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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Very Special Present - to Myself!

When I decided to open Joie de Vivre, I had no credit history.  My only potential bankrollers were my parents, and they were kind enough to make me a loan.  After I was able to pay them back, I wanted to get them a very very special thank you present, and as they were both dedicated bird watchers I chose the Reuge mechanical singing bird music box pictured above. We sold Reuge boxes here years ago, when they still produced a "lower end" line.  (and lower end did not mean cheap!)   One of my early Gift Show joys was visiting the booth of their sales representative, the charming Alice Sturzinger, and looking at all the amazing mechanical boxes that were truly way too expensive for the store.  The singing bird box was one of those, at the time it would have sold for $2000.  (Now the least expensive version of same is more like $7000) Anyway, I took a deep breath  and ordered one to give my parents.  Thirty years later - it sits on my piano - I couldn't bear to part with it, and convinced myself that my parents would never  love it as much as I did. A rationalization yes, but probably true.  I had discovered more than one special gift from the store "downstairs" in their rarely used basement office.  I don't remember what I gave them in its place, but they were happy. And so am I!  (For a video performance, visit our Facebook page.)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Browsers Welcome!

Sundays are kind of different at Joie de Vivre.  You get the feeling that people are just out for a stroll, amusing themselves, looking around.  Of course sometimes someone runs in with a specific item in mind that they need right then and there, (today it happened to be a ceramic giraffe tile)  but that kind of specificity happens less on Sundays.  Today, we had several serious browsers, couples who came in and spent an hour or more just looking around at things.  I always like it when we can hold someone's attention that long.  Some people walk in, take a look and are out in five minutes.  And to be fair, I know that our merchandise is not going to be of interest to everyone.  But it does make me happy when people really browse - or as the dictionary says "survey goods for sale in a leisurely and casual way."   I tell them, as I tell everyone, to let me know if they have any questions.  "Oh, we're just browsing," is a common response.  People often seem to feel that if they are not looking to buy something right at the moment, they shouldn't interact with us.  So I tell them that we like browsers - and do not discriminate against them.  We are just as happy to answer their questions as we are anyones!  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"Bad" Language

The owner of Joie de Vivre is a WASP.  Not a particularly faithful one, but ingrained habits make it impossible for her to countenance the use of certain words at Joie de Vivre.   Unlike Harold Ross, who famously described his new new magazine, The New Yorker, as "not for the little old lady from Dubuque" Joie is designed not to make anyone uncomfortable, from children to - well, little old ladies and gentlemen from wherever.  And this has sometimes meant we've passed up things we thought were pretty funny and not offensive, just to avoid "certain words."  Bitch, if not matter of factly used to describe a female dog, would be one of the milder examples of a word we don't want on our products.  Anyway, we recently ordered 12 copies of a new book called "The Chef Says: Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom."  Reading through it we found two pages of rather profane wisdom.  What to do?  It's a great book and we really wanted to sell it, but didn't want someone picking it up and turning right to the offending page.  (which of course would inevitably happen!)  Anyway, we came up with a solution.  In store censoring!  We sacrificed one copy of the book, taped over the page, and wrote our own copy.  People of course buy the uncensored version - but, they will have been warned ! Problem solved !

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Yes, We Still Have a Blog

Dear blog readers, I am writing to express how guilty I feel about neglecting this blog.  I have been enjoying the short form posting so much (code for Facebook) that I haven't taken the time to think about longer posts, the kind that are better for this.  But I do intend to get back to it, if not as regularly.
Facebook is very easy and thus seductive - and if you have a quick thought to share, or just a photo, it's so easy to do it that way - and then easy for others to share, etc.  But I know I have some faithful blog readers and so I feel torn.  It's been a month since I really posted here - maybe most of you have given up by now.  Anyway, bear with us while we struggle to figure out which of the myriad ways of being in touch works best for what.  And, if you haven't checked it out - you might look at our Facebook page.  The easiest way to find it is go here and then like it - it will then be findable forever after.  Simply looking for it on Facebook seems to have its problems - and believe me, it's not easy to solve that kind of thing, because basically, directly interacting with a human being about Facebook just does not seem to be an option.  As a matter of fact, don't even get us started on the annoying idiosyncrasies of Facebook - it's the kind of thing that inspires strong emotion!  And in closing, we hope you will keep up with us one way or another - and we do promise not to completely abandon this blog.  And we also promise that future blogs will NOT be about feeling guilty about not posting !!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Not Coming Soon to Joie de Vivre!

Someone stopped by the store yesterday and left me a brochure, in hopes that I would sign up for a new service.  I took a quick look and read their rather lofty mission statement:  "To advance engagement between businesses and consumers though social, local and mobile platforms in order to bridge their digital and social lives."  (And I take it that in this context, one's social life is whatever one does when not connected to a device.)  Reading further, I quickly figured out that what they want to do is broadcast targeted deals to consumers who happen to be walking by.  As they put it - we currently lack up to date data tracking methods - they will track and "touch" our customers.  This is a concept that manages to be both incredibly offensive and very amusing to us here.  As someone who lives in the "social" more than the "digital" world, I can think of nothing worse than to have my telephone start announcing deals every time I walk by a store.  And as a generalized retailer of Joie - it makes me wonder, what, exactly, would we be targeting here?  Enticing a customer with a sale on the plastic wind up mouse? Magic Eight Balls - 20% off for the next three minutes?   They also state that their company, Howler, "makes everyday life more convenient for both retailer and buyer."  (And they give their announcements the unfortunate name of "howls.")  Sorry - but we beg to differ.  More annoying, more intrusive, more expensive (for the retailer anyway), more big-brother is watching you like -yes to all those, but more convenient?  Do we really have to move toward a life where every device we own will be trying to get us to spend money all the time - life as one big non stop advertisement?   Count us out.  But, we'll just do a little mini targeting to you blog readers right now - come on in and see us anytime for a little joie de vivre!  

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Sometimes a product is so great in so many ways - and difficult in others. Maybe it's super difficult to put together, or is ridiculously over packaged - or requires some esoteric battery that costs more than the item itself.  Many times this kind of drawback keeps us from ordering a great thing,  or from reordering something that we otherwise loved.  The pigeon and squirrel masks above and below are a perfect case in point.  First and foremost, they look incredibly funny on.  It's really a little hard to put into words, but if you come into the store, we will be happy to show you just how funny.  They're also oddly great on young kids - so out of proportion, yet somehow perfect.  But, they do have a problem or two.  They're not the most comfortable thing in the world to wear for more than a few minutes - but hey, most of us have suffered before to look good in our lives so we can overlook that one.  The bigger problem is they have the oddest smell when they are released from their packaging.  Intensely industrially plastic-y - last time we got a batch, I took them all home and aired them out on my porch overnight - and the odor still lingered.  It does eventually go away - but our back room is a small space, and it's a bit of a challenge to share space with them until that happens.  They are just too good!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Singing Pickles, Cat Paws and Kaleidoscopes: Thirty Years of Joie de Vivre

Warning - this is a bit of a read !  It's something I wrote up for our 30th birthday - which was yesterday.  And thanks to all who stopped by say hey and eat cake and have some bubbly with us - it was a really nice celebration and great to see you all.  Without further ado - my piece:

Singing Pickles, Cat Paws, Kaleidoscopes:  
Reflections on Thirty Years of Joie de Vivre.

     When I initially conceived of opening a small shop, the idea that it might become a life's work of sorts never occurred to me.  Besides eating peanut butter sandwiches, attending public school and breathing, there was nothing I had done for even remotely close to that long.  And today, at age 62, it seems doubtful that any new venture I might dream up would last anywhere near thirty years - I'll count myself lucky if I do. Retail Herectic, or a Thousand Singing Hamsters, my planned book about the store, an idea conceived while taking my first memoir class and observing how the pieces I wrote about Joie engaged my fellow classmates, has yet to be finished.  In the meantime, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back, and write a bit about being in business all these years.
     The passage of time inevitably brings change, and to be in business this long is to experience a lot of it.  The makeup of our neighborhood is one.  When we first opened, it was rent controlled, inhabited by a lively mix of students, artists, and old time Cantabrigians. It was a little dingier as landlords had little incentive to fix up their properties.  We had an actual beat cop who walked the street, and would stop in to chat.  It's much prettier, and much more quiet these days. Neighborhoods have lives - they constantly grow and change. 
     Thirty years is also a long time in any one person's life.  While I'm thrilled to report that people in their late twenties/early thirties have come in with small children and told me Joie was their favorite store as a child (!!) - I'm sad to note that there are customers who have eventually - disappeared. People who were 60 when I opened would be 90 now, and if they're still around, they generally aren't out and about shopping.  There was one couple who came in every Christmas to shop.  They lived out of town and always made a day of it, buying lots of presents, going to lunch next door.  I knew all about their families, and I watched as every year they became a little more creaky - and a little bit cranky.  Then, they never came again.  
     Of course we lose customers who move as well - though our (another change) website helps some of them keep in touch.  And it's funny - people will come in and say, "I haven't been here in such a long time - I moved."  When I ask where to the answer is just as likely to be Jamaica Plain or Central Square as it is London or California.  We have customers who now live far away that we see almost as often as some of our busy in-town gang.  Happily, one thing has definitely stayed the same - the wonderful mix of people walking in the door - from young kids to grandparents, lots of students, visitors from all over the world - the people who come in are and always have been and still what makes our working day interesting.  And speaking of customers - you can always count on the youngest ones to say the greatest things - just recently, a four year old girl described one of our toys as "it looks like a bubble and a jellyfish had a baby!"
      Another change:  the mix of stores in the neighborhood.  We sometimes play a game called  "list all the stores that have been on this block in the last thirty years."  Four of us have been here the entire time, while so many others have come and gone that it's hard to remember them all.  We had a frame shop, a flower store, a new age store, a gypsy clothing store, an Italian ceramic store, and a candy shop, just to name a few on this block, including that first Indian restaurant, where I learned to love shrimp biriyani and chicken tikka masala.  (Now there are many many more fine dining establishments and general restaurants than there were in the past - not good for the wallet or waistline - but - yum!)  A few blocks away there were antique stores (where I purchased the dining room table I'm typing this on), a real witch store, Irwin's old fashioned toy shop, a fabric store, a discount clothing store, a beautiful children's clothing store and there were two small drugstores in the neighborhood.  Back then, "drugstores" did not sell English muffins, toys and everything under the sun either, just candy bars, newspapers, bandaids, aspirin and the like. 
     So yet another change - the beginning of the end of the specialized store.  We do still have shoe stores, or a store that sells only jewelry, but the "impulse item" is now found everywhere; the hardware store, the drug store, the bookstore. They have all added gifts over the years in the struggle to survive the giant chains and  Joie de Vivre has not done the opposite though - no garbage bags or potato chips found here - or not yet, anyway. Our only bandaids look like bacon or have Shakespeare quotes.  But we've gotten some pretty odd requests over the years - pizza, harem pants, saxophones, etc. I think this all reflects the biggest change in retail - the arrival of the on line shopping world.  Our devices have made it incredibly easy to buy pretty much anything from the comfort of home - and many people have found that to be their preferred way to shop. Especially since somehow, we all seem to suffer from the “busy disease” today much more than was common years ago.
     I’ve thought about this a fair amount and I can honestly say that in my personal life, technology has had little to no effect on my own happiness, or really improved my life in any significant way. But it has brought both good and bad changes for the store. A good one?  Back in the "old days" we used to have to call Master Card or Visa to authorize every sale over $20; read the card number, get a code, enter it.  It was time consuming, especially on a busy day.  Now this happens quietly and instantly with a swipe of the card through our own little terminal. However, charge sales were a much smaller part of our business too - cash and checks were still in common use. But today we give many thousands of dollars a year to Master Card, Visa and American Express, and people pull out a credit card to buy a couple of postcards; the cashless society is close!  And who really profits?  No surprise there - big corporations. 
     Then there's email - which has certainly made communication with Europe easier.  It used to be so expensive to call  - (I will always remember my $85 phone call to Denmark to deal with some xylophone problem!)  Letters took a week or more. So email is a definite plus for that.  But then, email has made communication with everyone much easier - a mixed blessing at times.  Companies who used to mail the occasional informative update didn't do it too often when they had to pay for postage and printing - now they can send you ten email blasts a week - with nothing much to say.  And they do it.  My email in box at Joie is now often filled with emails I don't really need to see.  And that same problem affects our customers, some of whom have requested to be taken off the email list we use just once a month - because they simply get too many emails.  
     Email also hastened the demise of the ringing telephone.  Thirty years ago we didn't even have a fax machine, let alone a computer, and the telephone was our lifeline.  I often placed orders over the phone and it was nice, I got to know in some small way the person on the other end of the line. Who typically remembered me because of our unusual name, one they were often afraid to try to say out loud. In our early years, the phone rang constantly - sometimes too constantly.  But I kind of miss it now that on the increasingly rare occasion that it does ring - it's most frequently either a robot - or a robotic sounding call center human. Now everyone carries their telephones with them, and I think that effects us here more than any other thing.
     People often walk into the store now, looking down at their phones.  Sometimes I feel like I'm not really here, sitting at the desk. In the beginning of the cell phone era, we heard everything from mind-numbingly mundane conversations to excruciatingly inappropriate intense discussions. Today people are mostly texting, not talking, so for all we know they might be checking the price of a given item on Amazon.  (soon, with the help of the new Amazon phone, they will be able to do that in seconds). And I find that people find it much more difficult to make decisions when they have a phone.  They feel they should call someone, as opposed to taking a risk on something they think someone else would like.  Call it shopping by crowdsourcing.  But they are much less likely to want our input, which is kind of what we used to specialize in. We don't really enjoy competing with a hand held device!  But though we occasionally feel superfluous, we still do have customers who come in looking for something for a 60th birthday, a 12 year old boy, or their "awful brother-in-law."  Or they need a camel item, or a hedgehog, or even mermaid tears (yes, we came up with something!) - and ask us to help - that is what we are here for, and what we love to do - help!
     To conclude my technology discussion on an upbeat "note" - I will say that for listening to music it has improved life at Joie de Vivre 100%!  Pandora and internet radio allows us to have a hundred radio stations of our own devising, and to switch between them at the drop of a hat - well - to be more accurate, the click of an ipod.  We used to get so tired of our CDs - now we can have a hundred stations and when an inappropriate or disliked song comes on - one touch and it's gone. This has really made a huge difference to our daily in store happiness.  
     Anyway, these are just somewhat random thoughts that I've put on paper for our 30th.  I could write more, but I'm resolved to have mercy on the reading public, as well as to actually have something to put on the table, so to speak. And maybe entice you to read the whole story if I ever finish it.  So finally, to conclude this piece, I would like to say that the things I love most about this business are exactly the same as they were 30 years ago.  Actually, now that I think of it, so are some of the items we sell, for example the dancing ballerina, the magic garden or the penguin race. But I love discovering the new items too - going to gift shows without the slightest idea what I will find.  Who really expects the yodeling pickle or the rapping hamster - or the handblown glass jellyfish or the elegant rubber chicken handbag?  I love the relationships I've made with my vendors and have wound up calling some of them very good friends.  Unlike some buyers I know who complain about the time and trouble involved, I love going to shows.  And I love the other side of the business just as much. I love showing what I've found to our customers - and introducing them to things they didn't know existed.  It's a lot of fun, and incredibly rewarding and many customers and staff have become lifelong (I hope!) friends.
     I stumbled into this business in a sense, and feel I was lucky that I found something that really worked for me.  I’ve gotten to share my enthusiasms with a wide range of people, from my love of kaleidoscopes, to the slightly surreal cat paw, to the classic wind up jumping mouse.  I've won awards, and I've been on television  (in Japan as well as here!)  And my personal joie seems to have resonated with many others as well - you who have made it possible for this business to both thrive - and then in a difficult environment, survive. So, I will end these reflections with love and appreciation for all of you - staff, suppliers, and customers, friends, and family too, who have been an essential part of putting the Joie into Joie de Vivre.  

                               Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Joie de Vivre is now on . . .

Dear faithful blog readers,  We have finally capitulated and put Joie de Vivre up on Facebook.  I had a lot of resistance to doing this which has gradually been eroding as I thought of short little things to say that seemed - too short for this blog.  Or pictures I wanted to post, etc.  So, to mark our 30th birthday - tomorrow, June 28th - we now have a Facebook page.  What finally made me decide to do it was a conversation I had with my dear friend Stuart.  I was asking him if he thought Joie should be on Facebook, and he said absolutely!  He told me that he thought of a blog as a dinner party with good friends - thoughtful conversation on a range of subjects - and described Facebook as more of a cocktail party - where you're chatting with friends and aquaintances - or making new ones.  Suddenly I decided - I want to have a cocktail party and a dinner party!  So - Facebook will be for shorter announcements and thoughts - and the blog will be here for the long form - at least for now - we'll see how it goes. I will also to the blogposts through the FB page.  And my next post on this blog, tomorrow morning, will be a piece I wrote about being in business for 30 years - it's decidedly long form - hope you enjoy it - or, you can also pick up a paper copy at Joie de Vivre if you prefer.  Sincerely, your devoted blogger, Joie de Blog !

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Two Faces Of Joie - or Both Sides Now!

Last Sunday a youngish man wandered into the store.  If anyone else was there when he entered, they left soon after so he was alone with me.  When I eventually told him to let me know if he had any questions or needed my assistance, he said he had recently moved to the area and was just browsing; out and about on a beautiful afternoon.  I told him what I tell everyone, that we are happy to interact with browsers - we don't only want to talk to people who express an intention to buy something.  Then, I went back to whatever I was doing, and he kept looking around - for quite awhile, actually. We spoke occasionally. After he had been there for maybe an hour, he started to pick up some items and make a little pile at the desk.  Then other customers started coming in and within minutes, all the sound machines seemed to be going, the pickle was yodeling, perhaps the penguin race was on.  As he prepared to check out I told him he had really seen the store in each extreme - quiet and peaceful, and cheerfully, noisily chaotic!  It's really true - the atmosphere here can go from zero to 60 very quickly.  Luckily, he seemed to tolerate both - as do we all.  Okay - if not all - I have seen people quite unnerved by being the only customer - and I have seen people walk out when it gets too lively. (aka noisy).  Anyway, I thought he had received quite the perfect introduction to Joie!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blast From the Past Two!

My first business card . . .  the one that got me in trouble at the gift show with its tag line . . . and note the emergency stamped address - this was because the previous tenant - the infamous Frank Fox - refused to vacate the premises on May 1st so I couldn't get in.  My own calligraphy - and at the time - I thought the card sophisticated!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Our first advertisements - 30 Years Ago ! ! !

So . ..  looking through some old folders, looking for I don't even remember what, I found a few advertisements that I made for the store the first years we opened.  It was well before the days of computers making images and design  a little easier  - and the rubber-stamps we sold and my calligraphy pen came in very handy.  Actually, I think the one above might have used a very early computer to print out the type?  But the bottom is from the very first year or two.  They look so impossibly quaint and old fashioned to me now, but I was proud of them then.  Guess that's the way things go - or the way they evolve.  I remember a friend who was a puppet maker - I had bought a puppet from her the first year she was in business and several years later she visited and was quite distraught to see her early effort.  She really really wanted to take it away and replace it with a new one, but I wouldn't let her - I was very fond of that early puppet.  And I guess I kind of feel the same about these early ads - they're not what i would do now (see last ad for comparison) but - I still like them!  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Joie a la Kafka

At the end of every day we close out our charge machine and Eleavon, our processor, then sends the money to our bank.  The settling process is very easy - you punch in "settle" - it gives you the amount in the machine;  you say "yes" for correct and it's on its way.  It's the simplest system we've used in thirty years and we have had it for about five years with not a single problem.  Until last night.  The machine gave me the total as usual - and when I hit "yes" it hesitated, then said it did not agree.  I recounted the slips - the total was correct.  I tried it again a few times as I'm optimistic that way but always got the same message. I then called their customer service line, anticipating an easy resolution.  An hour and a half  - an hour and a half - later, I hung up, after talking my way through various increasingly high level supervisors who could not tell me why they had no record of a $300 charge on their end.  I pointed out (many times) that they had given me an authorization number for that amount and that I had the slip to prove it.  At one point someone said "an authorization number is not a guarentee that a sale will go through."  And sadly, at that point, I did use just one curse word to inquire why the F we bothered to authorize anything in that case.  At the end of the hour and a half they were admitting  that this "virtually never" happens and agreeing to credit us the amount we were due.  And I left the store with a little less sanity than I had when I entered that morning.  Though I don't think I'm permanently damaged, it was a truly strange experience !!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Which item has been on display?

We realize this is a difficult question - but we think you'll be able to figure it out !  These are our "Brawny Brawlers - you smush them together and as they slowly unstick, they look eerily alive - like they're in a serious wrestling match "for reals".  We find them kind of mesmerizing and impossible to stop playing with, hence the need to occasionally break out a new display - eventually they will lose the stickiness that makes them so alluring.
Plus, they sort of change race.  Anyway, we found the difference rather striking and wanted to share!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My New Favorite Card

I'm kind of in love with a birthday card.  It's an unassuming little card, no glitter, not flashy, but it has completely won my heart.  I ordered it from a new company at the Stationary Show - we got a dozen different styles of cards from them, and this one just gets me.  It's exterior has a small drawing of the world, and the wording "If you could have ANYTHING in the world for your birthday, what would it be?"  Of course, you think for a moment before you open it.   Then you open it up and inside it simply says "Please say a card, please say a card . . ."   I don't know why it strikes me so funny but everytime I walk by the birthday card rack and see it sitting there, I both have to smile, and I feel a wave of an almost weird protectiveness towards the earnest little card. I want those who open it to think yes - this is the best possible thing, this very card!  Is this a sign that I've been in this business too long?  Anthropomorphizing birthday cards?   I don't know - but I do know I didn't order enough of them.  I'll be wanting to send them to everyone I know - or everyone I know who doesn't regularly read this blog. And so far, just this morning we've sold a few too, so I'm not alone.  Please say a card, please say a card, please say a card!  And in other exciting news - though I doubt any of them will get their own blog entry, I found quite a few good new cards at the Show.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Another Sign of Changing Times

I looked at our increasingly lonely answering machine this morning - we get messages so infrequently, we sometimes forget to check.  It was blinking! A message! I started to listen - and it was a human not a robot! A personal call from one of the directors of the National Stationary Show in New York - a show I have faithfully attended for years. "Thank you so much for coming to the show, we are looking forward to seeing you" went the message. I sighed. What it said to me in a nutshell - we have so few buyers registered for this show that we are actually calling them all on the phone - just to kind of remind them they signed up. That about sums up what's going on with this show - it's been getting smaller and smaller every year. Almost none of the larger card companies I buy from have exhibited for years now. It used to be exciting and fun -  but then - the post office also used to be a relatively thriving business. Things have changed. And there are so many less independent stores, the former backbone of this industry. Stores that buy cards "by the foot" like Barnes and Noble or CVS don't need to come and choose cards - they just take what they're given. But the good news: there is a silver lining to this cloud - there are many more very cool tiny little companies exhibiting now - and I have yet to attend the show without finding something for Joie de Vivre that we love!

postscript: Another friend in the biz just told me she has received several of these calls and thinks that they were, in fact, made by robocall - real voice, just not a real person spending their time calling - and - frankly, I don't know if that's better or worse!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Man versus Machine

(I really should have said "person vs machine" but it doesn't have quite the same resonance.) I was working alone  today - and at one point there was a mother and daughter in the store - just them and me. We had exchanged hellos and they'd looked around a bit - after maybe ten minutes they were both standing near the front desk,  working their cell phones.  To try to get attention back to the here and now, I said "like mother, like daughter!"  They did look up - and the daughter said to me, "I'm trying to find where the next place we're going is."  I asked the name of the place - thinking it was probably off in another town - and she said "Ward Map."  (which is two and a half blocks from us.)  And it just struck me how much things have changed - they didn't even think to ask me if I knew where it was. (of course I told them.) - but - I guess the new normal is - why talk to someone if you can consult your phone?  Of course maybe they were being considerate and thinking they wouldn't bother me but I don't really think so.  They were just more focused on those phones than they were on where they were and the person right in front of them - and, that makes me feel just a bit superfluous - and a little bit sad. I wasn't busy, and I was right in from to them. And,  I like to think I would be nicer to engage with than a cell phone.  Actually, I doubt it was any kind of a conscious choice on their part- and they were happy when I was able to tell them how close they were.  I feel like I did a good thing by getting them into a conversation.  But the implications are troubling to me.  I like talking to people, it's a big part of why I do what I do.  I don't want to be replaced by a phone!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thinking About Thirty

Since our 30th anniversary is approaching, we've been thinking a lot about the last thirty years.  What's changed, what hasn't.  The people who have passed through the life of Joie de Vivre - all the customers, the staff, our suppliers, and those we see every day like the UPS man (with a very occasional UPS woman) and the Postman - (so far, 30 years of guys).  The Joie blogger is planning to write some about this both in the blog, and also a lengthier piece which maybe we'll present at the 30th fete.  But for right now, just a recent thought on the U.S. Mail.  Being a mailman used to be kind of a wonderful job.  People were always excited to see the you.  You might be delivering  a letter from a long lost friend, a check, a postcard from abroad, a love note, the long awaited Spring Sears catalogue; the mail was exciting.  Now mailmen must trudge around carrying mostly unwanted junk mail, newspaper coupons, and the occasional bill and birthday card (usually mailed by someone who grew up when people still wrote on paper.) Even those of us who still open our mail with the tiniest thought that there might be something personal know that it's a rather long shot.  (& we are the ones who still think a ringing phone during the day might be someone we know and not a solicitor or a machine!) I don't think too many people think of the mail delivery with excitement anymore and can't help but wonder how that affects the morale of our mail"persons."  That's one big change we've seen in the last thirty years for sure.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Slightly Disillusioned

Just a short post to say we just received an email from one of our smaller vendors.  It said "I'm organzing my twitter campaign for May and am planning to tweet on May 27th about (item we carry.)"   She wrote because they are planning to link the item to our website -  which is very nice of them, and free publicity is always fine with us.  But - twitter "campaign"?  Mapped out a month in advance?  Maybe it's silly of us, but we always thought Twitter was supposed to be one of the more spontaneous of the social media platforms.  (I know - so old school). Guess that kind of creative and fun randomness doesn't last long - but just wanted to register our small pang of disappointment - it makes Twitter seem like everything else, just another tool in the marketing kit.  Which brings us to the thought - when it's so easy to constantly market market market through the internet - it can backfire and the result is few people pay attention.  I read recently that the number of ad clicks on websites has decreased by 40% in the last five years.  All interesting - and wonder where we are headed with all this . . .

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Faith in Humanity Affirmed? Check!

We decided to decorate our little front garden last weekend for Easter - adding some Easter ducks and some clip on chicks (on the pussy willow branches.)  We did it with a bit of trepidation, wondering if the little display would last.  It certainly wouldn't be a big loss financially if someone had taken these items - the total cost was well under $10 - but it would have been a spiritual loss of sorts.  (Okay, we will qualify that - a fairly minor one as spiritual losses go.)  Anyway, it made us very happy to come in every morning and see that our chicks and ducks were all in a row.  Except the ones on the pussy willows, which were not in a row, but present and accounted for.  Thank you honorable people of Cambridge!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Return of the Prodigal Bun(ny)

You see above a customer holding two bic pens with knit rabbit pen toppers.  The one with the small green dinosaur ring around its neck just returned to Joie de Vivre after a mysterious and up to now inexplicable disappearance. We get very attached to small things at Joie.  Previously, we used little devil duckie pen toppers; we were selling them, they were cute, and not incidentally, having pen toppers is an excellent way to keep one person in particular (okay - it's me) from chewing away the tops of all the pens - a bad habit I developed in my youth.  The little devil duck toppers were discontinued awhile ago and slowly all of ours disappeared.  As anyone with any life experience knows, pens do disappear, along with socks and keys and . .  anyway, we started out with three rabbits and one went missing long ago.  Just after Christmas this year we realized we were down to one.  After a week or two, we resigned ourselves to its loss.  Several months later, last Friday night, to be exact, I was invited to a Trivia night to benefit the Arlington Children's Theatre.  I would be sitting at a table with among others, four people who work very part time here during the crazy holiday season. (those among you with detective skills are doubtless saying aha!)  When we were paying our share for the table, one person took out her checkbook - and the pen on the left.  I snatched it out of her hand instantly.  She laughed.  "I've been meaning to bring this back for the longest time," she told me.  It may sound ridiculous, but when I texted this photo to the two current Joie de Vivre employees - I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say they were thrilled. (employees, correct me if I'm wrong.)  So, the lost bunny story has a happy ending, and we will try to keep a better eye on our pens, at least for awhile.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Unclear on the Concept - or - We Love Packaging !

  We are always on the hunt for squirrel items, as we love squirrels and so do many of our customers and while at the  Gift Show a few months ago, we were taken with these "jungle bookmarks."  Of course the juxtaposition of jungle and squirrel was quite the added plus as we are always on the hunt for the silly as well.  (the other two in the series were gorillas - okay - and hummingbirds - maybe remotely possible in a jungle.)  One of our witty customers suggested perhaps this was a sophisticated reference to the concrete jungle and we had to agree it made a kind of sense.  Today, I was sitting at my desk when I heard a muffled snort from the next room where someone was unpacking an order of very cute "wildlife" items.  Okay . . .  dogs can be kind of wild, especially when you're throwing them sticks or you let them off their leash, but I've always thought of them as really the epitome of the domesticated creature.  We hope we'll find more to add to the incongruous collection! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Am We Being Churlish?

Joiedeblog has a question for its readers - if said readers were to purchase a wonderful book of pictures of treehouses . . . and if said readers were going to be paying $37.50 for this handsome hardcover . . .  would said readers feel a little bit miffed if there was a sticker on the front cover that said "As Seen On Animal Planet!"  Or, if that didn't bother them, would it bother them if they tried to remove the sticker so as to leave the beautiful cover photo completely visible - or were planning to give it as a gift to someone they judged indifferent to Animal Planet - and found it was well nigh impossible to remove it without damaging said cover?  It bothers us!  And we don't think we're being completely churlish in thinking that a truly removable sticker could have been used!  

And in a related story, we would like to lodge a small protest against large removable price stickers on gift books that are anything but - you begin to take it off and next thing you know - the book looks like it came from a bargain bin!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Always Read The Police Report Before Leaving the Station !

I thought I was done writing about DumpsterGate - but I was wrong!  I picked up a copy of the police report last Friday, because our new Dumpster company needed it to file an insurance claim.  I went to the beautiful new building in East Cambridge, gave them my file number, and was back in my car 5 minutes later, report in hand.  This morning, I thought I would be prudent and make a copy of the two page report before I sent it. As the second page printed my eye caught a strange phrase on page one: "3 birds, contained inside a bird cage, were dead."  Come again?  What? I read more - and my police report actually belonged to a Cambridge man who reported a house break-in: one stolen laptop and three dead birds.  When I called the Records department to request a copy of MY report - and gave them the file number of the one I had received, the clerk said "that file is from 2008!"  I looked - and yes, the date on the file was 8/17/2008.  The number bore no resemblance whatsoever to the number I had given them. So . .. my advice to one and all - always make sure that you are getting the report you asked for.  And spent an hour driving over to pick up.  And paid for.  (Okay, only $1)  At least they agreed to mail me the correct report!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Do People Still Send Postcards?

We've always sold a lot of postcards at Joie de Vivre.  Over the years we've had customers who bought lots of them, and despite a recent slow down in notecards, we still sell a lot of postcards.  Postcards are a time honored inexpensive wall decoration of course, and we have customers who do other interesting things with them as well.  Writing teachers who give one postcard each to a class of students and ask them to write a one page story about the picture for example. (always thought that would be a lot of fun to do.)  And I think some people buy and keep them because they love the images.  Anyway, a young woman bought a bunch the other day and on impulse, I asked her what she did with them.  And she told me about PostCrossing.  It's a website where you sign up to send postcards to people all around the world.  You request an address, and send a postcard.  Once you've sent yours, your name will come up when someone else, somewhere else, requests an address.  I took a look at it and instantly joined - and just sent my first postcard to a 26 year old philologist in Russia who likes Scottish Country Dancing, music, and speaks 6 languages!  (You get to fill out a profile of who you are and what kind of postcards you might enjoy, though of course you can send whatever you like.)  Anyway, in these days of decreasingly interesting snail mail - this strikes me as a great idea - therefore, I pass it along to my postcard loving customers!  Have fun!  Who knows, maybe you'll get one from me.

Friday, March 7, 2014

DumpsterGate Update

So, the police came and took notes on our dumpster incident - two big, tall, very nice policemen.  And when I say they took notes - I mean it - they had a tiny little composition style notebook and wrote down all the details.  They called into the station, got my file number, and left us with this.  Way to rock it old school !!
(and any readers who are confused by this post, please see previous blog entry!)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Waiting for the Police to Come

Our blog post today has a rather dramatic title - but that's exactly what we're doing here at Joie this lovely afternoon.  Don't worry readers - we are all okay - but we have suffered a rather surreal theft.  Last night when I was leaving the parking lot, I noticed that one of our two dumpsters was - gone.  I thought it was odd - but I was on my way somewhere, so decided to deal with it in the morning, assuming in the back of my mind that our dumpster company, a new one, was switching out the old container for a newer one. Then, this morning, I was distracted and forgot all about it until our neighbor who shares it came in to ask where it was.  So, I called the company and after much back and forth - they checked with the drivers, the dispatchers, etc - they said they had nothing to do with it and could not proceed to replace it until we supplied them with a police report.  It kind of boggles the mind - who would take a dumpster?  A customer (whose husband is a contractor) suggested - a contractor.  She knew of disappearing dumpsters suddenly reappearing on job sites . . . and it's true, you would need either a truck or a several strong people to take that thing away.  Who knows.  But the theft happened, rather brazenly, in the middle of the day, because it was there in the morning.  Anyway, here we sit waiting for the police to come!  Stay tuned . . . for more Dumpstergate details!

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Mysterious Ways of the World

It happened again this week.  It actually happens more often than you'd think, but still, it never ceases to amaze me.  We sell a beautiful metal garland light made designed by Tord Boontje for Artecnica.  Or, more accurately, I should say, we carry this item, as we rarely sell one.  Still, it's lovely, and even if it doesn't sell well, we love it and it adds some serious whimsical beauty to the store.  We have it in both gold and silver.  Anyway, the other day a young woman asked me about them in the morning.  And then, she bought the silver one.  Toward the end of the same day, I was helping a customer at the desk when I noticed a woman looking up toward the lights.  She kept looking, and when I asked if she had a question or needed help - she said she wanted to buy one.  So - we had not sold one for probably two or three months at least - and then - two gone in one day.  It's just this strange retail thing that happens.  And a variant - I look at an item in the morning and think to myself - "I probably shouldn't have ordered that - even though I love it, it never sells."  And then, that very day - you can probably guess what I'm going to say.  A non-retail variant is when you think of a person you haven't seen or talked to in a long time - and then they walk in or call you.  The world is funny that way.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle !

First- yet another apology!  I just got an email from a dear friend and Joiedeblog reader . . .  who said - basically - "You must be swamped with work and school or something because you haven't blogged in a long time."  Guilty as charged.  And feeling guilty.  I am starting to wonder if Joiedeblog would be better served if I posted on Facebook - so easy to pop up a comment and a picture- and keep this blog for the occasional longer, more contemplative post.  (Any blog readers with opinions on this, please let me know your thoughts!)  Anyway, since my last blog, I have been to New York twice, and Baltimore once, and I have found lots of good new items, and had a chance to catch up with a lot of Joie's suppliers and makers.  Some people complain about these shows - how much work they are, how tiring they are - but I can honestly say that with the exception of shows when I have been physically ill - a bad cold, a bum leg, etc - I always always enjoy them and wind up feeling inspired and energized. And, that's how I'm feeling now!  So - I hope that will translate to lots of Joiedeblog writing energy as well - stay tuned to find out.  And, a small teaser just to give you an idea of some of the things that will arrive here this spring:  solar pope, magnetic putty, fairy dust, octopus marbles, bouncing robots, air guitars, hedgehog puzzles, bobble head Einstein, and I conclude with that time worn, perhaps shop worn phrase that I generally dislike, but is sometimes like all cliches, apt - "and so much more!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Special Things We Get to See and Say

Sometimes when we're on the phone, we find ourselves saying things like, "Let me go in the back to see if we have the purple queen," or "You're looking for what?  Three singing pickles and a set of zombies?"  We do sell a lot of odd things - that sound even odder when discussed as though they weren't.  And sometimes we get sent excellent notices - like this one!  And I thought Cinderella would be with us always . . . .

Friday, January 17, 2014

Guest Blogger !

I was born in a factory in Newburyport, MA and had more relatives than I could count.  One day a thousand of us were put in a box and set on what I think was a loading dock - that's what I overheard these voices calling it. Next thing, we were in a truck and eventually, I saw the light of day again in a store in Cambridge, MA called Joie de Vivre.  I spent a few weeks on a shelf in the back room, and then got taken up to the front desk with maybe 40 of my friends.  We would hear a voice saying, "would you like a small bag for that?" and then one of us would get grabbed.  One day at the end of the day, someone grabbed me, but I didn't see any customers. Then I was opened and stuffed with cash and checks, and brought into the back where I lived in a grey metal box, along with some rolls of quarters and pennies.  I got to go out once or twice a week to the bank, and over the weeks, my age started, alas, to show.  People also wrote things on me, and sometimes I heard someone laugh when they read what someone else had written.  And out would come a pen for the response.  Eventually, I began to rip in several places, was scotch taped a few times, and then was put in a desk drawer.  I stayed there for several months, then I was taken out and pushpinned to a wall with another old bag just like me.  We don't know how long we'll be here - but we know we've already had a much longer life than the average bag.  If we're lucky, maybe we'll make it into the Joie archives of ephemera . . . people sometimes save strange things . . . .  oh - and ps - I am the bag on the left!

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Award

We are getting lots and lots of 2014 catalogues, sent out to entice us prior to attending all the gift shows - which start next week. I wanted to nominate a particular company for an award - an award I'm calling the "Grandiose Claim of the Year Award."  This award goes to a very nice company called Hog Wild, for calling their triangular
pillowy bookrests "Inspired by the Great Pyramids."   Somehow, when I see a plush pink or turquoise pillow, or one with an American flag design, maybe 6 inches high, the Great Pyramids are not the first thing that comes to my mind.  Or the second or third or fourth - etc.  They look more like a party hat to me - or possibly a tea cosy.  Anyway, we will look forward to seeing if anyone challenges their right to this award, and if so, we will be sure to report !