and was asked, "Are you missing anything?" I looked at the simple gold band that my employee was holding. I looked at my left hand. No wedding ring! I never ever took it off. I grabbed the ring. It was mine. "Where did you get this??" The answer: found in the little bowl with the $1.50 beaded slinky rings. I must have put one on, and pulled it off, pulling the wedding ring along with it. Never noticed it was gone, neither did my husband. If I had noticed, I would have completely panicked. Never would have thought of checking the slinky ring stock. A belated thank you to the honest person who found it and turned it in!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

a tiki free blog

Yes, that's right, this will be a tiki free blog. It's a KitCat blog. One that illustrates a strange aspect of retail. We've been selling KitCat clocks for years, so long that we even remember when they plugged into the wall with actual cords. We sell a few dozen a year at most, and can go for a month or two without selling one. Last weekend, I sold one on Saturday. It was the kind of sale where you don't interact before the sale - a man just walked up to the desk and said he wanted to buy one of the cat clocks. Later that day we sold a second one. in the same fashion. That made two in one day after at least a month or more without selling any. Then on Monday, we got a phone call asking if we sold - you guessed it - KitCat clocks. This person wanted the more expensive jeweled version (genuine Austrian crystals). We put one aside, and she picked it up the next day - the same day that a fourth person called to inquire if we sold - KitCat clocks! This time I asked her if there had been any publicity recently about them - that she was the 4th in as many days to want one. No, she said; she already had one admired by a friend and wanted it as a gift. On to the "hold" shelf went #4. And I swear I'm not making this up: an hour or two later a 5th person called. But she wanted a red one, and we only sell black. I told her to call back if she couldn't locate one and we would special order it. That was a week ago. No one has called or come by for one since. It may be another two or even three months before we sell another. Strange. . . but true!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tiki # 12

Tiki #12 sold this weekend. The woman bought it for herself when she learned that they are no longer available. She's bought them before as gifts and gave one to the drummer from the Artic Monkeys where it makes an appearance in a video on their blog.. (It's about a minute into the video.) Eleven to go!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

12 Little Tiki Drummers all in a row

Yikes. I didn't think my next blog would be Tiki related but we sold six more of them today. It's the web customers who are getting the last few . . . they are searching, and they know we're the only ones left out there with stock. One is going to live in Alabama, and the other five will be sitting on desks at a company in California called Nest Collective. They get played when someone makes a sale! I took #13. Too often, I've let these items slip through my hands, intending to take one. Then, suddenly there's only a few left and a customer wants all of them. I've never felt comfortable saying "you can have them all but one." At least I got my rapping hamster. If there is one silly item I would have chosen to keep, that is the one. (More about that hamster another time - when we start the Joie Hall of Fame series. . . )

Monday, August 31, 2009

The countdown begins . . . with 25 to go

I refer to the Tiki Time Drummers. We've been selling them for years, and now they are almost gone. When I found they had been discontinued last fall, I called the company who made them in a panic - and was able to snag the last 144 they had and while I wondered if I was a little crazy at the time, I was so right! They will surely join the "do you still have?" list at Joie... the small but select group of items that people ask for five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty years after the last one has been sold. Of the many items we have on our website, the Tiki drummer is the most frequently requested. Because of him, I've talked to the Seattle Police Department (they love him) and a fainting goat farm in Pennsylvania. Now I've decided to write an article about him, so I'm documenting the sale of the last twenty five. Six of them are being shipped out tomorrow - to Hawaii - an internet order!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Virgins in Heaven

No, this is not going to be some x-rated post - but I couldn't resist using the title of the above card. It's been one of our best selling birthday cards for the last year, giving our other top seller a run for its money. The inside greeting says "Hope you find paradise on your birthday." A few nights ago I was called out front. "Someone wants to talk to you about a card." It was this one, and an excited woman was waving it in the air saying "I know these women! They are the Sisters of Divine Providence and they were my teachers at the Sacred Heart School in Kingston, Mass!! And that was over fifty years ago!" She was kind of beside herself at the weirdness of seeing them on a birthday card. The photoshopped guns didn't seem to faze her. So - we have this information to present to the world: The one on the left, Sister Mary Noelle and the one next to her, Paul Marie, were "a couple". Sister Mary Noelle was referred to as "Sister Mary Masculine" by the students and had a crewcut under her wimple. The one on the right was also a Mary. She didn't remember the names of the two in the center. "I have to buy this card!" she said. "No you don't!" was my response. "I'm giving it to you!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

back from New York and hard at work

So, I just got back from the New York Gift Show. I have a briefcase full of orders placed, leads to follow, things to research more, contacts made, people to call etc etc etc. But maybe I'm NOT hard at work. Maybe I've been playing with the squirrelizer. Okay I admit it. I spent a little too much time sending this picture out today. But I have been working hard - my last day off? I can't remember. And it was for a good cause: to introduce friends to the joys of squirrelizing. The work I didn't finish? I'll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow. It's only a day away . . . .

Monday, August 17, 2009

New York Gift Show!

I'm in New York for the big August Gift Show. When I tell customers and acquaintances that I'm about to go to New York on business for a week, they often ask: "Will that be fun...?" in a way that indicates they think it might not be. But it is - it's a lot of fun! I get to see show friends and find out what's been going on. Some of these people I see more than my "regular" friends. And, I get to look for... I never know what! The next singing hamster, the next Midsummer light, or windup toy or glowing ball. Yes, it's a lot of walking - I've heard the whole show is 12 miles long if you walk every single aisle in every single section. I wear comfortable shoes. I bring my own lunch to avoid paying crazy money for awful food. I have a sweater that comes on and off depending on the reliably unpredictable air conditioning - either freezing or the opposite. I love being in New York too, walking the streets, so much to look at. I've found LOTS of great new things. I lost my cell phone on the M-34 bus. I've been in a serious traffic jam (half marathon on the West Side Highway - who knew?) and the subway closed this morning - ceiling collapse at 181st Street. I've had two great dinners and the chance to drink wine and talk shop with friends... it's 90° here, and the apartment is not air conditioned... but all is well!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lessons Learned*

(*Harvard University is trying to copyright that phrase, so I'm using it now, before it's illegal!) We overcharged a customer for a chicken handbag last week. I got a call from the front desk asking if the price was $34 and I said yes. After the customer left, I realized I had confused the chicken bag with the koi bag. But I had seen and recognized the customer so I resolved that the next time she was in, I would refund her $4. Several nights ago as I was eating dinner at the bar at Rendezvous with a friend, I noticed the waiter bringing a celebratory dessert with candle to the women on our right. I looked more closely at the two of them - there sat was my overcharged customer! I was excited to think I could correct my wrong so soon after the incident. I found $4 in my purse and went to the end of the bar. "Hi," I said. She recognized me, though she seemed a little puzzled. "Didn't you buy a chicken bag in my store a few days ago?" I continued. She pointed at her friend's dessert and said: "Shhh! It's for her birthday!" but it was too late. "Chicken bag!?" asked the friend. "You know I wanted that bag!" With flaming face I soldiered on, telling her we had accidentally overcharged her. I stuck out my hand and gave her the money. "It's not her only present," she reassured me. My friend jumped in at this point and soon we were all laughing, but I felt foolish. Lessons Learned - or maybe relearned would be more accurate: Birthday celebrations often involve surprise. Think, before you open your mouth!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

maybe not the plastic monkeys

Two twenty somethings were in the store for quite awhile this afternoon. We said hello, but Sunday is kind of a friends browsing together day. . people who are content to just look around, not needing much attention from us. At one point, they were standing by the desk in front of our "smalls" section. That's where we keep the inexpensive bins of stuff - party poppers, bubbles, magic flowers, fortune telling fish, chinese finger traps, etc.. "Wow," one said to the other. "This is like the Buffet of Childhood Memories." Her friend agreed. A moment passed. "Well," said the first. "but maybe not the plastic monkeys. Those I remember more from Scorpion Bowls." I joined in. "I'm glad you don't remember those from when you were a child!" We laughed and they moved on to the next.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Guess who's coming to dinner?

A friend was in shopping for a hard to please woman. "She likes flashy and over the top" was one of the things I had to go on. That doesn't really describe much of our merchandise but I started to wander around the store, looking for inspiration. My eye landed on the Koi Toy - the floating light up goldfish from our friends at Fred. "Do they have a pool?" I asked. "Yes" came the answer, and a Koi Toy was wrapped up to go. A few days later I got a report. It was a success, she really liked it. She liked it so much that she brought it to dinner at the Red Inn in Provincetown, and asked for a bowl of water. Many patrons stopped by to admire or to covet as it floated on her table, serenely changing colors and lighting up the rather traditional Inn. I wonder if it's the first Koi Toy to go out on a dinner date with its owner?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

that's times .0625, right?

August 1st marks the end of the 5% tax era in Massachusetts. All the amounts we say so automatically - that will be 1.05, 10.50, 36.75, 8.93 - must now be replaced by strange new numbers. The wonderful thing about 5% is that it's so easy to figure out - you just take 10% of the sale and divide it in half. No calculator required. Some of our younger, more calculator dependent employees did find doing it difficult - but it's really not, once you get the hang of it. And it always seemed to impress customers: "You're doing that in your head?" was a common comment. Why not just program the new tax into the cash register, one might ask. An embarrassing admission: our cash register, purchased for $50 from an antique store that was closing, doesn't "do" tax. We love it, but it's a very simple machine. So, calculators in hand, we are ready to chart the brave new world of 6.25%. That will be . . . 1.06, 10.63, 37.18, and 9.03.

Monday, July 27, 2009

R.I.P. Acrocat

Bad news from PlayVisions today. I opened an invoice to find that they had only shipped us a dozen acrocats - not the 24 we had ordered. And below the item number was the dreaded sentence: "the above backordered item is no longer available." Oh NO! This is a wonderful fun item. I called to ask why. The answer: "It didn't really sell that well for us." Of course, they're a large company and need to sell a LOT of anything - but it sure sold well for us. Sadly, this often happens. We love an item, its very popular at Joie, but seemingly - no where else. Maybe because we keep one at the desk and let people play with it. Anyway, to see it before it disappears from our lives and website forever, visit us, or click on acrocat and say goodbye!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Accoutrements catalogue

My sister's husband works at a sporting goods store and for some reason they received a catalogue from Accoutrements - one of our star purveyors of fun - in the mail. She rightly thought I would like it and brought it down to show me, in case I didn't know about it. It was left sitting on the porch and discovered by her daughter and the other two kids in the house - and they were very impressed by the contents. Reading through the pages has become a daily post beach activity and it's funny to listen to them shriek with horror at the bacon jelly beans and hear them try to puzzle out why anyone would want some of these things! Of course some of the things (say, apple flavored gummy maggots) make me react pretty much the same way! But then: the timesless chicken chuckers, finger monsters, devil ducks and singing pickles - Joie de Vivre could never be its silly self without them. A funny intrusion of work into vacation! And for the record. . I asked each kid what their favorite item in the catalogue was. They did not go for the disturbing or gross. One picked the cupcake mints. One picked the toothpick bird. The last one could not decide !

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On Vacation !

Joie de Blog is currently on vacation at the exotic New Jersey Shore. The Joie owner has vacationed here for a week or two in September or the summer for the better part of twenty five years. As recently as fifteen years ago few of the rental houses even had telephones. I would go down to the local supermarket and stand on line to use a pay phone to call the store and make sure everything was okay. Now I'm emailing them everyday, have a cellphone, and posting to the blog. Hard now not to be in touch. Kind of a big change. All I can say is: it was kind of great not to have all this modern technology. And yet: it's kind of great to have it too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

from the archives . . .

Here is another drawing from the files of the talented Crispin Wood. (see May 23) He's imagining some items we could use at the store. No, we did NOT endorse the use of cocaine -but it was kind of popular with certain folks at the time. Yes, the computer looks pretty ancient, and sadly, Katherine Hepburn probably doesn't have as high a recognition factor now as she deserves (yikes - spell check doesn't know her last name .. not to mention the political incorrectness of making fun of her wobbly head!) Still .. some of these would work just fine today, and years later, we actually sell an Etch-a-Sketch key chain, just a little bigger than the micro pictured here. I think a dancing sound responsive scream doll would do quite well today. Click on drawing to make it grow. . . and thanks, Crispin!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pickle versus Kaleidoscope

A kid and her Mom are browsing the store. They're pretty independent of each other, but when the kid sees something she likes she brings it over to show her Mom. It's clear she's been told she can probably have "one thing". Her item of choice seems to be the yodeling pickle which she brings over while it yodels. Mom doesn't seem too enthusiastic and on hearing the price - $16 - says its probably not going to happen. A bit later, the daughter picks up the ribbon kaleidoscope called "Slow Yo-Yo," made by the talented Tom and Carol Paretti. Its a wonderful object - one throws down three feet of ribbon which become the scope's object case. You look through as you slowly wind the ribbon back up. Our girl was enchanted. She wandered over to find her mother. "Mom, I don't think I want the pickle. I found something I really like a lot more." Just as her Mom is beginning to ask how much it costs, I interrupt. "I'm afraid I have bad news; it's worse than the pickle." I say it this way because I don't want to say the actual price - over $300. A moment of silence as the sad news is digested. "I guess it must cost $50, it's so awesome" says the daughter. She said it without resentment. She understood that it was clearly in a different league than the pickle. She brought her Mom to see it, unrolled it and rolled it up while Mom looked through and agreed it was indeed a wondrous thing. They stayed awhile longer while Mom picked out a card and small present. Then her daughter chose a pickle-pult - a toy that catapults miniature pickles - $6 - and they left.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A small point of interest

We made up buttons to give away for out 25th anniversary, and made them in six colors - I think we ordered 1000 in total. There's a bowl of them sitting on the desk. Each time I refill it, I've noticed that there are three colors left in the bowl: yellow, pink and orange. The six colors look good together, so when I refill, I add in more of the blue, purple and green. A day or two later: we need more. Left in the bowl: yellow, pink and orange. So come on in and take some buttons. And really - you can have any colors you like. We will make more. In blue, green and purple!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday America

Another birthday - more important than ours! For years I've been battling our local newspaper, the Boston Globe over their holiday listings column. That's where they list what is open and what is closed on various holidays. Twenty five years ago, it was simple. Stores were closed on major holidays. . . Memorial Day, Labor Day, the 4th of July, and more. Now, they're open, at least all the "majors." (Oddly, they still close on Easter.) The column lists what is closed (Mail, Government Offices, Banks) -- and what is opened (Retail). I know that most small businesses are closed on these holidays, and I don't like seeing "open" printed in the paper, so I waged a campaign to have them print "open at owner's discretion." That way, would be shoppers might think to call and check before showing up to shop. It took at least two years of back and forth with the editors, complaining and explaining every single holiday, and then - suddenly, they seemed to get it. I relaxed. Just this Memorial Day I glanced at the column; all was well. But today, the column simply said stores were "open." Wrong! Not most small businesses, and not us. I hate to disappoint anyone who wants to come to Joie, and I'm not sure if I'm being old fashioned, just selfish (I want a day off too) or crazy to pass up a chance to make a few extra dollars . . . but I don't want to sit in the store on the 4th of July. I want to go for a walk, think about our country, make a barbecue, watch a parade, hang out with friends. We'll be back on the 5th!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

birthday window

Wanted to post our window before we take it down. We had to order tons of cardboard to get the small amount we needed to make this 2 and 5. It was very interesting trying to track down large cardboard - I probably made 25 phone calls. It wound up coming from Pennsylvania as the sole local supplier I found wanted us to buy a whole pallet (250 pieces) of it. There is also unseen flexible cardboard also from Pennsylvania in it. We had to buy roughly ten times as much of both types as we needed or they wouldn't ship it .. so look for our "free cardboard" on Craig's list soon! Thanks and shout out to Peter for putting it all together . . . including that last late night paper and glitterfest in the basement. The white mice are our favorite Folkmanis puppets. They have appeared in so many of our favorite window displays that we had to use them in this!

Monday, June 29, 2009

An Award for Us!

This really was such a surprise . . . and honor . . . we never dreamed we would win this coveted award . . .

The Party's Over ... . but ..

It was fun! And I'm tired! We had lots of people stop by on Sunday, and some of the lucky earlier ones got to see Smallini , the world's tiniest magician do tricks in the Suitcase of Wonder. We have vowed to think of a reason to unpack that particular suitcase at Joie again - it was a very special and wonderful performance. At times during the weeks before this whole event, I had doubts about doing it. Business wasn't stellar, it seemed like a lot of trouble to pull it all together. . but I am so glad I didn't wimp out. It was so lovely to see people and hear the stories about their favorite items and memories of the store. And to all those who made a toast to 25 more years . .. even though I do sometimes question my future as a shopkeeper (might still want to be a ballerina or a diplomat or a squirrel trainer or . . . who knows what!) it makes me very happy to be reminded that Joie de Vivre has meant so much to so many people besides me!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Today's the Day!

Twenty Five years ago we opened the doors of Joie de Vivre at 5 pm with a small but lively party that lasted til 8, and got a little wild in the back room before we took it out into the night. (I was just a kid!) We had friends, curious neighbors who wanted to see what was behind the paper that had covered the front windows for the last month, and curious people who were checking out the rumor that an "adult" store was opening - this last, thanks to my first business card which read "Joie de Vivre, toys for adults!" (Those people were probably disappointed to see postcards, toys and photographs of flamingos!) People liked the store and we sold some things right away .... a good omen. Yesterday, our prebirthday party party, was well attended with lots of familiar faces as well as some surprised newcomers wandering in curious to see what was going on, and happy to get cake, champagne, and a 25% discount on everything. And today, we get to do it again! And for the sake of symmetry, we will do our raffle drawing at 5 pm, just at the time we first opened those doors. So much is the same, so much is different. More later. With some pictures, if I manage to take some that aren't too blurry!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sale !

When I opened Joie de Vivre, I was determined not to have "sales". The merchandise seemed fairly priced to me, and we offered a very wide range of prices (try for a wider range than a ten cent plastic goldfish to a $1000 kaleidoscope!) We did have a few sales - for our 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th anniversaries. And a few years ago I broke down - or some might say, got smart - and started having summer sales on merchandise that we were no longer carrying - whether because it was discontinued or because it just hadn't worked for us. ("Hadn't worked for us" is the nice way of saying that our buyer (me) made a mistake) So, though sales are no longer unheard of here, they are generally not storewide - only on selected items. This year as we turn 25, I decided to have a longer than usual storewide sale. My first impulse was - "I'll do it for 2.5 weeks. . and start it on the 25th. .. 25% off! But I found myself waking up at night, worrying about running out of everything, so I changed my mind and cut it down to a ten day sale. Still starting on the 25th. . still 25% off. It's kind of my version of an offering - both to the gods of life and retail, and to our customers, who have kept us going for twenty five years. Maybe it's not the smartest thing to do . .. but, I want to do it - and, it's starting. . . tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Suitcase of Wonders

A wonderful thing happened the other day. I received an email from a P.T. Widdle, owner and operator of the Suitcase of Wonders, asking if I would like the world's smallest magician to perform in the store on Joie's 25th anniversary this Sunday. I had never heard of Smallini. . . but I love magic and performance, so I arranged for an audition which happened this morning. I wanted to make sure that the show would be appropriate for our birthday celebration - It will be perfect! Preview: I'll just say that it involves a theatre built into an old fashioned suitcase. A few toys from Joie de Vivre are among the props and cast. And a charming man stood in for Mr Widdle who was otherwise engaged; Peter Ross of Newton. I had wanted something besides our raffle (5 bags of our all time favorite things) to make the birthday different from the cake and champagne of the day before - and now we have it. I hope all reading this will be able to see this charming and enchanting little show. And don't worry, we will have cake and champagne on Sunday as well!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Birthday Blog #2

Almost every time I get my hair cut at the salon on the next block the owner tells me the same story. We're chatting about the neighborhood and how long we've each been here when he says "You know - I have to tell you, " and sets down his scissors. He continues. "When you first opened, I was sure you wouldn't last a year. I told everyone you would never make it. But you did, and I learned something. I never say that about anyone now, no matter how crazy I think their business might be." I have to admit, I get a kick out of being the one that proved him wrong - he's pretty positive about most things. And someone else predicted my failure from the start - the man whose space I took over, who actually told me, right to my face: "You'll never make it, this neighborhood is really going down." Of course, as he was reopening in a bigger space just one block away, I took his opinion with a large grain of salt. To myself I was thinking, I'm just try trying this for a few years; I'll see how it goes. All of these stories to say - yikes! Twenty five years later, I'm still here. And to be honest, it's just as difficult for me to imagine my life twenty five years into the future as it was when I opened the doors of Joie in 1984.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why isn't the printer working?

In trying to get ready for our twenty fifth birthday, and also do regular business, many things of varying urgency have been piling up on my desk. We received an order from Tomas Savdra - maker of wonderful metal balancing toys - the other day and he had mistakenly sent us an extra owl. As it was late in the day, I put it in the paper tray of my printer so I would remember to call him, and went home. The next morning, I checked my email and saw an invoice I needed to print out. I hit print and the first page went through; then the printer made a strange noise and abruptly stopped. You guessed it - the owl had been sucked into the printer. It was not a small owl and it was hard to get out. Then I couldn't make the printer work. Miraculously, both owl and printer wound up surviving this trauma. Later in the day I was reading an article in a trade magazine about how to make life as a retailer easier. "Clear the Clutter" headed the list of suggestions. Not a bad idea...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Blog 1 - Big Day Approaching!

We are getting close to a BIG birthday - our 25th. That means that twenty five years ago, I was covered with either paint, grease or sawdust, trying to get this place ready to open up. I wasn't doing it completely alone: I didn't build or install the shelves, or lay down the rug or do the lighting, but I painted and sanded and I was the one on her hands and knees scraping up the accumulated gook and grease left behind by the wonderful Mr. Frank Fox, the previous tenant. The opening day had been slated for June 1st, but the aforementioned lovely Mr. Fox failed to vacate the premises in May. More about him another time - what a character! And I was very naive, expecting that everything would happen just as planned. I'm older and wiser now, even if those two qualities have not grown at the same pace. . . I'm twenty five years older - but I don't feel that much wiser. Anyway, we are planning a birthday party and celebration and details can be seen on the website by clicking on "News." And yes, there will be cake . . . and champagne - and other types of bubbly drinks too!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dangerous Plate

We just got in a fun new item from the wonderful company Fred - its called Food Face and as you can see, the idea is to draw faces on the plate with your food. But we were surprised: the boxes we got in don't look exactly like the box in the picture. They have an addition: a white boxed warning in the upper right hand corner that says "Warning: Choking Hazard - Small Parts. Not for children under three years old." Now, I know it's the age of lawsuits and protection and all that legal stuff but my common sense wants to know - how exactly could a child choke on an eight inch plate??

Saturday, June 6, 2009

spotted on a customer's tshirt

"Irony is the Opposite of Wrinkly"

What things can be yellow?

Some things that can be yellow at Joie de Vivre are suns, moons, and stars. Bees are fine too, as are rubber ducks, rubber chickens, and anything with a smiley face on it. But there are lots of things that can't be yellow. Glow in the dark fairies and plastic mini maracas to name two items. Right now we have a little display of glow in the dark fairies. It holds one or two each of pink, green and blue . . . and probably forty yellow ones. When it started out, we had equal numbers of all. If someone wants four of them, they'll buy one of each color, but if they only want one, two or three, they will not buy the yellow. Same thing with our mini plastic maracas, and once you have an entire display of only yellow. . then no one buys any. To restock, we must buy an assortment and the whole process begins again, leaving us with even more yellow - the curse of the assortment. There are some items I've had to stop ordering for this reason only. Manufacturers just stare at me blankly when I mention this problem. .. but other store owners know exactly what I mean!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

funny conversation of the day

Customer: "Do you have a pig that's a pen that can record your voice?" Me: "No, but we have a parrot that's a pen that can record your voice .. would that be what you want?" Customer: "No. I saw a pig like that here a few weeks ago" I know he didn't . I'm not that far gone that I can't remember what we had a few weeks ago . . . but . . . he was certain he'd seen it. He left. The parrot just wouldn't do.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Is it real or is it photoshop?

These days we sometimes wonder if the photographs on the postcards and cards we sell are real. We sell lots of cards with animal subjects and there is a definite trend of manipulating image; it's so easy to put a cat on a bicycle, or two disparate creatures snuggled up together etc. etc. On the other hand, there are some real and amazing photos of just that kind of thing out there. Currently we have one I love: a Buddhist monk sitting on the floor holding a small red hoop over his head. A cat is leaping through it, as several other cats watch and/or ignore this amazing feat. Of course those of us with cats wondered if it could be a real photo. . . I don't imagine my cat jumping through any hoops anytime soon. But yesterday a customer brought that postcard up to the desk. "I was there," she said. "Years ago. I'd forgotten all about it until I saw this." "There" turned out to be Inle Lake in Burma where there is a monastery informally known as the "jumping cat monastery." When the monks need a break from their spiritual practise, they practise a - much more difficult art. If you google "Inle Lake monks cats hoops" you can read all about it. And I believe I saw a YouTube video . . .

Friday, May 29, 2009

jewelry repair kit

A customer asked us to fix an earring for her so I pulled out our rarely used jewelry repair kit. It's a candy tin with some earring wires and backs in it. .. and a tattered piece of paper taped to the lid that made me smile. I recognize the hand of Sarah, a former employee and now good friend; she probably made it twenty years ago. Her spidery handwriting and her little drawings: a crying woman wearing a cowboy hat saying "oh no, my earring" and a smiling woman holding the kit saying "don't worry!" It makes me remember my visits to the store in New York that I worked in when I was in my twenties - the store that was part of my inspiration for starting this one. Some twenty years after I left they were still using signs I had calligraphed and it always gave me a start to recognize my own faded handwriting. Now it's happening here. Sometimes we'll unearth an old piece of stock and I'll recognize the writing of Deb, or Emily, Danielle, or Peter. Then I know the item has been around a little too long, yet I get to enjoy how it reminds me of the person who wrote it and their time here. We briefly tried a price gun here, many years ago. I hated the way the tags looked. And the thing about handwriting; no computer or price-gun generated tag would have the ability to evoke the past in the same way.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The future is (almost) now

When I sent out an email to friends and customers about this blog, a former employee contacted me and asked me if I would like to use any of the numerous cartoons he drew about the store while working part time about fifteen years ago. This was very exciting as I love his work. I found this cartoon in my inbox this morning — the automated Joie de Vivre of the future. What was shocking: the date this futuristic cartoon was set in 2013. I remember seeing it for the first time, and the thought "that's not very far away" did not cross my mind. It crossed my mind this morning. When I emailed Crispin, he agreed. "I drew that in 1993," he said. "2013 seemed impossibly far off in the future." So... welcome to the future — we're getting close!

Friday, May 22, 2009

A few words

It was a very hot and sunny pre-Memorial Day weekend Friday, 90 degrees in the shade. Our air conditioning, which has been working so well that we're often cold, suddenly decided to take a break. We had a crazy hour or two, giftwrapped 40 small wind up toys for a teacher, more gifts for someone else, and then - business died and no one came in. Between the heat and the lack of people, I was feeling a little out of sorts, and the last few who wandered in the door seemed to be feeling the same, picking things up,putting them down looking bored, or worse slightly unhappy (possibly my own paranoia there) arguing with their companions or completely unable to decide which color plastic slinky would really be perfect for a three year old boy. As is my habit in such circumstances, I was wondering what I was doing with my life; was it really worth going on with the store, when just before closing, a customer approached the desk with a few cards. "These are for my anniversary," he said. "I love your cards, I really think you have the best cards." We talked for a bit, and he told me it was his 20th anniversary, and that he had bought his first anniversary card at the store. This conversation completely changed my mood, and I ended the day with a refreshed spirit. It's amazing how just the smallest conversation can change one's mood. Thank you, Mr. Anniversary Man!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Nice Hot Bath

I ordered some bath salts from one of our vendors. They are smartly packaged with bath or water related sayings, as in "A woman is like a teabag, you don't know her true strength til she gets in hot water." I chose five or six different quotes that I liked. Another was: "There might be quite a few things that a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them." When these arrived at the store I saw each quote had its author listed beneath in small print. It was interesting to find that the teabag quote came from Eleanor Roosevelt. The second quote was by - Sylvia Plath. I just couldn't make sense of this. The first thing I think of when I think of Sylvia Plath is her struggle with depression and tragic death by her own hand. So the first thing I thought when I read the quote knowing it was hers was: well .. she definitely found something a hot bath couldn't cure. I couldn't bring myself to put her bath salts on display. Too incongruous and weird. I decided to call the company and explain my dilemma. "Has anyone else mentioned this to you?" I asked, after explaining my problem to a customer service person. Silence. "Uh, no, no one has mentioned it," she replied. "Who was Sylvia Plath, anyway?" I thought of the Bell Jar; the searing books of poetry. I tried to explain. "It's fine if you want to return them for credit,' she said. She had no idea what I was talking about. Return them I did. When it comes to inspiration about going on in tough times, I'll stick with Eleanor.

Friday, May 15, 2009


A woman was in the other morning; she asked for my advice and quickly decided on two gifts. As I was wrapping them, her cell phone rang and she took the call. With only the counter separating us, she plunged into conversation, beginning with "I'm at the end of my rope!" and continuing on to complain about someone's behavior. She never looked at me, or acknowledged in any way that she was making me privy to a very personal conversation. Later that day, another shop owner from the neighborhood was in, and I told the story, stressing how completely invisible I'd felt. I've seen stores with no cellphone signs on their door. This seems a little harsh to me. Sometimes people want to confer with a friend or be accessible to their child or their client, new boyfriend, etc.. I just want them to go leave the store when they have long personal conversations, and if not, to apologize to me for having to listen to same. Anyway, my colleague agreed, and then told me about a quote he had read years ago that had stayed with him. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” (Commonly attributed to Philo of Alexandria) I have no idea who Philo was. . but I like his advice.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

learn something every day

We sell two products that are frequently mistaken for each other and I'm becoming well practised in saying, "No, that's a boink not a finger trap; a boink does this" and letting it fly across the store. As a matter of fact, it happened just this afternoon. When I added, "we do have the finger traps as well" the customer told me "we call them by a different name in my country - we call them Indian wedding rings." I must have looked confused, so she added: "You put them on the finger, and then drag the bride or groom to the church." I asked where she was from, thinking Monsoon Wedding. .. but she said Columbia. Humbling - of course there is more than one kind of Indian. Despite that slight embarrassment, it was fun to find out that the "finger trap" goes by different names in different countries. .. anyone aware of any other versions??

Sunday, May 10, 2009

time flies

Time flies when you're working all the time; I'm barely keeping up with my goal of blogging more than once a week! Today was Mother's Day. .. (we did a lot of giftwrapping yesterday) . and today, there were a number of fathers and children in. It's fun to watch the littlest kids trying to pick out something for Mom.. and getting completely sidetracked by the things they want. Dads with varying degrees of patience explaining that no, Mom probably would not love the mechanical noisy penguin race as much as her kid does. And we had some really sweet older kids and teenagers buying a present for Mom. Even as I recognize that Mother's Day is a pretty manufactured Hallmarky kind of holiday, I still get a kick out of the kids shopping. It was a beautiful day and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Many customers stayed in the store for over an hour, just poking around looking at things - that always makes me feel good! The flip side: when someone walks in, takes a look around and immediately walks out - sometimes I feel a little stab of inadequacy: Why don't they find it interesting? Objectively, I know there are many reasons why someone might walk out. I know we can't please everyone, or even please our regular customers every single time, but I do take it to heart.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What do you do with a toy?

A mom and her young daughter were in the store today. I'd guess the daughter was maybe two or three years old. She picked up a mini slinky and carried it around, occasionally asking if she could have it. When they were ready to leave, this was still under debate, and the mother asked, in a slightly exasperated tone: "if I get this for you, what are you going to DO with it?" The daughter seemed slightly confused by this but with impeccable logic, quickly came up with her answer: "Play with it!" The slinky was purchased and out they went.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Do you still have ?

There are a lot of wonderful items we have sold over the years that are no longer available - it's sad, but eventually dancing coke bottles, mirrors that wolf whistle, singing hamsters or animated bug music boxes disappear from our shelves . . . many items we would still carry if we could.  Once a big commercial company has sold the first hundred thousand of something, they figure if they can't sell another hundred thousand, they should move on to something else.  There is one item we get queries on more than any other, and I just answered an email about that item this morning: the wooden unicycling man who sat on top of a roll of toilet paper. We haven't had one for at least fifteen years and still, every month we get a call. It's amazing what love and loyalty certain items  inspire, and I hate being the bearer of the bad news. On the up side, at least it gives us room to display new items - if we had to keep everything we've ever sold in stock plus keep up with the new,  we would be as big as Walmart by now!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sending sheep to Cuba

A customer came in today asking for a rooster alarm clock that we sold years ago.  As far as I know, they're no longer available, which she was sad to hear,  (but, at least I remembered what it was;  sometimes no matter how hard I try, I just can't remember the item they're asking for... I thought I would never forget anything but twenty five years of items is a lot to remember.) She was consoled and excited when she saw the singing sheep. Its song: "thank God I'm a country boy."  She is taking it to Cuba to give to a retired priest who lives "in the middle of nowhere" and runs a farm museum showing children the way farms used to be in Cuba.   And, he really enjoys battery operated singing animals.   hmmm .. I bet they didn't have battery operated singing sheep back in the old days.  I love knowing that Joie de Vivre can brighten the day of a retired Cuban priest.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

French Toast !

It's a grey and rainy Tuesday and just a bit gloomy but a new arrival from our friends at Fred has put a smile on our face . . .  a new addition to the miracle of toast line . . . French Toast! Can't wait for breakfast tomorrow . . . is there any champagne in the house?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday afternoon

We lost all three phone lines this afternoon, including the one that runs our charge/debit machine. I hauled out the clunky old work horse that manually swipes a credit card... hard to believe that it was once considered a modern device itself. But... it enabled us to take charges until the phones came back on — two hours later, and provided some nostalgia for customers: "I remember those machines!" Cute kid comment of the day — a young girl looking at the shelf of wind up toys said loudly and excitedly — "this must be where Santa got those!!" All adults looked at each other and smiled.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My first post — I'll remember it forever!

Hi... this is Linda, your official Joie blogger. I'm posting to explain here that the blog is right now a work in progress. We got this basic version up a few hours ago and are planning to finish it later this week — like make an actual profile and jazz up our page a bit. But, I'm excited and happy to have a venue for some of my thoughts about twenty five years of Joie... and we will post about new merchandise, and funny customer stories, and random information and retail life these days... all those bloggy things ! See you soon...


testing... anybody out there? we think we finally have a blog?!