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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to . . . Us !

So today is Joie de Vivre's 26th birthday. Or, as CakeWrecks might have it - our 26rd, or our 26st. No official goings on this year, hard to know what to do after that rocking 25th! And it's a pretty quiet day in here, perhaps due to the infernal heat outside - my walk to the bank this morning felt like a forced march. But later, we will lift a glass of champagne to toast the store, and all the customers and staff who have kept it going for all these years. Thanks everyone !! Joie hearts you all.

Note: anyone reading this who is not aware of the CakeWrecks site really should go there right now ! And yes, we sell the book !

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Unusual Saturday

I spent roughly three of the eight hours I was working at Joie today - in the barbershop. And no, I was not having my haircut. I was watching the United States lose to Ghana in the World Cup. Last week one day, I heard ecstatic screaming - no other way to describe it - coming loudly through the walls between the barbershop and Joie, and when I went to investigate, found that the U.S. had just beat Algeria in the last minute of a game. "Come over and watch with us anytime," they said, and today, with the U.S. playing Ghana, it seemed crazy not to go. We had very slow business - probably a combination of the beautiful day and the game - so I took my cell phone (in case of a rush at Joie) and went next door. Heartbreakingly, the U.S. lost - though it was exciting for Ghana to win as they have now advanced farther than any African nation in any World Cup series. I don't really watch sports much - but I really like the international aspect of this event. And man - do those guys work hard. It was also interesting to sit in the barbershop and watch how quickly the men and boys got in and out. Not like my salon, where a haircut takes an hour! No appointments, guys just wander in and get their hair cut. So ... interesting afternoon !

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Curse of the Legally Required Label

Sometime in the last few years, the powers that regulate the import/export world decided that each product that is sold IN this country that is produced OUT of this country must bear a label to that effect. That, combined with the ascendancy of the bar code, has led to a lot of work for Joie de Vivre. We try to present everything nicely in this store, and to that effect, we remove any labels that we assume a customer would want to take off at home (like a big sticker with a bar code that says "Made in Thailand" on a tiny little plastic toy.) Last week we got an order for 200 small plastic kaleidoscopes from a department at U.Mass Boston. Each one arrived with a big label attached. We took them off - it was slow going - and the labels left a sticky residue that could only be banished through vigorous application of (commercial plug alert) - Goo-Gone. This took us hours and hours. Strictly speaking, we didn't have to do it - but we can't imagine our customer would have been too happy to have to do it themselves - and if they didn't do it, the items would have looked cheezy and felt sticky. This made us long for the good old days when this sort of labeling was not legally required. And another thought - we've been in business long enough to be able to say "in the good old days" - yikes !

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Movie Review !

We interrupt this blog to urge all readers to go see Toy Story 3. It was wonderful. Action packed, smart, funny, suspenseful, and loads of emotional intelligence. And a very nice ending to the Toy Story story. It also made me nostalgic for a former Joie de Vivre product - the little three eyed blue guys that we sold years ago after the first Toy Story. You squeezed their stomachs and the little green antenna on their heads lit up. Discontinued years ago . . . wonder if Toy Story 3 will resurrect them? I was dragged to the first Toy Story movie, didn't really want to go, but walked out of the theatre enchanted and in awe of Pixar's talented team. My respect for them has only increased over the years. Toy Story 3 gets four stars from Joie de Vivre. A.O. Scott of the New York Times says: "In providing sheer moviegoing satisfaction — plot, characters, verbal wit and visual delight, cheap laughs and honest sentiment — “Toy Story 3” is wondrously generous and inventive. It is also, by the time it reaches a quiet denouement that balances its noisy beginning, moving in the way that parts of “Up” were. That is, this film — this whole three-part, 15-year epic — about the adventures of a bunch of silly plastic junk turns out also to be a long, melancholy meditation on loss, impermanence and that noble, stubborn, foolish thing called love. We all know money can’t buy it, except sometimes, for the price of a plastic figurine or a movie ticket." We agree with him - go see it !

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Happier Situation

After my little rant about big business a few days ago, I wanted to tell a problem tale with a happier ending. We recently started selling Steve Spangler's Geyser Tubes - they are scientific, amazing, and probably the most fun you can have with a bottle of diet coke and a pack of Mentos - as you will note if you watch this video. We ordered them two ways - with a "regular" top and the slightly fancier set
with three assorted caps to give assorted effects. I attended a party where a number of them were shot off a rooftop in Cambridge . . . and it was spectacular, but no one could see any difference between the fancy caps and the plain. Worried, I called the company. I didn't want to be charging extra for something that wasn't working. I would call, someone would be"looking into it," I would call again, same story. Finally, this morning I spoke with Renee. She said the reason it had taken them so long to get back to us was because they were testing them again. She said they couldn't see any difference at first and thought 'My God, she's right!"Then they realized that the observer's eye is drawn to the top of the geyser - and that the difference is only visible at the bottom - for the first three feet or so. If you look at the bottom, you do see the difference.She said that because of our call, they realize they need to change the packaging to alert purchasers to this. So . . . our phone call is going to lead to a package redesign. Not bad. And it's very nice to deal with people who take their product and their responsibility to retailers and consumers so seriously.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This is How Big Business Rolls

I saw some cards at the Stationary Show that would be perfect for us - a few featuring designs from the ONION, and a few others that were really funny. I was really excited when I saw them and I asked what their opening order was. "$1000." was the answer.One thousand dollars. That is a LOT of cards. I blanched. "But the reorder is only $150," the salesman added helpfully. In the twenty five years I've been in business I've never ordered from a card company with an opening order higher than $250 or $300. We talked and I explained how small my store was, and how much I wanted to sell these particular cards, and the salesman finally said he would "see what he could do." I actually was so enthusiastic about them that I said I would consider a $500 opening order and even pay in advance. I returned home from the show and a few weeks passed. I was showing customers a few sample cards I had picked up and everyone loved them, but I did not hear back from my contact. I called him and he passed me on to someone else and finally I was referred to an area rep. "How many pockets would you give to this line?" she asked. A pocket is one unit of display space - ten cards out on display equals ten "pockets." "Umm .. . maybe 20?" I answered. "They won't even talk to you then," she said flatly. "They want at least 96." We talked a bit more - I was still trying to convince her that I would be a good account to open. I described the card I had liked the most. "I would probably order 6 dozen of that card at a time," I said. "Oh, you can't do that," she said. "Didn't they explain that to you at the show? You can't order the cards by style, they just send you cards. You can choose birthday, or romantic, or friendly - but you can't order by style." I was astounded - they want you to order $1000, give their line lots of space, and then they won't even let you choose the cards you like best ?!? Some of their designs were awful - there was no way I would ever go along with that. All that back and forth for nothing. But . . . I intend to get in touch with the Onion and tell them that they've licensed their cards to the WRONG company - a company that won't sell to the quirky little stores that would probably be their best customers . . . so stay tuned . . .

Friday, June 11, 2010

Joie makes the big "Times"

Two women were shopping yesterday who said they had never been to the store before. How did they hear about it? They said they read about us in - the New York Times !!! I am a former New Yorker - grew up on said publication, still read it every Sunday and during the week on the web, and consider the "Gray Lady" to be as good as it gets newspaper wise. Our name was in it?? Really ??? A quick search by Nancy found the link and here it is ! Right here. Okay, the New York Times itself did not write about Joie de VIvre. This is excerpted from a Frommer's Boston review. But . . . it was published IN the Times, Joie de Vivre right on their web page. It's not as glorious as the time I saw a large photo of my sister and her first daughter right on the front page of the Sunday Times "mother daughter enjoying day in the park" - causing me to scream right at the news stand - but give us time . . . this is just the beginning !

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What Does a Pirate Popper Look Like?

"Why is this a pirate popper?" The customer had a confused look on her face. She was holding a small pink plastic half disc. It did not look like a proper pirate accoutrement - I could see why she was asking. I came out from behind the desk to try to clarify, and I saw the sign, sitting in the little display of pastel colored poppers. "Pirate Poppers - $1.00." I remembered the poppers we used to have - they were black, with a skull and crossbones. When stock got low, I had combined them with the regular poppers and I forgot to change the sign. "These are NOT pirate poppers - these are just regular poppers" I explained, grabbing the unfortunate sign. We have a lot of improperly labeled boxes in our stockroom - something sells out and we use its box to store something else - and these misleading labels are less than helpful when training a new employee - but we really try to have our signs right out front ! (note to loyal blog readers: I apologize for the cheesy quality of these photographs which I took myself on the back desk.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Confusing "Thank You" s

There's a phenomena I've noticed from behind the counter of Joie. When a parent brings in a child, and buys them a little gift, they frequently instruct the child to tell me thank you. This doesn't really make sense to me. If the parent bought the child a little toy, shouldn't the kid say "thank you" to them? I actually did nothing -and half the time a very small child is too shy to even look at me, let alone speak to me. I mean, I did open a store that has fun little things in it that a child might want and a parent might buy for them, so in that vague sense I deserve thanks. But I don't think tiny kids really get that sense of it. In general, I like to, and feel I should say "thank you" to people for buying something and usually do. But, customers clearly also like to say thank you to us. I've definitely found myself in more than one of those "thank you." "No, thank YOU." "No . . thank you" games . . . it's funny.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Best Friends

This Memorial Day weekend was beautiful here in Boston. We had some business on Saturday, but Sunday was quieter. For an hour or so, the only people in the store besides me were two very nice twelve year old girls. They tried on the birthday crowns, sat down together and looked at books, played with almost everything and kept up a running conversation with each other about camp and school and siblings. Eventually, they said goodbye and left. An hour later they came back in. "We've decided to buy ourselves matching buttons," one told me. They spend some serious time looking for the right one. Their choice: "I'd rather be skipping and blowing bubbles." Perfect!