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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What A Difference A Day Makes

and the difference is . . . we can stop and smell the flowers! By the time December 24th rolls around we are generally doing as much business in one day as we are in two whole weeks during the slow winter months . . . that will tire you out! It's crazy and fun and exhausting, and we run on chocolate and coffee - and it stops quite abruptly on December 26th. Of course people are still doing some last minute shopping, and there is the occasional return - it's definitely livelier than a snowy January day - but this morning an hour passed before a customer even walked in the door. We can chat with our customers, and do some gift wrapping again, and are back to our regular hours and staffing. People always ask if we go away on vacation after the season ends - and I tell them no - just resuming regular life feels like a genuine vacation!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Joie de Blog's Gift to Readers !

Hello faithful readers. the Joie de Blog scribe has been a little busy lately but we want to wish you all a very happy, relaxing and peaceful holiday. And to show you this - if you have three minutes just watch it - it is the essence of what we consider to be pure holiday magic. Turn up your sound and enjoy. And, thanks for all your business this year - and as Arnold has been known to say, "We'll be back"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So Much To Write, So Little Time . . .

So much is happening every day right now, at the height of the holiday madness - that I feel I'm neglecting this blog and wanted to post a "I'm still here, just busy!" note. Last night was our annual Midnight Madness and I was at the store from 9 am to midnight . . . and back this morning at 9:30 am to clean up before working all day today. At my somewhat advanced age, I sometimes wonder how I manage to keep up every day - but there's a definite surge of positive energy that comes from seeing so many customers - many of whom I've know for years now - in such a short time - and there's also the fun of working with so many returning employees who help out at this crazy time - anyway, many blog worthy things are happening - but I'll just have to catch up after Christmas - though I do have a special treat to post later this week . . . stay tuned! (and "tuned" is more appropriate here than you know . . . . )

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dashing through the . . . Air?

My niece Talitha is traveling to Uganda to rehearse with a group of children - dancers - who will come back to the U.S. in January as the "Tour of Light." Very sadly they will not be performing in Boston, but you can read information about their tour here on her blog: Madame Future Moderator. Anyway, she will be in Uganda for Christmas, so I mailed her a little package of things she could use to celebrate the day while she was there, including a charming little reindeer puppet that we just got in from Poco-a-Poco. She sent me this little video featuring said reindeer performing a Christmas song at Heathrow in London. If you've never heard a reindeer sing - or are interested in my wonderful niece and her project - check it out. I sent this to the owner of the company we get the puppets from, and he loved it. So do I !

Friday, December 9, 2011

Amazon goes completely to the dark side . . .

I know I just blogged, but this article I read in the New York Times today kind of blew my little shopkeeper's mind. I couldn't decide how to title this post - above, or "Will They Stop at Nothing?" Evidently the answer to that question is - "They will stop at nothing." Read this and judge for yourselves:

"Amazon’s effort to pay shoppers to scorn physical stores is prompting a bit of a backlash. The retailer is offering a bounty for those who venture to the mall or Main Street on Saturday and compare the price of items against Amazon’s price. Customers who use a special price check app on their smartphone will get up to $5 off on up to three qualifying products from Amazon in eligible categories (electronics, toys, sports, music and DVDs). This is not sitting well with physical retailers and their fans. There is a budding Occupy Amazon: Shop Local movement on Facebook. The American Independent Business Alliance said it was “jolting” to see the company “overtly encouraging people to spy on local stores while turning those businesses into showrooms for Amazon’s profit.” The alliance also noted that while Amazon said it was doing this to lower prices, the comparative data might also encourage it to raise prices on some items to a level just marginally below the physical stores’ prices. Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association, wrote in an open letter to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, that this was “the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs llke schools, fire and police departments, and libraries.”

And it goes on, I won't include the entire piece - but I do agree with the ending quote: “Even if it doesn’t work fiscally, it sure is giving them a lot of free publicity. But on a more philosophical level, I just think it is mean.” I would say mean . . . and unethical . . . and greedy. They DO want to take over the world - watch out !

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Small is Good

When I opened Joie de Vivre, one of my aims was to have a store where there would be something for almost anyone to buy — whether they could spend just a little or a lot. I really really did not want to have a store where someone walking in with $5 would feel like there was nothing there for them to buy. And we have remained true to that aim - our price range varies tremendously. This year, I've been struck by how that is mirrored in our online sales. (We've had a website for about four years now — late to the party, but we finally got there — feeling we really did need an online presence — both for loyal customers who had moved away from our area, and just to keep up with the modern world and show off our goods.) We don't have a shopping cart, so people who want to purchase must email or call us. And we get orders — some large, but lots of small ones. Just yesterday we had two orders where the cost of shipping the item was higher than the cost of the item — a wind-up lobster, and a talking mustache. Our smallest order ever was for 5 tiny rubber chickens which I mailed in an envelope for 44 cents. But I love that people will just buy one little thing. That's one of the things I wanted to provide for people when I opened the store... and it's interesting to realize that our online store is serving the same purpose. (& below — Japanese erasers, incredibly cute and $1.50 each!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Joie de Vivre at Harvard

We recently found out that some of our mushroom related items have ended up in a display case at - none other than Harvard University.  One of the curators was in, and bought a selection of this year's stock of glass clip on mushroom Christmas ornaments.  A few days later she emailed me these photographs, saying she thought we might enjoy seeing where some of them were going - into the Decorative Cryptogram case at Harvard's botany Libraries/Herbaria !  She also mentioned that in some cultures, there is a belief that Santa's red and white suit is based on the Amanita musaria mushroom.  Who knew?  At any rate, it's kind of cool to think that some of our silly gnomes and mushrooms have ended up on display at Harvard.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dangerous Cupcakes?

Don't tell anyone please - I want to stay in business - but I broke the law today.  And I did it deliberately.  My illegal action involved a cupcake pillow - perhaps you can guess what it was.  That's right - I removed the large, ugly tag that said:  Under Penalty of Law, This Tag is Not to be Removed Except by the Consumer.  I find this type of tag completely baffling.  There are no special life saving instructions printed on this tag - only a statement that the materials used in making "the article" are in accordance with law.  ?  I think the materials in pretty much everything we sell from postcards and wind up toys to jewelry are "in accordance with law" and none of those items come with large threatening labels.  If anyone can enlighten me, I'd be happy to learn the reason why cupcake pillows merit this tag . . . . .

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

At The Risk Of Repeating Myself . . .

Joie de Vivre has now had a blog for three Thanksgivings . . . long enough that I just looked back to see what I wrote on each of the last two.  Then I thought - how silly, even if I write pretty much exactly the same thing - who will remember?  I'm sure (or relatively sure) that JoiedeBlog readers don't go back and compare what I wrote one year with what I wrote another.  And, I do feel kind of the same every year.  There are lots of things I look forward to -seeing all the customers who come, like Christmas, but once a year, for one. And the whole thing is kind of crazy and fun. I'm also slightly horrified at what is to come - my 24/7 work schedule, the end of regular life for a month . . . and slightly apprehensive about various things - will it be a "good" season, will we have a big snowstorm on a critical weekend, do we have enough extra staff, enough inflatable fruitcakes and other cool things to satisfy all our customers?  Will I make it through the season with my sanity intact?  As a (relatively) sane person, I do have some reservations about the commercial extravaganza the holidays have become and I shudder to read of stores opening at 5 am on Friday morning, a time that all of us Joie de Vivre people plan to be sound asleep in our beds. In any case, we look forward to helping you with your holidays needs be they large or be they small. And our lovely customers will certainly be on the long list of things I will give thanks for tomorrow when I raise that glass with family and friends.  Happy Thanksgiving and see you soon!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What Could This Mean?

A day or two ago I noticed a plastic bag pushpinned to the back of a jewelry display.  Inside it was a candy corn and a note scribbled on a post it that said "I am the Mirage Frog - currently replaced by a jelly bean."  Okay . . . .

It took me a minute or two to figure this out - but when I did, I realized how completely unfigureoutable it would be to anyone but the staff of Joie.  Jellybean?  A candy corn that calls itself a mirage frog?  Explanation - we have an item called the Mirage which has a reflecting mirror - it comes with a little plastic frog.  We must have replaced the frog with a jellybean way back at Easter, then put the frog back, then replaced it with a candy corn at Halloween and for some reason saved said candy corn when Halloween was over. Anyway, I kind of cherish these odd little moments

Friday, November 11, 2011

Possible Ballot Initiative?

Some pretty crazy things get onto ballots these days - for example, the recently defeated "personhood" for fertilized eggs one in Mississippi.  I was talking to a friend the day after that went down and our conversation meandered into the weather and her walk to work that morning.  She mentioned that she had observed several houses with full fledged Christmas holiday decorations.  We were discussing how awful that was and I was suddenly struck with a brilliant idea - what about a ballot initiative that would make it illegal to put up holiday decorations before Thanksgiving?  Now there's something we could get passionate about . . . and possibly it could have a rider stipulating that they also must be taken down by Valentine's Day.  There could be a few exemptions - perhaps for those with really time consuming displays - but your average inflatable Santa would have to wait until the turkey was digested. We really feel that holiday decorations are more special and exciting when confined to a month or so.  Look for our petition in 2012 ! !

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

May We Introduce the Duchess of Devonshire?

We have been selling a wonderful Fotofolio postcard for many years - "The Dutchess of Devonshire Feeding Her Chickens."  I never knew much about the Dutchess, except that she looked fabulous in her evening dress, feeding some pretty happy looking chickens.  The other day a customer called to special order a dozen of the postcards. (Incidentally, available at Joie de Vivre for $1 and - buyer beware - on Ebay for $4.99!)  In the course of our conversation she mentioned that a biography of the Dutchess was being published this fall.  Then today, I was browsing on the MacMillan website and found the notice for the book, along with this rather imposing picture.  I think I just might have to read that bio . . .


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Best Deal Ever - (An Unabashed Plug!)

I just got a reminder from Pandora Radio that my subscription was coming up for renewal - you all probably are familiar with their service - it's basically free internet radio where you can program your own stations - you choose an artist, or a song, and they take it from there, playing music they think you will like based around your selection.  And, you can have up to 100 of these personalized stations. Pandora has been a godsend for Joie de Vivre.  For one thing, you can immediately stop a song you don't like - and we had plenty of otherwise great CDs with one wildly inappropriate song. We also got very tired of our CD collection - no matter how many we had, we felt like we were listening to the same ones over and over - and it was often hard to find music we all liked.  Now anyone at the front desk can have their station and stations can be switched in an instant.  You can have all this absolutely free - they just break in every so often to say "You are listening to Pandora radio" sometimes adding a small explanation of what the service is.  But, for a mere $36 a year, you get it with no interruption at all - $3 a month for their amazing service. This is what they used to call in the old days "such a deal."  We  L O V E  Pandora.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Celebrity Visit

I was just writing up our November newsletter - and one of the new items I mentioned was "What I Hate from A to Z", Roz Chast's brand new book.  A new Roz Chast book is always very exciting and thinking about how many of her books we've sold over the years got me to reminiscing about the time - gasp - she came to Joie de Vivre!!  One of her close friends shops here regularly, and once told me she had given Roz and her family many gifts from Joie.  I was thrilled . . . and told her so . . . and she said, "Oh, next time she's visiting, I'll bring her in!"  My eyes got wide - and when that day eventually came, I could not have been more nervous if the President of the United States was coming in.  I was also terrified that she wouldn't really like the store - that she would just look around a minute, and then walk out.  But she came in, shyly said hello, then proceeded to look around for a good hour or more.  She didn't really say much but she left with a big bag of items from toys to a pair of acorn earrings.  It was really really really exciting.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Because We're Small

We received our big seasonal order from a company called "Mr. Christmas" a few weeks ago.  They make battery operated music boxes with lights and moving parts - very fun and popular.  We take each one out of its box and test it to make sure all is well - and on this last order found at least a half dozen pieces that were not working.  We called their customer service department, and they are very good about replacing any problematic items, but as we were testing, we found ourselves realizing - most of their product is sold through much larger stores - and there is no way that the products are individually tested. So a certain percentage of purchasers take these pieces home, gift wrap them and give them away, only to find that they are broken or don't work.  Then the burden of contacting the company and getting a replacement falls to the customer, not the store.  Just saying - one of the many ways small is good !

Monday, October 17, 2011

So Retro

I was working alone on Sunday and had the chance to watch two young kids having fun with a toy we have been selling for over twenty-five years - the beloved - at least by most - Penguin Race. It's a simple battery operated toy - three penguins climb a set of stairs and then roll down a track to the bottom where they begin their climb again, accompanied by a not unbearable cheerful climbing penguin cheeping noise, which definitely adds to the item's "je ne sais quoi." I actually have come over the years to find the repetitive kind of zen. Traditionally, the penguins remained standing up while rolling down the slide, but in recent years, there must have been some rejiggering because now they mostly slid down on their backs, and sometimes fall backwards down the stairs. This somewhat random penguin behavior elicited shrieks of laughter from the kids - every time something different happened, it was a giant thrill. They were calling the penguins by color: "Go Red, oh noooooo . . . . " It was impossible to watch them and not smile rather broadly myself. And I think their Dad was happy that they remained mesmerized the entire twenty minutes that he was looking around the store, only calling him over when things got unbearably exciting - maybe two penguins falling down the stairs instead of one. And their satisfaction when all three were inching up the stairs in a row - what can I say? It was just a lot of fun for me see a new generation enjoy this classic toy!

Monday, October 10, 2011

So Modern !

Joie de Vivre has its first QR code item! For those of you who don't know what a QR code is - it's that little black and white box you're starting to see everywhere in advertisements from Starbucks to Macys to business cards. QR stands for Quick Response and don't be overly impressed that we know this - we just figured it out a month ago at the New York Gift Show when one of our companies, Wry Baby, showed us a baby onesie with one of these codes printed on the front. "But, what IS that thing, and how do you read it?" I asked. He explained, helped me download the app to my (new) iPhone . . . and sure enough, when I got that little code into focus, something came up on my screen. And it was something funny, as you'll see if you visit it on our web page. So, we have our most modern item yet. I must say though, now that I have the app, I've tried clicking on other QR codes - and so far they have been nothing but boring advertising. Kudos to Wry Baby for actually making them something fun! Maybe we'll have to follow in their footsteps . . .

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Shelf Life

In the retail world, merchandise is supposed to "turn" several times a year. In real life, that means that if you have a mouse puppet sitting on a shelf, it should sell maybe three or four times a year to justify its presence in your store. Of course, expensive things turn more slowly - we will sell dozens of wind up seals for every hundred dollar kaleidoscope. So there's different ways to evaluate - but by any standard, if an item has been around for a year - or two or three - and does not cost several hundred dollars - and the other variations of same item have sold . . . then you have an unwanted item. So, we have this bee lady. And she has been here for at least three years, while her companion moons and suns and dogs and flower images have been sold and reordered many times. So, it's not the cost - the others are the same price. But, I've become inexplicably fond of her - the plump little bee lady hovering over her flowery field. And I just feel in my heart of hearts that one day, the right person will see her and want her. Call me a hopeless romantic - I think I am, at least where this lady in concerned!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Truth? In Advertising?

We briefly sold a crazy top last year - it had laser lights than made circles of light around it when it was spinning, and it played a wacky version of the "Beverly Hills Cop" theme. It was very popular, but we decided to stop selling it because the batteries were not replaceable - once it wore down, it was basically a throwaway. This made us very sad, because we kind of loved the crazy thing. Then, at the August Gift Show I found a very similar top - and was excited to learn that the batteries were replaceable. They just arrived at the store a week or so ago and we decided to include the happy news in our October newsletter. We went to the company's web site to get a picture, and read a description of said top that ended: "All that spinning generates energy that powers the music and lights… without the need for batteries." Oh really? It plays music and lights up without batteries? I knew there were batteries in the top so I emailed the company to find out why they advertised the top this way. I wrote, " if there is no need for batteries - why did ours come with batteries?" A day or two passed, and we received their answer - which I present to you word for word: "Yes, the statement is correct. Technically, NO BATTERIES are required because they are included and sealed in at the factory." I don't know about you blog readers, but I call this - let's just say - misleading at best! (but regardless of their silly claim, the top is great!)

Monday, September 26, 2011


Because of the nature of retail, we tend to have somewhat younger staff working here at Joie de Vivre. And many of them are single when they begin - but that often doesn't last. I've been to several weddings of employees or former employees in our pre-blog days and I just went to one this weekend. The bride and groom were radiant, it was an outdoor wedding, by the bay, and despite a forecast of 80% chance of rain, it did not rain. The bride's family all live quite far away so I had not met most of them, and when I did meet them, and they found out that I owned the store where the bride worked for several years (& still kindly fills in when we need someone) - they reacted instantly. "I've wanted to meet you!" "She loves you!" "You've been so nice to her" etc etc. I told them how completely mutual it was -I loved having her work here and only wished that it could be more of a "real job" so she could have stayed. Anyway, it was very nice to be so enthusiastically welcomed, and it was a wonderful event. It's something I never gave much thought to in the beginning of Joie- that I would get to be such a part of people's lives who work here. Hmm. .. . I wonder who's next?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Poetry of Joie

I am taking a poetry writing course at a "local university" (somehow writing Harvard sounds slightly pretentious) and as I was looking through the semester's syllabus, I saw that we are going to do a segment on found poetry. I might just turn in some of Joie de Vivre's sales slips. As I was reading through the previous few days slips this morning I found some candidates: Slip One: positive spray, chocolate, one pencil, scrabble. Slip two: Lost lions, point, keep calm. Slip three: Eiffel cookie, gumby, fairy. And slip four: tooth erasers, tiny creatures, tin pins, moon magnet. I think these are kind of poetic and I love the combinations of items that can appear on any one sales slip. Thinking about it, they also might be good prompts for short stories . . .

Sunday, September 18, 2011


No, I'm not practicing for the upcoming International Talk Like a Pirate Day - though that day is tomorrow and it can't hurt to get a few good Arrrs in the day before. No, my ARRR is really more of an ARRRGH. My telephone rang at 9 am this morning. I was drinking coffee and reading the Sunday papers and thought who can that be? It was a bit early for a friend to call. Family emergency? Someone with really good news? An invitation to a delicious brunch? Nope - it was Earthlink's financial office, calling to find out why they had not received Joie de Vivre's check for $40 that was due on Friday. As it happens, that check had been mailed out. But even if it hadn't - Joie de Vivre has had an Earthlink account for over 5 years. Our account has never been more than a few days - that's days - not months - in arrears - and our monthly bill is never more than $40. I could not believe they would call me at my house at 9 am on Sunday about this. And Earthlink is another one of those companies that if you are having a problem with their service, you can spend hours and hours and hours just trying to get through to a human being who can actually help you. Perhaps they should be taking the money they spend hiring people to harass accounts in good standing in their homes and switch those funds and people to their customer service account. Just saying . . . .

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy Birthday !

Two women were in shopping late yesterday, looking for a birthday gift for a women. As they wandered and we chatted, it gradually emerged that their aunt, the birthday girl, was turning 90. Then they said, "you'd probably know her, she used to come in here with her sister all the time And they were both really tall." It must have been the family resemblance, because a certain pair of sisters instantly popped into my mind. "Did they have kind of - unusual voices?" I asked. "Yes" was the answer, and now I was sure of their identity. They were a delightful pair, would come in and spend an hour every so often, laughing about things, usually buying a few small items. And their voices were indeed very distinctive - I'm not quite sure how to describe them. I hadn't seen either of them for awhile. Now that Joie de Vivre has been here for over 27 years, some of our customers have grown old and we worry when we realize that we haven't seen an older customer in awhile. So, it was wonderful to hear that this woman is 90 and going strong, living alone, driving, and as with it as ever. And she has two very thoughtful and loving nieces, and iis going to receive a fabulous piece of jewelry for her 90th birthday!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where Were You?

I was at the Jersey Shore on vacation. Didn't even know that the attacks had happened until late morning when I happened to glance at the television in our rented house. It was completely surreal being away from home, the stunningly beautiful day at the beach with only my two year old niece to bring us an illusion of normalcy as she of course had no idea what was going on. Though we couldn't get through on the phone to New York, we could reach Boston, and I told the two people working to close the store - it just seemed like the thing to do. Of course later would come our president's exhortations to defeat the terrorists by shopping - and people did - I think we had the best fall and holiday season we had ever had in 2001. I felt like we had a stronger than usual obligation to provide a little bit of lightness for our customers in those very difficult months. I hope we did.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

T Shirt Gallery

Our ongoing T Shirt series has been rather neglected lately, but I just saw this one - love it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Frustration Postscript - aka Google Part 2

Miracle of Miracles!! Joy in Joieville! We finally received an email from an actual person at Google today, (and are cynically wondering if the bad press in the New York Times prompted them to start dealing with these issues) Whatever the case, "Bryan" said that they were aware of the incorrect listing and would fix it. His exact words: "You should see the information appearing correctly within four weeks' time. If, in four weeks, you are still experiencing this problem, please respond to this email." Okay, I am happy that finally we got a response from an actual person. But it boggles my mind that it could take Google up to 4 weeks to fix two lines of text. Isn't the computer age supposed to make things . . . . you know . . . . happen faster?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shared Frustration

I was looking at the New York Times this morning and saw an article about Google listing businesses as closed that were in fact, still open. The main point of the article was how difficult it was for the owners of these businesses to correct this information on Google. I read with an increasing sense of solidarity, and at the end, was moved to add my own comment which I will just duplicate below. But - come on, Google - it should NOT be this difficult to contact with you and it should NOT be difficult to change incorrect information. And after spending hours and hours and hours trying to deal with this on line, it should also be possible to access a live, breathing, accountable human being !! Live up to your own motto - Don't be Evil !! My comment:

I own a retail store in Cambridge, MA. We have been open for 27 years and have always had the exact same hours. For some reason, Google recently posted incorrect hours on our listing, and customers have been showing up expecting us to be open later than we really are. We have spent at least one full business week attempting to fix this - to simply, as the owners of the business, get them to change our listed hours to our actual hours - and have been unable to do so. It's outright Kafka-esque and we really are at a loss as to what the next step should be.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If Joie de Vivre Sold Shoes . . .

If we did sell shoes . . . . we would definitely be selling these !!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Public Service Announcement re Hurricane Irene

And before she really gets here tonight - come on in to Joie! We'll definitely be open all day Saturday. We're a little less sure about Sunday - it depends what happens weather wise - check back here or give us a call before coming out!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Hate It !

A little girl, maybe three or four, was in Joie de Vivre with her mother tonight. They walked around the store looking at things and talking about them and this little girl had very definite opinions on most of the things she saw. She didn't like them. She definitely did not like any of the singing animals that many kids her age find fascinating. She put her hands over her ears and said "I hate that." Eventually I realized they were looking for a present for the little girl to give to an older woman - her grandmother? They looked at the Aqua pets - cute little Japanese toys and these got the same reaction: "I hate that." They continued through the store and I hear the phrase "I hate it" several more times, realizing I had never in 27 years heard anyone say it that often. I caught Mom's eye. "Guess she's going through a phase?" I asked as quietly as I could so the little girl would not hear me. Mom nodded. "Oh yes, this is a new thing." The daughter was temporarily distracted by a spinning tin toy - she actually liked it and it was briefly considered as the gift. "You could play with it when you visit her," Mom suggested helpfully. It was finally rejected, but without the usual condemnation. They wandered back to the singing animals, and the daughter noticed that the singing birthday bear was wearing a birthday cake hat that lit up. She became a little intrigued. "I think she might like this," she said to her surprised Mom. "I think she'd like that too, but it sings," said Mom, who though extremely nice and patient, was beginning to show signs of wanting to get this over and done. More discussion followed, and - to my surprise, little "I hate it" girl agreed to the bear - "if we don't make it sing." Into the bag it went, and out they went. I hope it's a long time before we hear another customer say "I hate it" that much again!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Glad I Didn't Throw That Out!

We spent a lot of Saturday standing at the counter, looking anxiously into our credit card machine. Instead of the usual "Processing" message that pops up on its little screen, we were seeing "Please Wait." So we waited. And waited. Usually a credit card transaction takes all of 30 seconds but a minute or two would go by. And another minute. Then - joy - the paper would start to scroll out - but then - X%$#@!! - the paper would read TRANSACTION FAILED PLEASE TRY AGAIN. So, obedient servants of technology that we are, we tried again. Often it took two or three tries to get the sale though. And believe me, most customers do not like to wait ten minutes to complete a $10 sale. Or a $2 or even a $200 sale. I don't blame them. At the end of the day I finally got through the service desk who suggested it might be a telephone issue - now the phone company will come to investigate on Monday. And today I will haul out our extremely antiquated charge machine - the kind where the card is imprinted by the heavy moving swipe bar. Just in case. I look at that old war horse occasionally and think, I should probably throw that out. So, thank you, instinct that keeps me from actually doing it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Within These Walls

This rather Darth Vaderesque structure is the Jacob Javitz Convention Center. Within its hallowed (& leaky) halls, I found many things that will soon make their way to Joie de Vivre. Jellyfish ornaments, crayon rings, a cheezdoodle wallet, ballerina birthday candles, Japanese washcloths, scrabble coasters and mugs, and a silver rocketship usb port - to name just a few. I love getting to visit and talk with the people we do business with - exchange ideas, discuss the state of the economy, catch up on life, and I love finding new items for Joie de Vivre, and maybe best of all, I always leave feeling energized and excited to come back home and share all the new stuff with our customers. See you soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hunting Season

So .. . here I am, in New York City, with my alarm set for 7 am - ready to go to the New York Gift Show in the morning. For me, the show is very similar to how customers feel about Joie de Vivre. They don't come into the store - at least the first time - expecting to find say - a yodeling pickle, or a singing goat - or the mind altering goldfish. That is exactly the way I feel before going to the Gift Show. I'm not expecting to find anything in particular - I'm just hoping to find those things that will make me think - wow, that yodeling pickle - or meowing cat clock - or book of awkward family photos - is exactly the right thing for Joie de Vivre. I have no idea what I will find . .. . but after all these years - I feel confident that I will find at least a few wonderful somethings. And then we will have the pleasure of introducing those things to our customers. Stay tuned . . . .

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Guessing Game

There's a little game we get to play a lot more in the summer here at Joie de Vivre. It's called "guess what language those customers are speaking." We certainly have foreign customers during the year - but in the summer we really have lots. Just in the last few days, I heard Norwegian, Swedish, and Korean. Spanish and French are so common that they barely register as a foreign language - and they are the only two that I can actually carry on a (simple) conversation in. Once, we had an older Chinese woman shopping who spoke not one word of English beyond hello. She picked up a snowglobe and was trying to ask us a question. We would each speak in turn but there was no "aha" moment at all and it's weirdly frustrating for both parties when there is not a bit of shared language. Drawing pictures was the key in that case - and I guess today we could attempt to translate via Google. Anyway, I enjoy listening, trying to guess, and then asking. Israeli always takes me by surprise - I often think it's some kind of Slavic. Anyway, we plan to enjoy all our out of town guests for the next few weeks, until the end of summer brings back our regular customers!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A horrible oversight

I just received the Joie August enews... a horrible oversight has been made by the Joie Scribe... maybe her mind is still on vacation... awesome! I love vacations... we used to fly over to Hells Canyon every summer and once my little sister... whoops! — I digress... missing from the newsletter is the best new thing to come along in a while (imho)... PEA! A tiny dynamo after my own heart... nothing can stop him... if he can't climb over it, he'll roll over and go off in a new direction. I haven't had this much fun at Joie since, well... hmmm — I do love that machine that tells me I'm awesome all the time... but Pea is awesome too!

Editor's Note: Pea is the newest windup critter by Chico Bicalho

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Product Testing on Vacation

Sometimes I see how an item works when I order it. Or think it's neat, trust the vendor that it does what they say it does, but I never actually play with it myself. It was like that with the Mighty Kite. I saw a man wandering the aisles of the Javits Center flying a little tiny kite. I went up, asked where he got it, and found he was the maker. He introduced himself to me as Kitemando and we spoke and I ordered some. We've been selling them for several years, but after that first glimpse, I never personally saw one fly, though we did have some enthusiastic repeat customers. Anyway, I was packing up some Joie items to take to the beach - bubbles, a few puzzles, etc - and decided to throw in some kites. One of the families visiting us arrived with three kids and a giant toucan kite. One afternoon they were trying unsuccessfully to fly it and I remembered the little ones. We brought them out to the beach - and I can now personally say how great they are - easy to fly, and they go really really high. And they swoop and move around at the tug of a string. They will now be much more enthusiastically endorsed by me personally ! And as a side note, I also brought an affirmation button and we found a previously unknown use for it - it's a perfect tool for getting reluctant two year olds to eat their cereal. After each bite, we let our resident two year old press the button, and hearing "you are awesome" proved to be excellent motivation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

gone fishing

Well we thought we might get the world-famous Devil Duckie to blog while the Joie Scribe is away — but his peeps say he can't be reached... vacations are awesome!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Item of the Month

We have a new item at Joie de Vivre that we're all a little in love with - and we've decided to make it our item of the month - those of you who get our monthly email newsletter will see it soon! For those of you who don't, here's a little sneak preview! Go there and see what it does! Then you'll understand part two of this blog - there was a little girl in the store the other day, probably about 4 years old. We pushed the button for her, and she smiled and said, "It's right! I AM awesome!"

And blogger disclosure: the official Joie scribe is on vacation this week, enjoying the beautiful New Jersey Shore (not the Jersey Shore inhabited by Snooki and Co - a far gentler, kinder place.) Blogs may be a bit infrequent - though guest bloggers may take up the slack! Oh - and the official Joie scribe brought one of the above with her - not being used to appearing in public much in a bathing suit!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Sound of Joie . . .

is not the sound of silence, that's for sure ! Today, we heard the gentle clinking of the fork and spoon puzzle as someone tried to untangle it. The squeaking of the rubber duck. "To me that's an absolute disgrace" spoken in a British accent by the soccer sound machine. The yodeling of the pickle. The animatronic singing plush goat, channeling Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. The Rites of Spring - wind chime version. Mozart on a music box. the oinking of the pig keychain. the crying baby of the get off the phone excuse machine. the excited voices of teenage customers (three teenagers can seem like a dozen) or kids crying "Mom/Dad - look at this!!" Sometimes all these sounds occur almost in the same minute. No wonder that woman had a hard time deciding whether to buy that $150 music box . . . . and no wonder we sometimes get a little confused while adding up a sales slip and reach for the calculator. Yet - we really mean it when we say "that's okay" when someone apologizes for pressing the Emergency Meow button - once you've been at Joie for awhile, you achieve a kind of Zen about it all. At least most of the time!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Starting The Day Without a Bang!

Today we started the day off without a bang in the best possible sense. As I walked toward the store I saw a lot of commotion a few blocks down the street - flashing sirens, backed up traffic and something in the median of Mass. Ave. At first I thought it was a bicycle and that someone had been hit - but then I noticed the yellow crime scene tape blocking off a several block area. I walked down to investigate and didn't get far before hearing - there was a grenade in the street. It had a wire in it. (fuse?) And, as they weren't sure if it was a live grenade or possibly a toy (?) (wouldn't one be able to tell??) they had sent out the police in force. It was a good half hour before they took it away and we await the results re its nature - real or not. At any rate, we are very happy that the day did not start with a bang ! And I personally am glad I decided to walk to work and so did not have to sit in that traffic jam!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

90 Degrees - and Snowing !

This post is not about global "weirding" as they like to call it these days - but it's 90 plus degrees here in Boston today - so it seems a good day to showcase one of our absolute new favorite items - the Eiffel Tower Snowstorm. That's right - this is not a snowglobe, but a snowstorm. Its so full of snow that you never see more of the Eiffel Tower than you see in the photo. And when you shake it up - you see absolutely nothing but snow. No gentle snow wafting past the tower, but as named, a raging storm of snow swirls and envelopes the tower completely. We love it. Think it's really funny. And on a day like this, sort of refreshing to boot . . . .

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independents for Independence!

A quick look at the newspapers reveals:
Bloomingdales - open
Target - open
Home Depot - open
Urban Outfitters - open
A quick look at our neighborhood reveals:
Nomad - closed
Cambridge Clog - closed
Susanna - closed
Tag Hardware - closed
and . ..
Joie de Vivre - closed !

Do we see a theme here? Big stores open,
small stores closed. We feel sorry that the
holiday has degenerated for some to a chance
to get 60% off designer shoes. Or whatever.
(We understand grocery stores being open,
what about all those who forgot to buy ketchup?
Or decided to make brownies at the last minute?)
We intend to read the Declaration of
Independence, maybe garden a little,
cook and have a few beers with neighbors
and friends, and think about our country,
its wonderful good, and its imperfections as
well. See you on July the 5th.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When Worlds Collide

What I think of when I see the words "Jersey Shore" in the subject line of an email: summer, long walks on the beach, swimming, sunburns, seaweed and jellyfish, kids playing, solitude, (yes, found even in New Jersey), fresh corn on the cob, collecting shells, sunsets, and a whole host of lovely things.

What my Kurt Adler rep is thinking when he sends me an email with the words "Jersey Shore" as the subject: Snookie and Co. Christmas ornaments!

Thanks . . . but I will stick with my world!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Whatever Happened To . . . ?

I was cleaning out my file cabinet today - I try to do that every once in awhile, when it gets so full that I can barely cram another catalogue in . . . . (& yes, despite websites, we still get a lot of catalogues and often prefer using them) . . . anyway, there were a few really old ones in there, that I've kept almost for sentimental reasons, and I decided to google the companies to see if they were still around. I googled Tiny Flame Studio - a small handcraft company we used to buy hammered copper wands and picture frames from. Most of the sites listed them with no information but said "if this is your company, please contact us." And I discovered there are lots and lots of sites that make it their business - to list other businesses. One of the "big players" appeared to be On their website they claim that they list over 23 million companies in the United States alone. I googled Tiny Flame on their site and got the following information: "Tiny Flame Studio in Fairfax, CA is a private company categorized under Jewelry Stores. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $1 to 2.5 million and employs a staff of approximately 5 to 9." Wow. That's quite a range of revenue. And with 5 to 9 employees, they must have a really difficult time in the years they only make $1. With 5 employees, that would be 20 cents each. Really, what is the point of publishing such obviously bogus information? I guess if you're going to feature 23 million companies . . . you have to get a little creative!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An Unusual Request

First thing in the morning the phone rings. It's a woman who saw on our website that we sell jewelry and wants to know if we offer a particular service. Do we take stuck rings off people's fingers? Specifically, off the finger of her mother-in-law. (Please note that the date of this call was not April 1st!) We suggest the classic remedies - did she try water? soap? a little oil? The woman tells us that her mother-in-law's whole hand is badly swollen and she also has arthritis in her knuckles. We suggest that maybe she would want to see a doctor - but she doesn't like that idea. We apologize that we can't be more helpful- but wonder - what planet does this particular caller live on?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Read Carefully Before Ordering!

We sell some wall pieces that are collages with quotes superimposed over the images - they're quite popular, and the quotes tend toward the - for us- slightly sweet, almost inspirational. Some examples: "Shoot for the Moon, Even if You Miss, You'll Land Among the Stars!" "Happiness is a way of travel, not a destination" "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart." The other day a customer was shopping for a gift for her brand new granddaughter to give to her mother, the baby being only a few weeks old and therefore unable to shop yet. I was pulling out all the mother and or new baby items I could find, and thought I remembered a wall piece with a motherhood quote. I found it in the stock room, and as I was bringing it out, I read the quote. "Motherhood. All love begins and ends there." (Robert Browning.) I suddenly realized that I totally disagree with this quote. After all, some of us are not mothers. And we have experienced love. And doesn't motherhood really begin with another kind of love - the love that brings a man and a woman together and makes them want to have a child? (okay - or these days two men, or two women and we really should say parenthood in case it's two men.) On reflection, I decided that I really did not like the quote at all. Maybe it's really just a lovely little tribute to mothers and I'm over thinking the whole thing, but - I don't think I'll be ordering that particular piece again!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Unexpected Comment of the Day

Last weekend, on a busy Saturday, two boys entered the store - probably 13 or 14 years old. They were a bit loud, and clearly excited to be there. I was helping another customer when one of them grabbed a brass kaleidoscope. "How much is this?" he asked me, and looked rather taken aback to learn that it cost $150. But he and his friend both looked through it, then returned it to its stand. I kind of kept an eye on them, but soon got caught up in gift wrapping and helping customers. I was in the middle of a transaction when one of the boys approached me again. "Excuse me," he said. I looked up. "I just wanted to tell you that this is a really wonderful store. I really like it." My heart melted a little. He went on: " I came in here a few weeks ago and I just brought in my friend." My heart melted a little more. He was so sincere, and so polite. "Well, thank you," I said. "I really appreciate the compliment, and I'm glad you like the store." I wasn't kidding. That kaleidoscope grabbing adolescent boy made my day!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Annoying Comment of the Day

Yesterday a customer was looking at a little dish of plastic level and compass rings we have displayed on our front desk. They are plastic - but working compasses and levels - and have been very popular over the years - especially after people see the sterling silver handmade level and compass rings we sell for quite a bit more - (plastic level ring,$8 - silver, $60) This customer was well dressed and carrying a bag stuffed with socks and tights from a neighboring store. She picked up a level ring and turned it over in her hand. "If this was $2, I'd buy it" she announced to me and all within earshot. And I'm sorry, but that comment is just plain annoying. It's fine to think that to yourself, it's kind of rude to announce it to me. Exceptions: you are under ten years old or you are truly destitute - neither of which appeared to be the case. We do sell some expensive items here at Joie, and if a customer looks at a $150 kaleidoscope, loves it, and says they would definitely buy it if it was $50 - it doesn't offend us at all - we understand. (and over the years we have always allowed people to buy an expensive thing that they loved on the installment plan. Which makes me think - too bad I didn't offer that option to the compass ring customer - $1 a week, 8 weeks, and it's yours!)

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Little Advice for "Etherington"

This advice is for would be scam artists in foreign countries. I know you're not likely to be reading this blog . . . but, I have just a bit of advice for you nonetheless. First, when you make up a name - choose something a little less "unusual" than say . . . Etherington Parton. Second, don't ask if we take credit cards. All store websites with things to sell take credit cards. And 99.9% of legitimate customers know this - or figure it out by actually reading our website policies. And last, do not end your inquiry with this phrase: "I await your urgent response so we can proceed." I have never received a legitimate order that ended that way, and I have received a lot of order inquiries And I have received a number of inquiries where my "urgent" response is requested. None one has ever turned out to be legit - so it just screams "I am a scam artist." Etherington, if you are an actual would be buyer, you will already have received my polite but no nonsense response to your inquiry. I haven't heard back from you though, so I guess the whole matter turned out to be less urgent than you led me to believe !

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Is It For Me?"

I was ready to leave the store promptly at 6 tonight - it was a hot and slow day, and I was looking forward to being outside in the garden. The lights were off, the door was locked, it was probably 6:05. As I walked up to the door to let myself out, I saw a Dad and a very young girl - maybe 3 - standing at the door looking in. I said hello and the Dad told me "this is our favorite store." I said hello to the little girl who was staring at the small giftwrapped present I had in my hand. "What's that?" she said. I told her it was a present. Completely genuinely, she asked,"is it for me?" I told her that no, it was for a friend who was moving out of town. "What's in it?" was her next question. I described the contents - it was a modest gift for a woman who is leaving the coffee shop next door to move to Maine with her boyfriend. A pack of gum (Blue Q's best), a wish token, a globe marble, an icecream eraser and a note, all wrapped up with festive ribbons in a little coin purse. She sighed. As she and her Dad walked away, I heard her begin "when I grow up . . ." but then they were a bit out of reach and I couldn't hear the rest of her sentence. Maybe she was thinking I'll own a store. Or I'll work in a store. More likely, she was thinking - someone will give me a present like that. In any case, she gave me a present - there's just something so delightful about being young and innocent enough to think that a complete stranger emerging from a store with a wrapped gift might intend that gift for you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Strange Cat Items . . .

So I got a call from a long time customer yesterday. He wanted to know if we had a new product - wearable cat ears that are controlled by the thoughts of the wearer. Japanese! And, I didn't think he was crazy - I knew exactly what he was talking about. But they are not available for retail yet . . . maybe sometime in the next year and we have no idea what the price will be - he said he would pay up to $10,000 - but I think he was kidding me! We will keep you posted . . .

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cat Paw Ancestor?

Our cat paw is probably the oddest item found at Joie de Vivre. It's a discontinued Japanese toy which we buy from a man in New Jersey (really!) who has a lot of them in his garage, leftover from his days as owner of the legendary but long gone store, The Last Wound Up. Every time I call to buy more, I'm afraid he will say - oh, they're all gone. (One time he did convince me that he was nearly out of stock, and I bought 20 cases. That lasted us a long long time and I had to store them in my garage at home - our stock room not being large enough to accommodate them all. ) And "what is this?" spoken while looking at or holding the cat paw must be the most frequent question we hear at the store. Anyway, today, while indulging my quaint habit of looking at the Sunday newspaper, I saw a photo and mention of a cat paw letter opener belonging to none other than Charles Dickens, soon to be on display at the New York Public Library. The difference - it's an actual cat paw handle, made from the paw of a beloved (& deceased) cat. And it's engraved "C.D. - In Memory of Bob, 1862." Quite a strange way to honor a pet. And quite possibly, the original cat paw item? The first in a series (?) that led to ours?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sometimes Prices Actually Go Down!

Yesterday this lamp was $74.00 here at Joie de Vivre. Today, this lamp is $55.00. This doesn't happen very often. And we have sold at least a dozen of these at the higher price - it's a very nice quality piece and the price seemed fair to us. But, a few days ago we got a postcard from the company announcing a decrease - and it turned out to be significant. I called the company to see what was up, and they had found a new supplier for the lamp base. I immediately wondered if they had been made in the U.S. and were now going to make them out of the country - but that was not the case. (the bases were already being made out of the country). So, even though we paid original price for the lamps we have in stock now, we are lowering the price right away, because - why not? That's the way we roll here at Joie de V !

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Business Trip !

Joie de Blog is in New York for a few days . . . the main purpose of the trip is the New York Stationary Show, and the icing on the cake is the ICFF - that's the International Contemporary Furniture Fair which runs at the same time, featuring modern design from bathtubs to chandeliers to . . . . just a smattering of gift items that you may see one day at Joie de Vivre. But the real draw is just beautiful design - some of it simple, as in tables made of a single piece of wood - to whimsical, as in the black chairs with gold beads glued to the seat or the lamp made out of clothespins . . or the cloud mobile on steroids that's almost as big as a room. Part of me feels disturbed that people are making objects that cost enough to support several children in need in other countries for the better part of a year . . . . but another equal part just delights in seeing what people come up with when they let their imaginations run wild. Some of them would be perfect for Joie de Vivre except for their price tag - I don't think our customers will be wanting to spend, say, $1000 on a clock any time soon! Anyway, it's good to be in NYC and tomorrow - on to cards, postcards and the kind of things I can buy without batting an eye!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Difference A Day Makes

Or . . make that five hours of two guys from the phone company wrestling with our bizarre wiring system. Joie de Vivre is now - along with most of the rest of the business world we guess - the proud possessor of a high speed internet dedicated line. We had a DSL line before, but it was shared with a phone line so our connection varied, sometimes fast, sometimes quite slow. Relatively speaking of course. Because, it was still much much faster than our previous dial up - so much so that we were quite gleeful when we got it maybe five years ago. But, speed is relative, and as more and more companies put their catalogues on line to cut costs, I found myself sitting in front of the screen cursing as pages took their time in loading. Now it's truly super fast and I feel like a kid with a new toy. But, the internet is a miracle really, no matter how slow or fast it is, and that reminds me of a bit by the comedian Louis K. on flying. Here it is: “‘And then, we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway, for 40 minutes. We had to sit there.’ Oh? Really? What happened next? Did you fly through the air, incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero?” He continues, “People, like, they say there’s delays on flights. Delays? Really? New York to California in five hours. That used to take 30 years. Plus, you would die on the way there." If you want to see him perform it himself, google this: ""Everything's Amazing and No Body's Happy." We beg to differ, at least today. We're very happy with our new connection!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Got A Little Spare Time?

We received a sales email from a Taiwanese lighting company today. I had seen one and liked one of their products at a show but as they did not have a U.S. Importer yet, had forgotten about them. (To order directly from Taiwan, you must be a big importer to justify the freight cost.) Anyway, I was reading through the sales pitch on their color changing jellyfish lamp and stopped dead in my tracks when I read that the lamp is "a decoration with 16,000,000 color mood lamp. Flowing color or choice the color you like to display your room." Wow. 16 million colors. First, straight to google to find out how many colors there are in the world. An infinite amount was the answer, so . . . . could not dismiss this claim out of hand. I wondered. How long would it take to cycle through that many colors? 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour . . . there are 86,400 seconds in a day. Not even close to 16 million. How many seconds in a year? 31,556,926. So, if the color changed once a second, and you looked at the lamp without sleeping or otherwise taking your eyes off the lamp, you could determine the choice of color you prefer to display after a mere six months. That is IF you could remember any of them once you got past the first 30 or 40. I have a feeling that if they bring this lamp to the U.S. Market, they just might be revising that copy . . . .

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Really? You Do That?

A customer who told me he has bought some very successful "Secret Santa" gifts from us, was in shopping for a few gifts today. He spent quite awhile looking and talking to me about possibilities, and when he had narrowed it down to a few, said he would probably think about it as he still had a week before the gift was to be given. He started to ask very detailed questions about boxes - did the items come in boxes, how big were they, etc. As he seemed very concerned, I asked a few questions and figured out it was because he was planning to gift wrap them. "We can wrap them for you!" I reassured him. "Really? You do that??" he asked. A little light went off in my head. He had only been shopping at Joie de Vivre during the one month of the year when we do not gift wrap - December. I told him we gift wrap eleven months of the year, and explained how we just couldn't physically do it in December. He was very excited and decided to buy the gifts right then and there. He watched me gift wrap them, keeping up a running commentary of what an amazing job I was doing, (and how this technique should be on You Tube!) And the whole incident re-reminded me that we should never assume that customers know that we gift wrap. So, here, a mini announcement: we gift wrap eleven months of the year. For free. Plastic goldfish to jewelry and kaleidoscopes. (Just ask us if we don't remember to ask you)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Glamorous Life of a Shop Keeper

We sell lots of small items and many of them need to hang on the wall - making one nail per item. And of course, you don't always get the placement exactly right and wind up with two or three extra small holes. And then you get in something new, and you need to find a place for it, so you move a few things around and the nails are never in the right place, so you take them out and hammer them in again two inches to the left. Or three inches to the right. This is all to say that after five or six months . . . . your wall is full of little holes, and suddenly, you think - I must spackle and paint. Then the question is how much of a project to make it - one entire side of the store or just a few spots? Last weekend, I decided I must repaint the back wall. And I was right - when spackled there was almost as much white as original color. I also decided to change the color - the whole procedure took about six hours. Then, a few days later, I decided I didn't really like the color everywhere, so decided to change part of it back, and while I was at it, paint a few other trouble spots. I left tonight at 10, vowing to return early in the morning to put everything back in place. I know I'll be glad I did it tomorrow, even though right now I feel kind of - tuckered out. And . . . so goes the glamorous life of a shop keeper. Holding a glass of wine in my paint stained hands, tired and blogging at this late hour.
(if you come in soon, please admire the back wall!)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I Come In Peace

Happy Easter, blog readers! and say goodbye to our giant bunny, who turned out quite a bit more scarey looking than we anticipated when we planned this window. That why he wears the "Peace Chicks" necklace - to make him a little less threatening. (We think perhaps he's related to the abominable snowman.) Easter is a funny holiday at Joie de Vivre - for many years we were open on Easter, on the theory that beyond enjoying dying eggs, eating jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, we personally did not celebrate the day, and that there were lots of non-Christians living in the area who might be walking around looking for something to do . . . but, as it turned out, with one or two exceptions, Easter Sunday was always a really slow day. And something about being open on Easter made us feel - wrong - money grubbing - hard to explain. So, maybe fifteen years ago, we were open on an absolutely beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon . . . and the person I was working with asked if she could leave to go to the park with her friends. After letting her go - I just decided to close the store, went home to hang out in the garden, and we never opened on Easter again. It's interesting too - all the big stores that open on New Years Day, the 4th of July, Memorial Day - days we swear we will never be open - are closed on Easter. I guess it's something that just isn't done!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

If You Have A Lot of Time On Your Hands, Try This!

and if you don't . . . just enjoy the photo. I have a feeling making these "Peepshi" would be just a bit time consuming - and yet what a wonderful Easter treat, at the breakfast table . . . as a post dinner dessert . . . or maybe best, served up late afternoon with a cocktail of some kind. Who says sushi has to be made with fish?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Listen My Children, and You Shall Hear

of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Here in Cambridge, it's now the midday ride of Paul Revere, we guess that works better for commemorative purposes - after all, who's up and watching for Paul at midnight these days? The first year Joie de Vivre was open, its owner, who grew up in New York State, and didn't really know that Patriot's Day existed, was quite startled on said day to hear the distinctive sound of horses galloping down Massachusetts Avenue. She rushed to the door in time to see someone who looked rather like Paul Revere, riding past the store crying "the British are coming!" He was accompanied by other men on horseback. Several local types advised her that this ride happened every year. Now, we expect it, and are somewhat nonchalant, but still try to get to the door in time to see the horses pass by. I'm sure the spectacle continues to confuse visitors and those from other countries who are here in Cambridge - but in a time when relatively little attention is paid to our history, I think it's rather cool that the tradition continues - even if they have adjusted the hour for better viewing!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Little Bit of Advice . . .

If you come into Joie de Vivre and you have never been here before, wait more than 2 seconds before saying "I love this place -this is a really great store you have here!" And when introducing yourself and handing us your card, do not, even if you believe it to be true, introduce yourself as "the best real estate agent in Boston!" and ask us if we would like to hear you say that again. Then, after a brief discussion of the actual reason you have come into the store - be it an event you are promoting, or the desire to acquire a new client - don't say, "thank you and now I will look around this wonderful store," then look for approximately five seconds before heading for the door. Just saying . . .

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Here Comes . . . Peter Cottontail?

We just put up our Easter window. We think it might be a little scarey - will post a picture later - but it's kind of in keeping with this website - Sketchy Bunnies. I came across this site one night. Yes, I am one of those people who sometimes looks at pictures of cats on the internet, and sometimes looking at cats on Cheezburger leads to Graphjam which leads to Fail, which recently led me to Sketchy Bunnies. We have been selling a book called Awkward Family Photos for awhile now, and one of my favorite sections in that book is the Easter section. When I started looking at Sketchy Bunnies, I was soon smiling, then laughing, then laughing until I was crying - it kind of has a cumulative effect. So - for those of you who enjoy a good laugh - visit the site. Then, when you see our window - tell us if you think we should submit a photo!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our Unacceptable Message

We have an email list and on the first of every month we mail them a link to our monthly news. Each time a few bounce back, old email addresses, or undeliverable for some reason but this month we had a first - we got one back for this reason: "Because the message contains inappropriate language that violates the Boston Public Schools Acceptable Use Policy(AUP) for Computer Networks. If you believe there is no inappropriate language AND the message is AUP compliant, please REPLY to this email and request that the message be released, and your request will be considered." I didn't even think twice - I wrote the text and I was 100% positive that there was no unacceptable language in our email. So I re-sent it. It came back again with the same message. I then decided to take a closer look at what I had written. Here it is - the preamble to our actual newsletter: "Dear Joie de Vivre mailing list, We wanted to let you all know that because it’s been a hard winter and we needed a little cash, we have sold our mailing list to QVC . com — we hope you don't mind. APRIL FOOL! (We of course will never ever ever give your names to anyone). Happy Spring! We’re loving looking out our window at pussy willows instead of Xmas greens buried under dirty, icy, snow. And loving seeing more of you come in the door... it’s much more fun here when we have customers!" And when I took a closer look, I realized what must have happened. Their screen must have picked out the X in Xmas, the dirty in dirty, icy, snow - and of course, the pussy in pussy willow and thus decided that our email was inappropriate. It's the only thing that makes any sense . . . . and it reinforces my belief that machines with all their artificial intelligence will never be able to do what we lowly humans can do with our brains!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hotcake Heaven

I'm not talking about the International House of Pancakes ! The Joie blogger is in San Francisco, home of our beloved Hotcakes Design Jewelry, and yesterday I visited the store and studio. It is very close to the infamous Lombard Street, the one with the incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge at the top . . . which I had to see and which was quite a climb. I was rather sweaty when I arrived at Hotcakes - hot as a hotcake. (I hate to mention this, but it's been sunny and in the 70s here the last few days.) Anyway, it was great to visit, and I got to see some designs that Caramia, (the designer/maker) doesn't show at the trade shows - so we'll have a few special pieces coming in soon. Her upstairs studio was mesmerizing, all the medallions for the pieces looked like they had been dumped right out of a treasure chest. I felt like a little kid - just wanted to scoop it all up and start stuffing it in my pockets. Instead, I did the grown-up thing and satisfied myself with doing a nice order of rings and a few necklaces for Joie.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Very . . . "interesting" . . . .

A customer just called me and she was kind of laughing. "I just googled you because I didn't have your phone number," she told me. "And guess what came up right under your listing?" I had no idea . . . I google us every once in awhile just out of curiosity and didn't remember seeing anything funny come up. "Um. . what was it?" I asked. "The next listing under your name reads "Porn for Women - Joie de Vivre and says Porn for Women available at Joie de Vivre, Cambridge, MA." I quickly went to the computer and put Joie de Vivre Cambridge in the search bar - and up it came, exactly as she described it. Now, Porn for Women is actually a funny and satirical book we've been selling for a few years . . . but why it came up so prominently is a mystery to me. Why not . . . the yodeling pickle or the dancing ballerina, which is in fact our most searched on line item. Who knows the mysteries of the web? It's very unlikely the publisher would be behind the placement as the book has been out for several years and is now considered a back list title. Anyway, it is kind of amusing . . . see for yourself ! And thank goodness, no one seems to be taking it literally - we haven't gotten any weird inquiries or phone calls.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Craft Boston

I went to a "craft" show in Boston today... and I use quotations because it's far from macrame and that sort of thing. More like breathtakingly sophisticated beautiful work - a lot of which I would have loved to buy for myself - but couldn't afford. Especially the jewelry which tends to be expensive when made with real stones and gold and silver. I did buy a funky shirt... and a present for my sister... and met one craftsperson who, though the show is national, turned out to be local, and whose work will soon be shown at Joie de Vivre. Also, you can see the work of Tomas Savrda - we carry his work, but not his more expensive pieces and they alone are worth the trip! Ultimately, this post is to say - if you appreciate beautiful handmade work - go to Craft Boston this weekend - it's at the Boston's World Trade Center - (who knew we too had one?) - and well worth the $15 admission. Say hi to Tomas, and enjoy the show!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Second Day of Spring

and . . . it's . . . snowing!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Of Spring and Seconds

It's the first day of spring ! and it's a beautiful sunny cool New England Day - a perfect first day. Today also marks the end of our "Wow, What A Winter!" sale - a sale we ran to make up for the awful days in January and February when our world was full of snow and ice and putting a quarter in the parking meter required mountain climbing skills. So, today I was thinking about sales . . . and how much people love them, and thought back to my woodworking days when my boyfriend and I sold our rolling pins and other work at a craft fair in New York City every December. We always had rolling pins that we considered "seconds" - a weird hole in the wood, or a little mistake on our part - just generally ones that we wouldn't feel right selling at full price. We often threw them in our wood stove, but this one year, we decided to take them to New York and try to sell them as seconds. We displayed them with the regular pins, just marked them down in price. The first day of the fair, a woman held one out to me. "Do you have any more of these?" she asked. I assumed she meant - that particular wood but a first quality piece. I rummaged through our stock and brought one out. "No, that's not what I mean," she said. "I mean - seconds!" A light began to dawn. "Yes, we do," I said and gave her a handful. She bought them all. Word seemed to spread through the fair - and by the end of the first day all of our seconds were gone, purchased by bargain loving customers. The ones we used throw in the wood stove. We were actually quite surprised but learned our lesson - never - never - never - underestimate the power of a bargain !

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What a Lovely Smile !

and how did Jen get that lovely - or should we say - downright dazzling smile? We'll just say it involves a small inexpensive item new here at Joie de Vivre. If you have a dental appointment coming up, you too might want one - I'm almost positive that my dentist does not read this blog, and I'm looking forward to asking him for help with an odd problem! Also . . fun for nights on the town. . I'm thinking "Strangers in the Night . . .. Something in your eyes was so inviting, something in your smile was so exciting"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Platitudes into Practice

A customer was in this week and was very very excited to see that we had an apple paperweight by Goldenflow Designs - a glass apple filled with gold leaf floating in a water-glycerine combination. She was excited because her (former?) boyfriend had deliberately broken hers during an argument and she had been wanting to replace it for awhile. At the same time that she was standing at the desk buying the apple, a young boy was falling in love with our $4 ray gun keychain. He counted his money but came up short and asked if we would put it aside for him until he could come back the next day. As we began the process of filling out a "Hold" form for him, the apple customer grabbed it, said "Random Act of Kindness!" and bought it for him. He was thrilled, and everyone else felt pretty darn good as well. And I thought of how we often make fun of sayings like "Practice Random Acts of Kindness." They can get a bit tedious after you see them on mugs, bumper stickers, posters, etc - but they are definitely wonderful when brought to real life. Thanks, Golden Apple Lady !

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When Customers Cry

The world of retail can occasionally be quite dramatic. We see some crying here at Joie de Vivre - but until this weekend, almost all of it was the under five set. Some of them tend to get quite emotional when they can't go home with the penguin race, or a wind-up toy, or a mouse puppet. Some of them burst into tears just because they don't want to leave the store - which is actually quite a compliment when you think of it - (we'll ignore the possibility that it's more of a power struggle with Mom than a genuine love and appreciation of Joie de Vivre.) Anyway, this weekend we experienced a more sobering kind of crying - an adult woman who decided she wanted an item another woman had just bought. Unfortunately, we had no more - though we told her we could order more. She stood in front of the desk for a good ten minutes struggling with her emotions and yes, crying a little. We didn't really know what to do. But the story does have a happy ending. She returned the next day with her husband and bought a few thing and seemed fine. She never mentioned the item that broke her heart the day before, much to our relief!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Should I Be Surprised?

I was contacted by the sales folks at YELP the other day - of course, they want us to advertise. After establishing the range of monthly rates ($350 to $2000 or so) (!) - she briefly described the different "levels" - what you get for what you pay for. I asked her to email the information for review and when I looked at the tiers, I noticed a rather striking difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2. Tier 1 is your basic "Targeted ads that show up when someone is searching for a business like yours in the area." That's pretty straightforward, normal advertising, nothing surprising about that. Tier 2: "Enhanced Business Profile with competitor's ad removal and photo slide show." That one stopped me dead in my tracks. Competitor's ad removal? Call me old-fashioned . . but that sounds kind of sleazy and unethical. If a store in my neighborhood was paying less to YELP, my ad would appear and theirs wouldn't? And of course the opposite - if we don't go for the more expensive advertising, whose ad would be removed? Cheap little us! Of course I know that people pay for better placement in newspapers and magazines - but they don't remove the ads of others altogether. And I know lots and lots of people use YELP to find things, but this makes me loathe to give them my money. The nature of advertising in general, the technological differences available by internet advertising, all very interesting to think about . . .

Monday, February 28, 2011

What is This World Coming To?

It's happened again! Another one of our wonderful products has made an appearance on "Whydidyoubuymethat?" It's clear that people just don't appreciate a quality product when they see one! Sigh. The posted picture just doesn't do it justice. For justice, take a look here ! And just for the record, this chicken bag has been spotted on someone's desk on Project Runway - and we know several women who carry it proudly!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pre-shopping Phenomenom

Two customers came in separately today, walked up to the desk and asked for something they had found on the website. They'd been pre-shopping! One said that made it easier for her because we have so many things in the store she sometimes finds it distracting. I didn't have time to talk to the other customer about it, but it was a funny coincidence to have two in the same hour. I'm not sure if I think it's a good thing - if it means you come in and out and don't look at anything else, buy the thing you want and leave . . . are you maybe missing something? And are we behind the desk thus superfluous - would people rather browse our website than our store? On the other hand . . . if it does make it easier for our customers, who am I to object? But . . . I can't help but think of all the things that aren't on the website. We'll never be able to put them all up there - we just have too many items .. . or "skews" as they say in the trade. . . anyway,customer alert - you may find yourself part of an informal survey ! I'm going to start asking people why they are preshopping - to make sure it's worth their while to come in? . . or just to save time? (Stay tuned for survey results . . . maybe in a year or so.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Original Magic Garden?

We have been selling a wonderful item called the Magic Garden ever since the store opened almost 27 years ago . . . but today, I saw a much larger and amazing Magic Garden - a fantastical place on South Street in Philadelphia, the work of artist Isiah Zagar. He began working on it over 40 years ago, and has also made countless murals and installations all over the city - it's well worth a visit and a Magic Garden worthy of the name. It's a little hard to see in this photo and the photo shows only a tiny part of the actual garden - which is a labyrinth made of glass shards, bottles, bicycle wheels, old toys and more. Google him for more pictures and information - and go to Philadelphia and see his work!!

Craft Fair ! (#1)

(no pictures for this post as I left my battery back at home - apologies!) I am now at the Buyers Market of American Crafts in Philadelphia, PA. Everything at this show is made by hand, in this country - this is the show where I find new kaleidoscopes, and jewelry and glass. And . . . glass jewelry - my most unexpected find so far was a glass booth where most of the work started around $500 wholesale - beautiful, but not Joie material. Then I noticed the row of . . . what looked to be . . . hanging glass fried eggs. And underneath them . . . could that be . . yes it was . . . glass bacon ! And miniature glass bacon and egg earrings. Very funny and unexpected - they will be in stock in May, along with some beautiful new kaleidoscopes, glass vases and "Morphicisms" - sliding arrange it yourself picture boxes. And still, half the show to go through today. One of the best things about coming to shows is that it makes me excited to get home, rearrange everything, and show off all the beautiful and fun things I've found - it's very inspiring!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Toy Fair !

I am in New York at the New York International Toy Fair. It's a wonderful show and I have found lots of great things for the store, and also had fun marveling at the just plain amazing assortment of kinds of things I see here. For example . . . right across from the sophisticated modern doll house . . . are the babies "n" bubbles. Then, Peter Rabbit having tea. Then . . . and this is very exciting - the return of the Aquapets - another example of "never say never." That's "never say never" as in "we will never be able to get Aquapets again, they have stopped making them." The only one of these items you will actually see at Joie de Vivre is the last one - but there will be lots of other new things - too numerous to list here! Coming soon !

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sweet !

Like all holidays, Valentine's Day can seem a little automatic - must buy valentine's for all the kids in the class, regardless of how you feel about them, must send one to Mom, must get that over the top gift for the new girl or boyfriend. Must go out to dinner and pay a lot of extra money for the "special" Valentine's Day menu . . . No wonder many couples who have been together for years basically ignore it. On the other hand, it's fun to pick out some red and pink card and write a little something for you loved one(s) in it, and fun to see a handwritten envelope in the mailbox or at the breakfast table. We sell lots of tiny things for Valentine's - a small pewter heart for 1.50 or a lightup snowglobe for $6, and we firmly believe its the thought - or in this case, the love - that counts. I think my favorite Valentine's shoppers are the newly blossoming teenagers. Yesterday a boy was in with his Dad and he took a long long time to pick out just the right little thing for his girlfriend - and was so thoughtful and considered about it - and then so excited when we wrapped it up in red and pink with lots of bows and put it in his bag. It was just plain sweet and whoever that girl is . . she's got a wonderful boyfriend !