Today will be a day of cutting and printing patterns. Yesterday I was unable to get to the saw at all and we spent the day in Digby, picking up wood, paper for the patterns, visiting our friends and checking on one of the shops where that sells Keiths’ pens. It was a full day, and by the time we arrived home it was almost dinner time. As I said yesterday, the place was a bit untidy so I spent an hour or so putting everything in order and cleaning and vacuuming so that we could start fresh today. It makes a big difference – especially in a small place like ours, and keeping on top of things is really helpful to having a nice and clean working environment.
When we arrived at Bernie and Ellen’s to pick up the wood, we were pleasantly surprised that Bernie had already quartered the 60×60” sheets for us. He does stuff like that sometimes. It gave us more time to spend visiting and catching up. Ellen had a wonderful dinner waiting for us. She is always saying that she doesn’t like cooking because she doesn’t feel she is a good cook, but then puts out a spread that rivals the best restaurants in town. Yesterday was no exception and everything from the baked chicken and rice to apple cobbler for dessert was delicious. It was good to be able to visit ‘just because.’ When I lived in Digby, I used to be in the shop with Bernie all the time. He had a designated corner that way my work area and I spent many days there with him, creating new projects for the magazine. I learned a lot from him too, as he has been doing woodworking all his life. Ellen says he misses those days and I do too. There are some very good memories I have of my time spent there.
After lunch and a nice visit, we decided to stop in at the shop in Digby where Keith has his pens. It had been a while since we checked in and even though the place remained open in the off season, business was pretty slow. Keith wasn’t expecting much in the way of sales, but he wanted to stop in anyway just to touch base with the owner and make sure they were on the same page for the beginning of the busier season.
The owner is a nice German man named Hans. He is always pleasant to talk to, but it seems that he is quite disorganized. Whenever we stop in to see him, he is searching for something. And even though he told us that business was slow (as expected) it seemed to me that the shop could have used some tidying up.
The place sells local pieces made solely by Nova Scotia artists. There were items such as hand made jewelry, pottery and both original art and prints of original oils and watercolors of local scenes. There were even some copper sculptures of whales and other sea life, and the shop tended to lean more towards selling artwork than the crafty-type stuff. It was a nice shop – bright and cheery, and not too cluttered with things that would tend to overwhelm someone.
But one thing I noticed was that there was a layer of dust on just about everything. When Keith checked on his pens near the register, the black cases had quite a bit of dust on them. Hans also noticed it and said he needed to dust every week, but to me it was quite apparent that it hadn’t been dusted in quite a long time.
As the two of them talked about their business and did an inventory check, I spent the time really looking around the shop. While the items in it were really nice, everything seemed to be dusty. While I understand that things do get that way, it just appeared to me that things seemed a bit unkempt. After all, if business were as slow as it apparently was, why wouldn’t one spend the time sprucing up the displays and making sure they were neat and inviting? I am not trying to be a snob, but it would just make more sense to me.
In talking with Hans, Keith discovered that one of his pens were missing from the inventory. When he brought this to Hans’ attention, he said that the thought that may be the case. Keith had the documents that they had made whenever inventory was brought and in checking against the pieces that were there, there definitely was a discrepancy. Hans was good about it, and apologized to Keith, saying he had just talked to his wife about the possibility of the missing pen and thought perhaps he misplaced it. He did say he would cover the cost of it, but Keith told him that splitting the difference was enough for him. He only wanted his material cost back. Hans was very appreciative.
It is so difficult for struggling businesses. Being unorganized makes things even worse. While Hans is a very nice man, and I believe he is honorable, I don’t know if he will be able to survive in this type of market. He is an artist himself, and makes pottery. I know very well from my own experiences that artists aren’t always the best when it comes to business. We are too emotionally involved and it takes a lot of learning and experience to be able to separate the creative self from the business self. I have spent many years trying to do this and there are times when I still let my emotions get the best of me and drive my decisions. And I am the first to admit that those aren’t always the best choices that I make. For me, it helps me to have someone who is grounded to talk things over with and while the ultimate decisions are up to me, hearing other thoughts is often very helpful. That is why I enjoy forums such as Lumberjocks. There are people here with far more experience than I have and while the situation may not always be exactly the same as what I am going through, I do learn from others and take into account what they may have experienced.
We left the shop with a feeling that it will all turn out OK. While Hans is somewhat scatter brained, we feel that he is honest and wants to do the right thing. It is a good thing that Keith is very meticulous with his records, and everything that he does is accounted for. Hans was also grateful when he was presented with an updated listing of all the pens that Keith had available – both in the shops and those he still had here, and he said that it helped him understand what he had and was selling better. He really looked relieved that things ended up the way they did.
The moral of today’s post is that if you are selling your things to others (shops or wholesale) you really need to keep on top of things and keep good records. No matter how kind, friendly, enthusiastic a shop owner could be, things can happen that could make or break a relationship. You need to take responsibility to protect yourself by putting everything in writing and having both parties sign and approve inventory lists. You also need to discuss the stores policy regarding what happens if something is stolen or missing. One shop that Keith has items in (scroll sawn items, not pens) told him outright that taking consignment items is “at our own risk” and if something is lost or missing, we are out of luck. Unfortunately, that wasn’t brought up until after several months of Keith having his things there. It is a large shop and when he noticed that a piece was missing, the owner said “oh, it may be in the back” She never did find it and he is somewhat out of luck with it. Needless to say – he hasn’t brought additional items there to sell.
I don’t sell my things retail for that reason. I find that the time it would take to deal with these stores is time that I would rather spend doing other things. I give my prototypes as gifts to people around me and I don’t really think twice about it. It is just too much for me to do, and seeing what Keith is going through only reinforces my own thoughts on it.
With that said, I will close for today. I hope that some of you can relate and learn from our experiences so that you don’t encounter trouble in your own transactions with shops. While it would be nice to have a store front for your wares, it sometimes isn’t worth all the trouble and time. Choose carefully and hopefully you will have a good experience.
Have a wonderful Saturday!
PS – I had no pictures to go with today’s post so here is a funny unrelated one. I hope it makes you smile!
-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"