Thursday night my store, Write Impressions, will celebrate it’s 30th year in downtown Royal Oak. I’ve been asking myself, “How did I get here?”, “How did it survive?” and “Aren’t I still just a young entrepreneur trying to figure it all out?”
Well I’m certainly not young anymore. But I am still trying to figure out the secret sauce of maintaining a retail presence in an increasingly click ’n ship digital shopping world. It seems like every few years new challenges presented themselves.
In the first decade, my young and all around talented manager, Dawn (who still works at the store today … with a little ‘raising my family gap’ in the middle) and I were learning as we went. We read bridal invitation catalogs to learn the lingo, the etiquette and the how-to’s filling out those tedious forms. I don’t think we even had a FAX machine that first year. We learned how to navigate Gift Shows. Yes, I know, everyone thinks walking 850,000 square feet of the latest and greatest in gift + stationery merchandise is so much fun ….well, not to burst your bubble, it’s not. It’s exhausting, mentally and physically. Yet Dawn and I always managed to sneak in a Broadway Show, a few glasses of wine and laughs along the way. And we had a knack of finding an up and coming gift line, trends and/or a new color story. We were on the right track.
As we gained experience and confidence, so did the store. Instead of a staff of just three people, we were able to hire more talent. My dad, (whom I listen to more than he thinks I do) taught me to hire my weakness. “Don’t hire someone like you, hire someone that brings something to the table that you aren’t good at,” boosted Tom Violante.
And soon, Write Impressions became a family. This is what brings me the greatest joy! There’s the core ‘original staffer’ group, (who still get together) and then the middle group of peeps (some of whom still work at the store today … Beverly, 21 years, and Courtney, 22 years!) … and last but not least, the fantastic + inspirational women who work with me today.
But I’m getting ahead of my story. More about the staff later.
The second decade was the technology explosion. Desktop computers got more sophisticated and Write Impressions became a mini-print shop. Our mechanical calligrapher would pick up a calligraphy nib and address envelopes and print invitations, one painfully slow letter at a time. Within a few years, that was replaced by an InkJet machine which exploded our business. Not too many homes had ink jet printers in the 90’s or the software necessary to print beautiful invitations. Customers loved our endless choices of imprintable invitations which Dawn and I could print within 48 hours. Soon we were bursting out from our original space and doubled in size in 1994 at our Fourth Street location. Ty Beanie Babies were the rage and our customers helped us raise $5,000 for Gilda’s Club and The Haven of Pontiac.
Before long, it was time to move to yet another new home. In 2006, 407 S. Washington Avenue became our new address and it welcomed us with open arms. We were among the ‘cool kids’ of downtown Royal Oak. Gayle’s Chocolates was a few doors away, along with Lotus Imports and Pronto! Everything was fresh and new and so full of promise.
AND then the recession 2008 happened.
Lots changed but we got lean and stuck to our core business … specializing in custom invitations, and bringing fun approachable trends to downtown Royal Oak. Although consumers started buying more from the their laptops, we continue to bring a human experience to shopping … whether it’s designing the wedding invitations of your dreams, a corporate event, or your sister’s baby shower or buying a greeting card + gift for your friend’s birthday … we try to be that small town shop with big city taste!
I can’t say enough about the people I surround myself with day after day. I love my Write Impressions family. The store is in fact, my first ‘baby’. Bev, Laura, Courtney, Kristen, Shelle, Dawn, Janica and Sarah are a small and mighty crew. We have leaned on, learned from, and celebrated our lives with each other. Our 30th Anniversary Gala this Thursday came to life with their ideas, execution, hard work and a lot of love. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
So how did I survive 30 years in retail? My staff is Write Impression’s secret sauce.
Without them … well … there wouldn’t be a great little store in Royal Oak where you can find the funniest greeting cards, that candle that smells oh-so-good, the soft children’s book with the fuzzy + sparkly tails that are sticking out … oh yeah … and the most beautiful wedding invitations!
And without further ado … my gratitude extends to my customers – for without them – year one would not have happened, let alone 30.
To my parents, who taught me the value of hard work, and sticking with something.
To David London, who supported me throughout the journey, and continues to this day.
To my kids, Abbey and Noah, who understood when mom had to work on Saturdays, and was sometimes late for sporting events … I love them so so so so so much!
To my first landlords, Mike + Jack Hanna who trusted a 27 year old entrepreneur with her big ideas
To my current landlord Bill Harrison who treats me with kindness and respect … and encouraged me to join Royal Oak’s Downtown Development Authority because “you have a voice and know how to use it”.
To my former and current staff that were all pieces of the puzzle in teaching me valuable lessons along the way: Dawn, Polly, Bev, Courtney, Laura, Kristen, Shelle, Janica, Sarah R, Meg, JoAnne P, Nika, Shannon C, Nan, JoAnna D, Cori P, Joselyn C, Amy H, Annie G, Stephanie M, Amy P, Lou, Robin, Megan W, Bridget, Jaimie C, Leanne, Katrina, Mara, Rifath, Sandi B, Sofia, Nicole E, Nicola, Anne C, Jennifer W, Stacie K, Marcy, Sophy, Summer, Sue McD, Shannon V, Andi, Lisa, Karen, Amy J, Kathi, Katie Z, Claire W, Franny G, Ali T, Jill H, Leah W, Katie T, Michele W-G, Camille, Sabrina, Niki, Sue W, Kelly, Nicole B, Ellen V, Margaret, Cheri, Christy, Marky, Lee H, Rachel S, Alex S, Nicole C, Lissa, Sarah H, Rachel H, Joyce, Sabrina, Sally, Tara, Audrey, Kenzie, Krista, Kathy R, Andrea
Now let’s get this party started!
Write Impressions’ 30th Anniversary Party is Thursday, November 14th from 5-8pm
Please join us for ’80s themed fun including DJ, raffle, giveaways, champagne toast and more!