My Inheritance – in Bellevue Washington
After Al’s phone call I agreed to go into the store and help with the books, a couple days a week. That lasted for 2 weeks. The couple days became 5 days a week, then 7 days a week. But then my creativity, entered the store. Down came the drapery fabric samples and up went a 40 foot hexagonal glass cube wall. Each cube held a different color group of throw pillows. There were 50 cubes that became an impactful color palette. The wall was definitely a piece of art.
Here you see my color idea only in hexoganal glass cubes
Next I added glass cubes and shelves with top brand sheets and towels. More color. Then bed pillow, shams and bedskirts. We renamed the store Bedspread and Linen House and much of my creativity went into this new project. Yes I was being creative. Of course I hired a store manager so none of us had to work the 9-9 shifts.
And what was Al doing. First he added down comforters to our assortment. And then custom made down comforter covers from any of our sheet patterns. Then Al was out looking for a 2nd location with the guy who owned the shoe store, next door. The second location was in the city of Seattle. Our manager ran the Bellevue store and we ran the new Seattle store.
I really liked being back in a city so I didn’t mind the second store. There was a mattress store next to our store. One day a sales rep from a company who sold merino wool mattress pads stopped in, after showing his pads next door. They were partially interested and he thought he’d give us a try. I had never seen or felt a wool mattress pad. It was unbelievably incredible. And since they are warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, hypoallergenic, and a ton more benefits, I was very, very interested. So at the end of our meeting I purchased the whole next shipment. That meant 500 wool mattress pads. No my inheritance wasn’t money, but I have more courage than I knew I had.
YIKES…what was I doing??? Have I lost control of Jackie again? I spent a couple of days meditating. My question …where has the artist Jackie gone off to?
My Inheritance was My Newest Art Project
Then I saw the whole picture and what to do with my inheritance. When I left art school my goal was to create affordable fine art for real people. Meaning I was not wanting to be represented by a gallery or an art broker. But rather to show my work to people who love art and have limited amounts of money for art.
Well here I am. My newest art project is a collaboration. I’ve never done an art project with another artist. But I must say, this time the other artist is the creative man that I married. He thinks fast on his feet, puts it all together in a moment and is ready to move on. His method is unlike my experience of 8-10 weeks on a painting. In the end I have a piece of art. So my partner and I make a perfect pair to work on this bedding project.
I’m the artist who could stay with it. I’d refine it, reflect on it, then begin more refining and reflecting. In the end it usually matches my goal; an affordable piece of fine art.
Affordable is the keyword here. Since the concept of BLH ( I love acronyms) is to sell affordable high fashion bedding, it really is an art project. Now I was really invested.
I’d spend at least one hour a day on the sales floor listening to customers comments and objections and make sure that I’d addressed those issues. It was always a lesson about my buying, the displays or the sales presentation and focus. I also spent one day a month doing sales seminars with the staff around those customer reviews. Yes STAFF, the hardest part of this project. I really was meant to work alone, or like this project, with one other person. Now I have a STAFF.
What did I cover in most sales seminars? The importance of working with someone’s most personal and intimate space. Yes, that’s our bedroom and I definitely wanted the staff to be patient and respectful.
Each prospective customer is trying to create their own picture. And that picture does not have anything to do with what color is in fashion, what look is in fashion or any of those magazine ideas.
To me each person should be able to leave excited with what they have selected for their bedroom or any other bedroom in their home. I just kept reminding the staff of this concept. The concept was the backbone of the success of BLH. Yes it was a well accepted shop. It was 2 years before Bed Bath and Beyond opened their first store. So I definitely had a head start in my concept.
My Inheritance and New Departments
Now that I had my inheritance, what did I add to this creation? A kids bedding department including children’s bedtime books. I definitely would sit on the floor of the store, reading books to the kids, while their Mom shopped. That was probably the best part of this project! You can tell that I was longing to be a grandmother. So I practiced with the little visitors.
Then I moved on to the kitchen. Dinnerware, flatware, kitchen linens and of course a huge display of placemats. That was a really fun department. I’d shop the gift shows in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Dallas for unique and artistic items for the kitchen. I was applauded for my broom selection. They were colorful and basically a functional art piece for the kitchen. So every item that I chose for BLH had to be both artistic and useful. Yes I was 2 years ahead of my time.
As part of my interiatance , I would eventually be shopping in manufacturers showrooms in NYC . I’d travel four times a year and was compared to the buyers from BB&B. The sales teams from Wamsutta, Martex and Fieldcrest were always excited to have me shop with them, because my selections were ahead of fashion. What a compliment.
What I’m really proud about is the customer base we built. My concept of make each person who walks through that day know how much they are treasured. Treat these visitors as friends who have arrived to look around and feel really comfortable about visiting.
As an aside, we spent 17 years welcoming people, who returned almost monthly to see what was new. And they were so loyal that when much bigger stores opened, they stayed with BLH. When we moved to Palm Springs (many chapters later) and started to show at the street fair, these loyal people recognized us mostlyfrom Bellevue,Washington and become loyal visitors as they returned on vacation yearly. My concept of affordable art for real people proved to be my success in any art project I became involved in. To this day I’m appreciative of each and everyone of you, as you read my story.
What was Al doing?
As I was busy with the responsibilities of my interitance, what was Al doing? As I said, Al definitely moves on. He heard about a new center opening in the North part of Seattle. The anchor tenant was going to be Mervyns, and since he knew of them from his travels, he selected a store in that new shopping center. That makes store three. And 40 employees.
My bottomline is that I was definitely creating, but after a few years I began to miss the canvas, the paint, the paper and my first passion. What do I do now? But now I had a big project, my inheritance.
You’ve got it…that’s the next chapter.