Feb 26, 2012

End of an Era...

Customers take advantage of the final 1/2 price sale at Ebabe's Gifts retail store
Ebabe's Gifts started out as on-line gift retailing business.  Mary Ann wanted to try building her own business and she has a wonderful knack for spotting those new gift ideas that become marketing successes.  As her eBay business grew, we discovered that certain wholesalers wouldn't sell to anyone who didn't have a brick-and-mortar retail operation.  Thus, the on-line business evolved into a (more than) full-time retail business.  That was about three and a half years ago.

The store succeeded in ways we didn't expect.  We're located "out in the county" as they say around here.  We're not on a main highway.  But people found us -- sometimes by word-of-mouth, sometimes through advertising.  It wasn't long before the face-to-face sales exceeded the internet sales.  The store became a "hang out" for some of our customers.  Eventually, Ebabe's Gifts had a mailing list of over 3,000 names.  It got bigger faster than we expected.

With that growth came other realizations.  You are married to a retail operation.  People expect that someone will be available to serve them during the advertised hours (and then some!).  The demands of product identification, ordering new items, shipping/receiving, quality control, merchandising, cleaning the store, hiring and managing personnel, advertising and public relations and every other imaginable item are never ending.  The result is that the proprietor must put every other aspect of their life on the back burner when the store has work that needs to be done.  A person's private life ceases to be their own.

Mary Ann and I started talking about closing the retail operation more than a year ago.  And yesterday was the last day of the storefront business.  We announced the closing a couple of weeks ago and had a half-price sale on everything in the store.  The volume of business in the last 10 days has been overwhelming.  Mary Ann made it through a very emotional time -- plenty of loyal customers expressing their sense of loss as well as the trauma of closing out a chapter of our lives that has represented so much creative energy and incredibly hard work.  But along with those emotions was a sense that a huge burden had been lifted.

So now we begin a new chapter focusing on expanded on-line marketing, along with visits to children, grandchildren, and friends.  And occasionally, the two of us may actually get to a cultural event as well.  Thank you to everyone, especially Mary Ann, who made Ebabe's such a special place.

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