This is our episode #4 in our ‘Life After Anthro’ series. Guest Elaine Strawbridge is a passionate creative and leader with a 20+ year career in retail. Growing up in the greater Chicagoland area, she was immersed in sports and her emerging love for the arts. At Columbia College, Elaine earned a Liberal Arts Degree with focus on sculpture – working primarily with metal & wood. After graduation, she learned to weld and continued to dig deeper into her passion for working with mixed materials.
During college, Elaine worked for The Gap and found the retail environment exciting, ever-changing and always challenging. This was the start of her journey into visual merchandising and window display, allowing her to apply her creative passion in a career. In 1999, Elaine was hired at Anthropologie/URBN Inc, where she would advance over the next 17 years. During her time with Anthro, she moved to California and built her life in LA. In 2010 Elaine started B.E. Woodcraft, a small jewelry line, creating handmade wooden heart necklaces and sold them at Anthro and BHLDN.
In 2016 she left URBN to pursue a new challenge as a consultant in the marketing world. Once out of visual merchandising/display, her passion shifted focus onto team leadership and development – and her creative mind took on challenges that are “people” focused. From 2016-2021 Elaine co-created and built a global brand advocacy and training program – spanning 11 countries with over 450 staff.
Currently, Elaine is freelance consulting and developing a few new businesses which will launch in 2022 (ssshh, they are not ready to formally announce yet).
Enjoy this week's episode and don’t forget to leave us a review!
ep-17-Life After Anthro / Elaine Strawbridge
Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier, and this is the retail whore podcast, the stories and Lessons from the Life and Retail. Hello. Hello.
Michelle: Welcome back.
Michelle: It is Wednesday and at this moment I am currently in the middle of setting up holiday decor for Bristol Farms. We started last Monday in La Jolla. We have wrapped up seven locations and thankfully I have the weekend off, so I'm able to catch up on sleep because this these hours are no joke. And for anybody that pulls overnights, I have mad respect for you. Now it's true. We have 1 a.m. start times, 2 a.m. start times and 3 a.m. start times. And the ones that start at 1 a.m., you know, you're trying to go to bed at 5 p.m. and the alarm's going off at 1130 and you're in a store at 1 a.m.. And it's, you know, it's after a while you're used to it and you have there's a very clear moment where you go, okay, I think I've, you know, I'm over the hump, so I'm over the hump. And we've got seven more locations and seven more nights of installs we'll have next weekend off as well, which would be great. And then we'll wrap up the final in Santa Barbara. So so there you go. That's what I'm working on right now. And this week, we return to the Life after Anthropology series. I have a chance to interview one of my favorites, Elaine Strawbridge. She and I go way back in Anthropologie. We were together for some time. She went on to move into upper management, where she played much more of a mentor than a manager. And her belief of working with people and mentoring them and letting their creative, creative process flow is really why she is such an incredible manager. And we talk about her time within the multiple stores and we talk about her craziest moment at Anthropologie, because that is one of my favorite questions.
Michelle: And we talk about what she's working on now and how she is a freelance and how she's still doing what she loves, developing and working with new retailers and new businesses. So without further ado, here is my friend Elaine Strawbridge. Hi. Welcome to Retail Horror Podcast. I am so grateful that you're doing this with me because one I love you and to it's like it's just so great to see your face. So you, you are one of the first interview I'm doing for this series and it's a five or six part series and it's life after anthropology. And as I told everybody when I talked to one on the phone was like, it's what I feel like is at where all of us are in our careers. I feel like Anthro had a huge hand in it, both creatively as well as like best practices and putting it like I never went through reports and whatnot in my old job, so I see Gallery. For some reason it was like all the numbers were kept kind of secret. You knew what you did day in, day out, but you didn't see the company overall and Anthro putting in those those reports that we went through every week. That changed the game for me. And it's still now, like I said, I'm getting pictures of the pharmacy right now and like I go through the reports every week and that's all because of Anthro. But tell everybody what your role was in anthropology. Which store or stores were you at and how long were you there for?
Elaine: Okay, well, I was with Anthro for 17 years, so I was definitely there for a long time. And I started in 1999 and actually in Highland Park, Illinois, because I'm originally from Chicago. So started there and then made my way to California where I landed in Santa Barbara. So I was in that store for a little under a year, wasn't quite a full year, but then I came down to Southern California and kind of made my way around. So I started in Beverly Hills when it was in the old space up on North Beverly Drive, then Santa Monica on Third Street Promenade.
Michelle: We were together?
Elaine: Exactly. And then after that, I started doing well. I take it back. I went then to Pasadena, but I had I had left for just a little bit of time. I got recruited to do something else for about a year. And then I came back as a senior visual manager out of Pasadena, and that's when I started doing Multi Store. So that was around 2006 and then. For, well, about the next seven years or so, six or seven years. I was then a district visual manager, so I oversaw initially kind of northern LA County up to Santa Barbara. And then when I left it was my office was in the grove and overseeing like Orange County and more like Central L.A., El Segundo, all of that.
Michelle: So when you were jumping, when you were doing all these stores, you were a visual manager where they just plop you into the store and you'd be there for X amount of time or. Because like for me, like when I left and they brought me back in a different capacity, like they'd send me out to stores that lost a visual manager. So I was out in like the area that has such bad wind problems, like up to five or something. It was a.
Michelle: Yeah. So I was up there for a while and then I was at another store for a while just filling in and. And it was such an odd thing because you weren't connected to the store, but it was just you were there to make it look good.
Elaine: Right? Right. When I the whole time I was there, I was either in a store, like in the Santa Monica days or the Beverly Hills days. I was the visual manager in that store later of the visual team. And then as the district visual manager, I then oversaw the visual teams in all the stores. So I feel like each of those districts, it was somewhere between like six and ten stores. And that was that was kind of where the fun really happened because I was working with a lot of different people and really cultivating the ideas of the teams in those stores. So that was yeah, that was yeah, that was a many years, which was awesome.
Michelle: And you prefer that one to doing because I'm guessing because I remember like when Kylie would come in with us, like even though she was still a DM, she would like get in there, get her hands dirty. And I remember that about you that you did the same thing is that were more satisfying, satisfying than going to the same place every single day, like being able to. Because now I love being able to go to a different store every day. I mean, that to me is the best part.
Elaine: Yeah, it was. I mean, I think for a while, like earlier in my time with Anthro, I wasn't that interested in doing Multi Store simply because I felt like there was so much stuff to do at the store level and we had so much creative freedom that it was just endless. But then over time and it just became more challenging to do to visit stores. And I agree with you, I think it was the dynamic quality of working with different people, working in different spaces, having all sorts of different challenges, certainly different customer bases. And that just became so much more interesting. And and then I don't know, I mean, it also, I think one of the things that I loved about that type of role is that each of the teams had their own unique style. Like they whoever was the visual manager in, for instance, in The Grove, that team, they were going to be the most elevated. They were the most senior, usually because that that store was the kind of the pinnacle of the Southern California area. And that was such a different experience for me, because they they didn't need me to mentor them in the same way as maybe a new visual manager in like Torrance that was a smaller store, lower volume. So yeah, it was just it was fun because every day was different, you know, at times. I mean, you know, from, from what you're doing and what you have been doing forever. Holiday like the hustle and bustle of trying to get through the six weeks of setting up holiday. But traveling stores was just absolute craziness. But it was also it was also such a, I don't know, such a point of pride because it was for the for the visual retail folks. I was used to think of it as like, that's our Super Bowl. So we had to bring our we had to put all of our other stuff aside for that time to make sure we did the best job possible. And, you know, 5 a.m. mornings or overnights, I mean, you name it, we did it in the name of pretty the.
Michelle: Over nights like I. I was lucky that I got out of like I would I would happily go there at 3:00 in the morning versus like trying to stay awake past like 9:00 because I was so used to going to bed because normal, normal starting time. I don't think a lot of people know this, but normal starting time in an anthro is like 5 a.m. and then you're more or less wrapped it up on the floor by the time ten opens, like you still kind of have working on set, but it's not like a blown up store the way it is like six in the morning. I still have those hours just because it's like it's it is crazy. It is. It's so much, like, more gratifying. You like it at ten and just go, okay, like we have a good amount done. Like, I felt good about this and right. But overnight thing grandma can do, I mean, I was old when I started there, so, you know, I mean, seriously, compared to like most of the kids that were there. I mean, I was 28 when I started there. I. That's, you know, that's older, like.
Elaine: Yeah. Yeah, me too. I mean, I think yeah, I was, I think I had just turned 26 or 27 when I started with Anthro. Yeah. I mean it was definitely I was not a fan of the overnights. I don't I actually for anybody listening out there that runs stores, I actually think overnights are terrible because sleep is one of the most important things that we can all get. And whether whether we decide to get up always at such an early morning, having a routine makes everything better and just what it does to your body and what it does to your mind. I don't think you get the most out of people in an overnight unless that's what they do all the time.
Michelle: Yeah. And that's when we do the when we do Bristol Farms, we do it. We start like it anywhere from midnight to three in the morning for the smaller volume stores. And it is like now it's really hard at this age. But I mean, by the end of the two weeks it's like, okay, I'm used to this, but I don't know how people I mean, like for the people that do those overnights, like on a day, I don't know how people do it. Like, you don't even have a life. It's like.
Michelle: Like literally like.
Michelle: I'm going to go to bed now and.
Elaine: Like. Right.
Michelle: So which, which was out of all the answers that you're at, which was the most inspiring and of all of them.
Elaine: Well, I think I think in the Santa monica days, I mean, I there were so many there were amazing milestones throughout. But in the time when I was still in one store and I was in Santa monica, I had a really great store manager partner who managed to make her magic in terms of protecting the business, managing the payroll. So we we had enough support to get what we need to get done. But I also had two really talented people working with me. One was an apparel manager and one was the assistant visual manager. And there was just some there's just kind of a magical combination. All of our strengths and weaknesses really balanced out with each other, and we were just able to be incredibly creative. But also we had such a good business here, and I also don't know if there was something going on. I don't remember exactly what year it was. Maybe the economy was booming in a way that just retail was having a moment. But Anthro was also at the height of kind of coolness like we had. We were still pretty exclusive, but it was also growing and it was an exciting time to be there. But Santa monica, you know, that space, like having two floors or a mezzanine, like it just made it so much fun. Lots of windows and the promenade for as crazy as it is. It has a pretty lively customer base. So I enjoyed the afternoons when it would get busy because it kind of knew that it was. And then you could watch and see and you kind of see that your job made a difference. And yeah, but I also when I was a DM or DBM, my office was at the Grove and that store had just always had such an incredible team.
Michelle: That it was like, I mean, I think I've only been there twice, but I remember going there, I think relatively soon after they open and just like the level of display was just there's not there's not even a way you can put in words. It was just so next level from what everybody else was doing. I mean, it was like a store opening. I guess I would make a store opening all of the time. And for those that don't know a store opening, it's like there's man hours like you would not believe. They bring in all the best of the best from all over the region and everybody collectively turns out this just insane store opening and it's it never in my opinion stores never usually look that good as they did the opening. But Grove always seemed to just be at that level all the time.
Elaine: Yeah, yeah. They, they definitely raised the bar. And I think what was also fun there is we would do a ton of workshops. We would, you know, usually every season. So fall and spring we would do some sort of a big workshop in some store. So a lot of times it was The Grove, other times it could have been some little store where we just brought all the visual talent for a week to one place. And that was always such a highlight because, I mean, it's it's a pretty incredible experience to be surrounded by, I don't know, 8 to 10 really incredibly talented visual managers and then also the display coordinator. So you've just just got this massive creative party. And it was it was fun to challenge ourselves and kind of try to outdo each other, ever creative.
Michelle: Never run into, like, ego problems because I don't remember that. But I mean, everybody obviously because everybody is so close to project that all of us have our own ego about something looks and it's like, did you ever have like with that many creative people, that's a lot of ego with everybody. But did you ever have or is everyone just kind of just like collectively just all for one?
Elaine: I think everybody was pretty much all for one. I mean, I think there was healthy competition from store to store. Like I think at holiday, for instance, when the visits would come around you, you wanted to be the store that was like the favorite. Yeah, yeah. You want it to be that store or you wanted to end up having your picture shared around. But for the most part, there wasn't anything that like in the moment or even at a store opening. There was never that because I think everybody was just trying to be a part of something that was better than they thought it could be. And I think I mean, I think also the leaders, the district leaders, whether it was when I was one or before when I was not one, I felt like we fostered such a sense of support. I mean, I feel like that's how we met. You know, you were in Santa monica. I think I was in my gym.
Michelle: Right. You were my DBM.
Elaine: No, you were in Santa. I think when we met. I was in. I had just moved to Santa. No, to Beverly Hills. And you were in Santa monica with, I believe, Sue Wickersham.
Michelle: Yeah, I see. She's going to be on this as well. Hilarious.
Michelle: Now, like, oh my God. I mean, yeah, that's a another podcast. Funny people we've worked with.
Michelle: Oh, my God. I adore her.
Elaine: Yeah. Yeah. But I, you know, I know that some of that went on. I mean, I think that's just unfortunately, that comes with any sort of people work. But I, I don't think it manifested itself in a way where it got in our way. If, if it was, it wasn't on the surface.
Michelle: That's so rare. I mean, it really I mean, it's like I realize now the older I got and because I'm in so many different locations, you know, and display subjective, so everybody thinks something looks better than the other and it's like there's, you know, it's a it's a very fine line. I walk now like and it's like I realize everybody there's always like an ego. Somebody gets bent and it's like I try with the most gentle hand of explaining why we're doing things. But it's like, I always think about that, like there's so many creative people like in those openings and whatnot or workshops, and it's like, I don't ever remember that ego thing ever being like. An issue.
Elaine: Yeah, it wasn't. And it's funny that the one time that I can think of didn't involve our team. I was in Kansas City doing an opening and I was tasked with creating a room and it was more like it's kind of based off a pantry, but it was for bedding. It was like when we started doing large bedding installations where you kind of help yourself. And I was building this was kind of wrapping the room and shelves and I was cutting all these shelves. And I remember the one of the carpenters, I don't know if he I mean, he was obviously part of the construction team, but he was like all over me and Hawkeye and me working with the circular saw and like I had all my my benches set up and I was just like, stop it so I can handle myself. I built furniture in college like I used to weld, like I can handle myself with some tools, stop treating me like I should be, like in the kitchen, barefoot.
Michelle: That's. That's what I mean. That's one thing I think I'm most impressed about. You and Sue was another one that you guys could handle. Straight up handle hand tool. Like major tools. Like, I learned how to use a circular saw and I learned how to. I mean, drill. I mean, drill is easy, but I mean, like, yeah, it is impressive. Like the fact that, like, just a girl can come in, like, just that, like, start sawing shit and, like, putting and, and, and have the knowledge of building things. I mean, that's yeah, that, I mean, that's like in talking to Matt Behar, who's the one that's out of terrain, he's like, you know, if I didn't know how to do it, Anthro gave you the room to learn it. It was like, all right, like, here's a new tool. It's like, all right, I'm going to figure it out. And and it's but for the the female team members that could do that, that could wheel to solve, we're like, seriously, my heroes. So I can understand like a guy because that would be my husband. Like, are you sure you know what you're doing? Like, no, I don't. But, you.
Michelle: So what was your favorite part of whichever job, whether in a store or is a DVM?
Elaine: I mean, I think it's always been the people. And when I think back about what I loved about Anthro, it's still the thing that it kind of carries me still. It's, you know, people are. Sometimes they can be challenging, but more often than not, they'll they'll exceed your expectations. And I think being first and foremost, like becoming a leader who's able to connect with their team and for different people, that means different things. So the challenge of breaking through with someone and then getting them to trust you, because to your point earlier, some of this is going to be subjective, but helping them understand that your feedback is there for their support and that all you're trying to do is help them find the best solution within the plans that they've created. So it was like fostering their ideas and fostering their creative process. And, you know, it was different for every single person and it was also different for every season. I mean, every the concepts changed, the challenges changed, the business certainly evolved. And I think for me it's just I feel like the biggest thing that I took away is just. You have to be able to work as a team no matter what your role is and as as a district visual manager. Going in and being able to be someone who could look at something and see it with really fresh perspective, but then also get my hands dirty. Like, it's that like balance of I'm going to help guide you, but I'm also going to show you. But I'm not going to always do it for you. Yeah, and that's.
Michelle: Rare. I mean, because I think that what I think the general public doesn't realize that when each season, when these concepts roll out, you get a packet and it has the inspiration who it was taken in. My favorite still to this day is Odile, the little French lady that made all the quilt things in her room that we had to create. So you get a packet, you get photos of what the inspiration is, from the texture to the wall to how layered it is. And then you get the list of items that are mandatory to be in this concept, and then you have the ability and you can create it from there. With that basis of what the concept looks like, that's what you and your team do, and I know a lot. That's for the Anthro people. We all know that. But I think for the people that are listening to this, I don't think people realize like how it rolls out and how when you walk into all these stores like you see the concept, like you could tell that's the same concept. But each store has their own creative look at it. And the display that they do and how they get there in that process is like that's the part that and to have a dream that managers and nurtures and mentors all at the same time and that's talk about a fine line to run because it's you're dealing with a lot of people.
Elaine: Right? Yeah. And I think I think you. That's probably the biggest challenge there is that a lot of the real there was so much talent that came from a lot of different places, but they're with the display coordinators. So many of them came from art school and like, you know, really like incredible, incredible educational path in terms of art. And I thought and I think what was really interesting about them is that they were incredibly capable artists, some with just this really crazy fine art talent. And it was how do you take somebody who's got this very specific talent but apply it in a space that it was never really intended to be used in and helping them kind of get past. There's nothing wrong with art school oiliness, if you will, but getting past that to be like we're actually running a business, this is, you know. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes. This is super creative and there's tons of freedom. But at the end of the day, we have to deliver a space that is a shopping space and that is a functional space. It can't it can't be so out there that no one gets it and that it's not accessible or that it takes instead of six weeks to make it take six months and three times the budget, you know, there's all those things that you account.
Michelle: And it's going to be in six months anyway, so.
Elaine: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Or some child is going to take a running leap at it and yank it out of the ceiling. Children forms or potentially adults eating fake like fake food out of bowls. Like I remember being in Beverly Hills and we had some sort of baking contest. And I, I cannot tell you how many adults I saw walk over and try to eat the display. And I'm like, that's really I mean, especially now in COVID times, I think back it's like that was really gross. Okay, so.
Michelle: One of the shows I work for Stephen Young, and we have the Glitter Veil showroom, and Stephen from Glitter is the guy who basically did all the amazing, glittery, super detailed displays for Martha Stewart. So now he comes in when he sets the show, like he he does these fake cakes that are like seriously look like they're real, like the font fondant and the glittering. And I mean, and I watch adults like buyers, buyers.
Michelle: Who have.
Michelle: Stores walk up and stick their hand because it's real frosting. But it's like, you know, it's it's also got like paste or something in it. So it hardens and it still has that fluff of a cake, right?
Elaine: Oh, my.
Michelle: God. Adults that are buyers that have saws stick their fingers in it. And I'm always like, wow, like and on a week later, it's hard enough where you can't do anything. But I mean, I've watched it like the second day. It's all okay.
Michelle: Right? I guess we're.
Michelle: Turning it around or we're making new cake.
Elaine: Yeah. Oh, my God.
Michelle: For the people that don't know which most people don't, please explain. And this wasn't on your question, so I'm throwing on you. But please explain what the difference between a display coordinator and a merchandise manager if they're still called merchandise managers?
Elaine: Yeah, I don't know. I know they did change their structure, but I think there's still a version of that. So the the display coordinator was basically reported to the visual manager, right. So the visual manager was was the person who was whose head was on the block for everything that you saw in the store from a merchandising and display perspective. So the merchandising manager was in partnership with the store manager and they were in charge of the business of the visual piece of the store. So what you mentioned earlier in terms of like managing and watching the numbers, like the visual manager was the one who should be really on top of understanding what's selling, what's not selling, how to make sure that they're maintaining the presentation to drive sales. Right. And then the the display coordinator was the one who was essentially an in-house artist is kind of the best way to describe it. So when they got concepts and they once there was some products to put out on the floor, there was always a display element, whether it be some sort of large scale installation, maybe that hung over a platform that had mannequins on it. Right. When you walk in the store, I think a lot of retail still does that. Or if it's the displays that live above shelves and walls, the display coordinator is the person who makes that because I mean, I think it's a little bit different now, but I mean, back in the day, we would not we would get nothing.
Elaine: We would get you know, you'd get all these inspirational pictures and they'd maybe show you a store opening with what they did to interpret. Some sort of a display display for a certain concept. But then you'd have to look at that and say, okay, well. Do we want to replicate that here? If so, how do we do that so it works in our space? Or if we want to do something slightly different, what is that? What materials are we going to use? How do we test those materials? So the display coordinator is really the the artist behind all of the display and they they didn't really do much in terms of like moving product around. They really focused on how to tell the story within the concept through the display. So and that's why they were going to the art schools and doing recruiting was great and we even had interns from some schools because you want to have someone that has that fabrication experience and the ability to actually craft something that's pretty and to have some sort of material know how or the ability to build or paint or what have you. So I mean, you name it dying and any of those processes that would help manipulate material to be something different and more pretty.
Michelle: So I always put it as, as a merchandiser, my job was to make sure it was wrapped up and done by the end of the week, meaning the whole overall concept where the display coordinator, it was so much smaller and as far as like slow detail, like it wasn't something like hurry up, let's wrap it up. They had a timeline as well, but my ad kicks in so hard that I don't think I could do what the display coordinators do. And that's what's I mean.
Michelle: It's like the.
Michelle: For people that don't know, like the signage, you see everything from a spoon that's been turned into a sign for the LA tables or the uppers of the or the one display I still can't get over is like the million straw window they created, like ice caves out of plastic straws. I mean, and that that attention to detail and how long it takes to get that, I think, or only something or very few but fine art people have because they have the patience to see that project through till it's right and I would guess that's somewhat of a hard line to follow because they probably get pretty like dialed into it and you're like.
Elaine: I go, Yeah, 100%. I mean, I think that, you know, and I felt for them because, you know, there's so much you have to be very detail oriented and you have to be careful. But you also you also have to kind of crank it out. And and I think there were several of them that there they tended a lot of them tended to be more introverted, which is that's not a judgment. I mean, they were wonderful people and incredibly creative and productive. But for them to have to explain and perhaps delegate part of their process, because there were certain ones, especially at holiday, where the displays were so big, it would take a month to to just get the materials ready to be put into some form of whatever form. I mean, when, when I think Anthro still does this today, they do like these large scale animals, you know, like I think there was like a llama one year. There were like large animals. Well, just to die, whatever material we were doing. And a lot of times what we would do is we would, I don't know, for instance, by a roll, a huge roll of fabric, and we'd rip it to shreds and then diet in tiny little squares, you know, and like you'd have an entire conference room full of fold down to break down tables with tiny little squares of different dyed fabric. But that would take weeks. And then and then when you get all your materials prepped, you'd then have to construct whatever it was you were constructing or in a window. In the case of a window, you'd have a week's worth of install sweating your ass off in the in the windows while people watched that.
Michelle: I remember that like, I mean, New York's windows are always the ones that blow my mind because it's like it seems like the grove out here. But New York is a JFK. Oh, my God. Like, still to this day when I'll go to the city, like, I spent a couple of years, obviously now, but still that is one of my stops because it's just like I can't. And the only thing outside of like seeing and being so wowed by it is how many hours did that take? Immediately where my head goes.
Elaine: Hundreds. Hundreds. I mean, yeah, the type of pipeline, creative pipeline that would happen for holiday was so insane. And I will say, you know, I think planning I think one of the big things that I learned from working at Anthro is planning is such an important part of everything. And you plan the big picture and then every day is a different every day is a small version of that plan and you replan because if you get ahead or get behind, you have to adjust. And you know, I think. The importance of taking the time to plan and really think things through and look at how they affect how it's a cause and effect. If you do one thing, it does it creates this. That has that really changed the way like I operate in the world? Because when I first started, I didn't really understand that. And I definitely struggled in the first year because, you know, you know how it is. Like you go in and you just kind of want to throw your shit down and get in. But if you don't have if it's not part of a bigger plan, you can create a real mess very quickly. Yeah.
Michelle: So it's and that truly like that planning is still it's weird. I still I know you can do everything on the computer and like everything's on a list, but I still am hands on lists like that to me. And that's from there. I mean, it's like, start your list of things off the list, new lists, push whatever to the next day or what. I mean, it's, it's and those are those are some of the tools that I say. It's like as far as what I feel like Anthro taught me and that it's somewhat of a sink or swim atmosphere. I mean, you have to be talented and you have to know your know your shit in order to get that job. But once you're in it, there's because there is so much freedom and there's also so much expectation that it's like it's a weird it's a weird thing. Like, you really have to be on yourself and create your own line, your own list, and your own rules and your own, like how you're going to get this done because you can do whatever you want for the most part. And it's like I think that that's almost overwhelming when it comes to like, what? What do you want to do? How are you going to get done?
Elaine: Yeah, 100%. And I agree, I'm with you with making lists. I mean, and still it actually is like from a neuroscience standpoint, the act of writing it down versus typing it, you're actually locks in your brain more so like it's it is actually a better practice.
Michelle: So I do it and people look at me like I'm like, don't you know, you can do it on your phone? I'm like.
Elaine: Yes, I do. Thank you.
Michelle: I mean, I do the same thing with my calendar, too. I mean, I have one that I use on my phone, but honestly, like I paper and pen, like the list the like so I can see it. It's like I just I mean, I think that's just an ad thing for me, but.
Michelle: I don't know.
Michelle: So I'm going to jump to what you're doing now and then we're going to jump back to Anthro. So what you're doing at Anthro, what are you doing now and how much of what you did for Anthro plays into what you're doing now?
Elaine: Yeah, well, what I've been doing for the last several years is I've been consulting, so I've been consulting with within the marketing world and you know, marketing, marketing can span from into a lot of ways. I mean, that in itself is a whole nother topic. But one thing that I've been doing is consulting on brand advocacy and training. And I think what's interesting there is, you know, you're talking about having a team of people that represent whatever brand you could, any brand you can insert. And it's how do you find a the right talent be get them to be informed whether it's a team of a marketing team that's going to sell product on on some random shop floor or even do a sampling and like in a grocery store or you're a retail staff that just works for Anthro, for instance. You know, you have to find a way to keep people motivated and you have to find you have to tap into their sense of team. And so what I've been doing is really focusing on how to how do you develop a team, how do you put systems in place that make that team ongoing and for the most part unsupervised? How do you make sure that you create a culture that allows them to feel like they're part of something really special, that we value their unique contributions and that there is a level of trust that they go in and they do what they're supposed to do. And, you know, somebody's not going to be hocking them and making sure that because it's physically not possible. If you have a team of 500 people out in different stores all over the US, you can't possibly send someone to check on them.
Elaine: Yeah. So I've been doing that and it's really just been it's been an interesting journey because it's not super creative and in terms of like I don't merchandise, it's all people. But I also feel like the same thing that made me love working with creatives and tapping into what made them feel supported and what being able to being a good mentor with them. I've transferred those into this, into this space and. I really loved it. I mean, right now I'm in a little bit of a transition period, so I'm not really 100% sure what's next. But the benefit of having worked for so long as I can, I can take a little breather. And I've never not I've never not had like craziness of work. So I'm enjoying a little bit of a little bit of a slower time. And I don't know, I don't 100% know what's next. I like this line of work and I like the freedom of consulting because it allows me to have just a level of perspective that isn't I don't know. I think I feel like I have more freedom there and I don't think I'll ever not work with people as challenging as we all can be with each other. We make each other so much better. There's so much more that we have in common then we don't. Then what makes us different from each other? But the difference is also make us really make it really fun and exciting. And I'm just I'm a naturally very curious person. So working with all sorts of different types of people from different cultures really satisfies. It's really satisfying because I learn so much. Yeah. Yeah.
Michelle: So I think because I think this is the same company when you reached out to me, God, it was like five years ago when the Kylie Brand was doing the pop up store in Thousand Oaks. Yeah. So tell me a little bit about that, because that would give people a good idea if you're allowed to talk about it, that will give people a good idea of like what? When you say your coordinating groups of people and as far as the marketing.
Elaine: Yeah, I that I was just helping out with helping find some talent. But that was interesting because they did a pop up for when she launched her brand and I yeah I can't I don't actually know that much about it. And I, there's not that much I can say and I'm not really sure how much I can say. But but yeah, I mean, I think that that was though a really good example of creating an environment and like where, where the marketing side kind of touches into the retail side and it's you're creating an experience for the consumer, but you have to have people that are truly engaging. I mean, I think we've all been there, right? We've all been somewhere where you go somewhere and the people, wherever you are, let's just say it's a store, are just not friendly. They're not engaging, they're not helpful. And what our goal always is, is to make sure that we have the type of people that no matter what's happening, they're just super helpful. So, I mean, I think that I think a lot of it boils down to. Finding like finding a way to really get good talent. So obviously the recruitment side, which is always going to be a challenge, but then also how like people change, right? So you have to keep them engaged and keep them feeling like their contribution means something in order to keep people working well. Because if you just kind.
Michelle: Of for any company, I think that's.
Michelle: But oddly it's I don't think that that's always taken into perspective. I think that's why I've always thought you such a good manager is like you.
Michelle: You do care about the employee and the development and their their well-being and their happiness, which I think I don't think a lot of people and I've said this all the time, like when I work with people, is that the more you put into your employees and the more that you give them an attaboy or you give them boundaries or whatever it is, I think that the development of an employee is only going to give you more versus the people that just like they're on them. 24 seven It's like, you know, I don't think people realize a lot of people realize what that does to anybody in any working situation as far as wanting to do more over and above what their job is, because they love it there and because they've been given, you know, they've been given the room to grow and as opposed to like keeping them in tiny boxes.
Elaine: Yeah, 100%. And I think I think a lot of times when you're working in either people working in stores or people maybe that work for as brand ambassadors or for for activations, it's not necessarily like they haven't reached their dream job. Most likely they're making their way in the beginning of their career or they're just kind of filling in part time, like just making a little extra side hustle. And I. But I still think that. But just because maybe they're not planning on making a career out of that type of work doesn't mean that they still don't want to feel valued and that you still can't teach them something. And I don't know. I mean, I think I think about Anthro and how I knew that some of those girls and boys like I knew that some of them would move on. Like, it's not as if I thought they're okay, they're going to be here forever. But I also feel like that's part of I don't know, I feel like that's just part of being being part of something greater is just helping people realize their own potential. And like when they leave the nest, then they go to they're moving to something that is something maybe they thought they couldn't do before. And there's nothing better than that feeling. I mean, I was talking to somebody earlier and I still have I'm still connected. Obviously, we're still connected. But like some folks, like when I worked at the Gap in the nineties, like I'm still friendly with some of those people because of those the relationships that we forged. And there's plenty of people that I'm not still in contact with, but the ones where I think we really helped each other and I think it's a given a take, right? Like you get a lot from the people that you mentor.
Elaine: And it's not just about giving to them. It's like you learn, you always learn something. So yeah, I think I think it's funny. I have been shopping now that the world is opening a little bit back up. And one thing that's really bummed me out is I feel like I have gone into stores and I ask questions in the stores and staff can't actually give me an answer. They like immediately go to the website and I'm like, okay, I could have looked. I probably already know that or I could have looked that up myself. Like the in-store environment I feel like has this huge gap between how do you make how do you make the store or the store experience be more than just a replication of the same information you could have looked at on your own like there's. And that comes from empowering people and inspiring them and creating an environment where people want to provide. A meaningful experience for whomever they are discussing, having a discussion with and the sale comes great. If it doesn't, they'll probably still come back for a future sale. Like. Absolutely. So yeah. So but I mean, I think that that. I hope that I'm not not 100% sure what my next step is going to be, but that's still something that I feel like I can. I've not run out this course because it's something that I'm really passionate about. And training has become like such a fun adventure because I know a lot of places don't train and it's crazy because it doesn't take that much.
Michelle: And I right now I'm sitting here wishing I could drag you to one of my accounts. Like I. I have an accountant. I adore them, but no one's been in retail before. And we it's an odd time right now and it's like, I just I want so bad to have somebody come in like you that nurtures them and gets everybody all going in the same direction. Because it's when you don't have that, I'm I'm living it right now and you don't have it. It's like you can.
Michelle: See the fraying of the edges. And, you know, it's I feel like I feel like that's like you're calling. Like I feel like that's should be I mean, your own consulting firm as far as going in and training management and training training employees and you know how how to develop a sales team where they're they're performing and they're hitting goals and you know, the understanding of how to get to that point. It's I mean, I feel like that's your calling.
Elaine: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I yeah. I mean, we can we can definitely talk later if you want to talk about the other thing. I mean, yeah, I and I am, I'm, I think that is something that I'm going to continue to pursue because it is I don't know. I mean, I don't know why. I don't know what it was. Sometimes I have moments where I'm like, What happened to me that this is where I live, you know, like, what? What what was it in my life that drew me to this? But it is such a it is such a pull. It's like this natural thing.
Michelle: Yeah, it's it's it's now. I mean, I feel like you started it with Anthro and you cultivated it and now it's, it's embedded in you. I mean, now it's just part of your DNA. And, and I think that seeing what you love, I, for me, it's the employee part of it. It's like I'm so used to be by myself and just go in and do my own thing. It's like now I'm realizing, like, I need to on my own. It's like pull back and start to bring the employees in on the conversation and work with them. But, you know, that's even for me, it's been so hard to to step back and think, okay, you used to do this. Like, I've just have been on my own for so long and it's like, you know, you just get into this thing and you don't talk to anybody and you're just like, literally, like, I have to be somewhere the next day. I've got to get this up, I've got to wrap it up. And then it's like I've got to get on the freeway. And, you know, last week is when I started pulling the employees back in. It's like, this is what we're going to do for this. This is the fixture that I'm having built for that. Yeah. And I could see the difference of just like their reaction of like, oh, that's great. Like, we know it's coming and just including them. And that's something that for me, like I've completely forgotten about. But I think for you, like, that's what you've always done. And that's I think that, that having a you in any company like that or training their managers to be that way of developing versus managing, I think that's yeah.
Elaine: And I think it's going to be more needed than ever because the more that we rely on our devices and we can compensate, you know, people shy away from having an actual discussion, it's easier done in an email. And I can understand, I can totally appreciate that, that you've seen those memes where like I hate it when it could have been an email, but it was a conference call. I completely understand that. But I also think that like we've also become very lazy and how we communicate. I mean, we all have seen like how on Facebook or on Instagram or Twitter, it's just like there's no real accountability to what people say in print or in digital print. And when you have to talk to somebody, the dynamic is just so different. And I, I don't know, I, I haven't given up on that. But I do feel like when you think about what motivates people, people always want to feel valued. And there's I just don't see how people can feel valued if they don't feel like somebody is listening to them. Yeah.
Michelle: So yeah, they're also the part of like the texting and only emailing. You lose the inflection in people's voices. And I think that it's really easy to take something wrong and all of a sudden you're like, the fuck, like what? Where that and totally just because they, you know, you can't hear their voice and they left a period off it or comma or whatever and it's like, right, you know, that human and that's. For for what I would say is first customer say customer service is that we Fred Segal is my mentor and Fred back in the day was like we wrote a thank you card for everything that we sold socks to, whatever. I still believe in that and I still got that personal pick up the phone like, Hey, we just got this in for you, blah blah blah. I get texts from the lady at Macy's and it's like, Don't text me. I mean, it's very nice that she's reaching out, but the thing with business is like, I mean, I have reps that text me like and I think it's so odd. I just pick up the phone. I know we're all busy or but I can call you back. I just everyone. So you're right. It's like so lazy and so reliant on like, oh, I can just throw this out, you know, and not have to actually get on the phone and and half the time they don't even start with like, hi, how are you? It's just like, are you, are you coming to Vegas? Are you making appointments? Like, I'm good. How are.
Elaine: You? What? Right. Oh, my God. Well, and if you're like me, your spellcheck likes to create words that you never use. And then you're walking, you're busy, and then you send it and you're like, Oh, great. I've never used that word. I don't even really know what that means. But somehow, somehow my phone thinks it's like part of my vocabulary.
Michelle: My phone now thinks my husband's name is not Dave. It's Dace like, and now it just uses Dace all the time.
Elaine: I'm like, I'm going to go with this.
Michelle: So I'm going to ask you, because we've gone through most of the stuff without even going through the questions, but because you're creative, because most of us that have had this job are very like, I want to know how you stay inspired. And like, you know, back in the day at Anthro, it was like we had a mandatory once a month inspiration day where you went to a museum or you bought magazines you went to. I still do that. And I'm always curious like what other creative peoples, where they find inspiration and how often do you do it? And like, what's your favorite mode?
Elaine: I mean, I still do a lot of that same stuff. I mean, magazines and I actually have recently started getting like subscriptions to magazines. And I went through a period where I was like, it's so wasteful. And now I'm like, No, I need it. I need to touch it. Like I'll recycle them or whatever I need to do. I'll offset it by planting a bunch of trees like I'll. But yeah, so I mean, I so magazines, Pinterest, I still think Pinterest has kind of annoyed me lately. It's a lot of ads, but there's still some stuff there.
Michelle: Oh man, I can go down there and I'll sit and next thing I know, I'm like, What am I looking for?
Elaine: Yeah, yeah. You know? And now, I mean, there's so much obviously like a Google, a good deep dive Google search, which can be as much of a block full as Pinterest. Like, I'll definitely follow some weird, just weird path down. Good. Sorry, just.
Michelle: My mine are, like sequestered in the other room because they are like small dogs of bark nonstop.
Elaine: So she was sleeping. Sorry about that. No, but. Yeah, and I mean, to be honest, I haven't been out to the museums that much. I mean, certainly not in the last year. I mean, I was making my way around, but prior to that, on occasion, I mean, I was I have done a lot of traveling in the last several years. So there's a lot there's a lot to see just in other places. But I think I think I and I still go I still make my way, even if I'm not always shopping but like still was going. I still go to Fred Segal. I still go to American Rag. I mean, unfortunately, Barneys is gone. But like some of those places where I felt like there was some someone really thinking in how the store looked and I'll still try to go to the newer places. I mean, it's really changed a lot since I needed to do it for Anthro. But, but there's nothing better than getting out and seeing it for yourself even like this isn't it's not particularly answering your question, but we're, we're going to embark on doing some work in our house. And I needed to go look at tile and you can look at a lot of stuff online. But I was like, I just can't. I have to go touch it. I have to see it in different lights. I have to see them next to each other.
Elaine: And I need to just I need to be immersed in it to really understand what I think I'm going to like. And I'm fairly decisive from a design design standpoint. Like, I know what I like, I know what I just don't like, but it's still that I just want to touch it, feel it, smell it, you know, whatever, taken as much of it as I can. Yeah. So and I think just, I don't know, I feel like so much of it is just that general state of being curious. Like, you never know when it's going to come. You see some weird thing. And then I just make, I constantly text myself like a crazy person because I'll see something and then I know I'll forget if I don't, but I text myself. So I'm always like, feel like I'm always researching. My husband can tell, he's always like, Oh boy, here it comes. Because as soon as he can see that look on my face and he's like, What are you researching now? So yeah, I mean, I don't think that'll ever stop. I mean, and I still have. I mean, I'm sure you do, too. Piles and piles of the beautiful books from from the Anthro days. And I still get those out and there, you know, and it's been a while. So now they're kind of fresh again.
Michelle: It's I have like I mean, I have so many design books and it's funny, like I, I lean on magazines more and it's, you know, in the, in the beginning of not the beginning, like the middle of it. Like we were still in full shutdown magazine stores, bookstores are still allowed to be open. And I still vividly remember going because the books like Barnes Noble's, we can shop in the magazine Place, it's around the corner from my place was closed and there's one open in Malibu and it's like, it's a good one. It's big, it's like three stalls long. And I'm like, I'm driving to Malibu, I need magazines. And I remember getting there and like, like it was a very real reality also because magazines on a whole are they're not going to be around forever because digital replaced it. And all of a sudden it was like, oh my God. Like there's like no new magazines are putting out. Like, they hadn't figured out like it was, it was before everyone started shooting stuff in their own house or the artists themselves or shooting themselves or someone. And also that was like a complete panic. Like, Oh my God. Like this is like literally like I'll go and buy like a stack of magazines like this and it's like my favorite thing to do. And all of a sudden it was like, oh shit. Like, this is quite possibly like, not going to be around that long and it's like nice now that it's starting back up again.
Elaine: But yeah, I still remember like, oh no, yeah, this is going to be awful. I know. And I think what's cool with magazines too is I mean, I think, well, now because my, if I am looking, I now I don't have it don't need it for like a work thing, right? It's just pure joy. But I used to I used to also force myself to look at magazines that I wouldn't normally gravitate like. So, for instance, ones that I would normally gravitate to, you know, living, living, etc. was a great one. British, British Vogue or like any of the, like the European fashion magazines and or decorating magazines. I mean, like Elle decor. Fine. But I felt like the, the different take from and so anything from France or the like, the German, they just have a different sensibility. But I also would like look at National Geographic and other random magazines. I mean, not so much like country living, but sometimes because sometimes I don't know, I'm a firm believer. Like if you're only looking in the same place every time, you're not going to find something new.
Elaine: And it doesn't mean that the answer is going to be in there, but it might be the it might be a point of departure that takes you down a road, that leads you to the right place. So just looking at things that weren't necessarily like what I would they weren't like right on the nose. It was like looking at some other weird ones. But that's the beauty of like Barnes and Noble. You go sit, you know, they always have the benches and you could just kind of troll through a lot of different ones and just kind of pick me. I always look at them back to front, never look at them. It's always a, you know, and it's just kind of you kind of get a sense of what's in there. And then if there's some interesting things, then I would be doing more deep dive. But yeah, I mean, I don't, I mean, I hate to say it, I do use the internet more than I probably should just because I feel like it's it's easy. It's easy and you can do it whenever.
Michelle: Yeah, I still do that. But I'm like, you're saying like, I need to feel it. I need to be able to. I mean, I'm the same way with now because I buy for Burt's Pharmacy. So it's like we've it's a five star location and I very much from anthro I buy and concepts so you're at the show you'll start seeing something that repeats itself and then you'll start to cherry pick it. But I can't like everybody's now PDF catalogs and I'm like do you not have like and I know it's not eco like but I. You have to have that and be able to tear it out and put it out. And so I can see what it looks like altogether. I'm like such a tactile person. And it's so the internet. I can do it for a little bit, but it's like, it's weird. And my coffee table books, I can't tear out of them. So it's like, all right, I like all these. Like Simon Jun's book was. I don't know if you have Simon.
Elaine: Oh, yeah.
Michelle: His coffee table book for all of his windows is brilliant, and it must have a million tabs in it. But it's like the thought of, like, because tearing it out, posting it up somewhere, it's like.
Elaine: Yeah, yeah, I wish I, you know, and now I wish, I mean, I've done it now I think three times where I mean, I had fashion and design magazines like from high school, like where and I've purged them, but I wish I would have kept them because I mean, back then, my God, it was like Cindy Crawford and all those girls as like teenagers and like and there was just I wish I would have, but I mean, after a while, I mean, I think I could feel if I'd kept all those, I probably would be able to more than fill my garage with just magazines. And that doesn't really make it insane.
Michelle: Though. I mean, like what I told her reminds me of John. Do you remember John Myers?
Elaine: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Elaine: So do you know he has that line warmly? Mayor Myer, I think him and his wife have.
Michelle: And he's still all about like that retro sixties seventies vibe. I mean, his Instagram is so good, but he has like the archives like that, like, you know, like literally a library of magazines which my mom used to have. Bon appetit. For years, I think like she had 20 years of Bon Appetit. And that's a lot. I mean, like, it's, it's but to think of like if you're going back that far, it's like, I wish, I wish I still have mine, but I have to purge because my house is so small.
Elaine: Yeah, ditto. Ditto. Well, I mean, cooking magazines are also so inspirational. Yes, yeah. Yeah. Because there's always a story about somebody's house or what. I mean, does any of it. I mean, food. Food in and of itself is a passion of mine. So I'm. I'm fine getting it.
Michelle: Huh? Even the styling on a lot of the food publications is so good. Like, just the textures and everything. I mean, it's so. It's so yummy. I guess that's a good. So I'm going to ask you your last question is who now will know? Two more questions. The last one will be the crazy one. So what? Who are your favorite retailers?
Elaine: Oh, gosh, that's such a good question.
Michelle: And why.
Elaine: I mean, I still love American Rag. I think, you know, they I mean I mean, I'm going to this is all kind of giving everybody a parentheses with COVID because that's kind of rocked everybody. All the stores are kind of light. But I still think they they buy really beautiful things. They still have I mean, I love that they still have maintained their vintage section.
Michelle: They do. They still do the mix of vintage and new.
Elaine: Yep. And they've in the one in La Brea, which is when we go to they they have that whole denim side that's like the two storefronts and the, the side with the denim. I mean they always have some sort of weird up and coming denim, lots of it's Japanese denim and I and the other thing is I also like the people there are generally really great like there's a couple of people in this on staff that have been there for a long time that we're like friendly with because we were we go in there a lot of times just to kind of poke around and you know, they have the home side to the mason media and then they still have beautiful things there. So I don't know, American Rag. It's I it's probably a little bit of I just feel like they inspired me so much for so long that it's just like a long standing relationship, I mean. Fred Segal Same way I still go. We still go into Fred Segal in West Hollywood. Have you been to the new ones now?
Michelle: Like the ones that are like like franchised.
Elaine: The one and. Well, I've been to the one on Sunset. I don't know if that's.
Michelle: Yeah. The sunsets, one of the sunsets, one of the franchise, like the ones at LAX. The one they are the ones in Japan. Those are all. Do they feel like the West Hollywood one?
Elaine: Yeah. The one in Japan is awesome. We Japanese. Yeah. Beautiful location. Don't ask me exactly where it is. It's been a few years, but the actual physical space of the store is a lot like West Hollywood. It's like small little buildings kind of cobbled together. It's it's super cool. And the one on sunset is. It's it's good. It's just it feels I don't know, it doesn't feel quite as special. But I, I still think it's I mean, I don't think it's above. Above.
Michelle: It still did a great job. I mean, it's I still have not been to it. But looking at from afar, it's always like, does it feel the same or is it not? Is it because I really haven't been. West Hollywood was the last one, and that was before they had to take the Fred Segal sign down. And it's not long any longer legally a Fred Segal store. So I always wonder and it's like Ron Robinson and Ron Herman are just fucking brilliant since they were there. I wonder like, you know, I have to wonder like who they brought in to do those because it's none of the old for legal team.
Elaine: Yeah. Yeah. I mean it's definitely changed. It's not I mean, I think it definitely I mean, it hasn't helped. I mean, I think it's it it doesn't make me feel the same as it did back then. But again, I'm like, my relationship with it has changed just because I'm, I'm now I'm just kind of bopping around and, you know, I'm trying to think of where else. I mean, there's some boutiques. I mean, most of the time I'm now going into boutiques like there's a place there's a couple of places in Silverlake and Atwater Village that I love. There's a shop called Lake, and she has been in the Silver Lake area. I mean, I would say now for about 15 years. She used to be on Rowena and now she's on Silver Lake Boulevard, but she just buys beautifully. And her, you know, there's not like display in there, but the store always looks really lovely. It's super curated and the staff is always great. She if the owner is there, unfortunately, I don't know her name, but she I recognize her because she's been there forever, but just beautiful experience. And then there's another one that I love in Atwater Village called Individual Medley. And it's it's combination, a little bit more home in that store. They also have a stronger men's section, but they just they they buy really neat stuff. And I tend to buy a lot of gifts. They're not necessarily like clothing for myself, but they're just lovely. And I, I follow them on Instagram and I haven't made it over there yet, but they opened up a little like grocery and like wine shop.
Michelle: It's so good.
Elaine: I mean, the pictures look adorable. The other place this is this is the funny one because it has nothing to do with, like, clothing at home. The one place that I truly love and we recently well, about a year and a. So we moved to the hills from Echo Park. So we're now we're off cold water and there's a place called Cookbook and it's like the cutest. I mean, it's, it's like the size of my living room. It's tiny, this adorable little grocery store that's. And it's all locally grown organic. They have, like, their own little fishermen. I mean, they work with a fisherman who does line cut fresh fish. All of their meat is is like pasture raised, no antibiotics and all that. But I think I mean, I'm sure it's probably the same now, but it's like they had a thing where like it had to have been killed within a certain like 24 hours in order to like it was all so fresh, but it was a tiny little grocery store. And now they have another one in Highland Park. But it was it. The reason why I loved it is like it was just that all encompassing experience. You walked in and it smells good. Everything in there is, like, really beautiful and vibrant and. And, you know, they're like, they care about what they're selling you. They care about who they're doing business with. They had a tiny little prepared food counter and it wasn't like crazy stuff, know? It was like you could get a baguette with prosciutto and butter, which my husband loves, like so. But it was it's this experience of the folks that work in there. You can ask them questions and they're not going to, like, try to just sell you something. It's not, you know, it's more expensive than going to Trader Joe's by far, but it's totally worth the experience. So it's places like those. I mean, I think I'm I'm excited because I feel like I've seen boutiques. Kind of come back. I mean, I feel like ten years ago, Batiks were like dropping off like flies and slowly but surely is such a beautiful resurgence.
Michelle: Yeah, I think because the malls, I mean, I think everybody's like so over big box retail, you know, I mean, it's not all big box, but for the most part, like the Macy's the you go to a mall and walk it's and I've got to go to that area that you're talking about because it's like, I love that area. And they're always like the hipster and they're always so much more forward and the curating is so well done. I just parking like and I and I'm like, because I'm impatient. It's like driving in the neighborhoods and it's like everyone's like, you need to go because I'm having a hard time now finding stores that I'm super inspired by, like it used to be Urban Outfitters, and now they've kind of, you know, it's all become a little bit more homogenized, I guess.
Michelle: It's not so, you know, trying to find those retailers. So that's why that's one of my questions for everybody. But always for some reason and I don't know if it's because now I work with Bristol Farms, but small grocery stores like specialty grocers and and like I posted one of my Instagram the other day like I South American Open Markets. I don't know why. I think it's like the texture of the baskets and the old hanging scales and just the layers and how they merchandised food. I don't know why I find that so. And I think it's because, you know, we work with apparel and gifts and it's like I see every line under the sun every day, but you go in there and it's like half the lines I don't know about. And it's like they all look so special. And you talk to the people that work there and they're so passionate about and it because it's departmental buys like the grocers, you know, the, the fishmonger is all about the fish and the meat guys and like all of them are so passionate and it's, it's it's it has. What's the word? It's it. It's hard not to get caught up in their passion. It's contagious.
Elaine: That's totally.
Elaine: Yeah, totally. I agree with you. Yeah, I mean, there's. There's a couple of others. Like, there's a really cool store. My. My husband loves it. It's called General Quarters, and it's on La Brea right across from American Rag. Like, it's it's men's only, but it's it's just it's like the guys in there are awesome. The product's great. They make some of their own stuff, but then they carry a lot of kind of cool heritage brands. There's also a neat store called Trading Post on La Brea. There's this magic little pod there now, but that's like a a husband and wife team, these adorable French folks who, like they they do all this. He's like a total denim head, but they do all this, like, super cozy, like very laid back gear. But that place is an experience because it reminds me a lot of some of the places like in Tokyo, like capital in Tokyo is like I mean, it's dreamy. I mean, the clothes are a lot of them are just insane. Like David Sedaris has a brilliant I believe it was just an article about when he and his sisters go to Capitol because, I mean, some of the clothes are just insane, but it's like this whole thing and you come out of there smelling like the store. I'm a big fan of burning incense. Like, you got to have a whole ambience, sight, sound. Wait. Say that again.
Michelle: Right. Sound and scent.
Elaine: Exactly. So I'm like, totally down. If I come out smelling like a store that I love, I'm super happy. One last one, because I think you'll love it. There's this. Oh, my God. I had somehow stumbled on them through whatever algorithm my phone has. But there's this husband and wife duo that have a they're a jewelry line. And it's well, they they have refurbished like basically it's like a like a gypsy wagon sort of thing. And they're off to panga on the weekends and they make all these this beautiful jewelry like copper.
Michelle: Is it the guys that are able to do the we actually rock paradise carries. Jason went and found them somehow and I'm like, what are these? They make these like crystal trees with copper. And he's like, this hippy dippy couple live in their van. They just go, place this place.
Elaine: This, this wagon. It is so it's called Alchemy Road, but I think it's ALC me. It's like spelled a little differently. I can forward you the.
Michelle: I'm going to ask you to send me a list of all these because we're going.
Michelle: To link them.
Michelle: In the notes. So because I know people are going to want to see all these. Yeah, I mean, that's I mean, it's the same thing for me. I mean, it's like such a great resource of like stores that I'm willing to bet half the people. Plus, I've got a lot of people that follow along from different states that come in for the shows and they always do the circuit of stores. So that'll be great.
Elaine: Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah. I mean, I'm excited. I think there's a lot of there's a lot of really cool stuff happening. But what I like about it is it's not this like I don't feel like it's this like unattainable exclusive. Like that can happen here, especially in LA where, you know, you got to know somebody. You got it's like all of these places are you don't have to be anybody to get in there. They're super cool. There's they you know, things feel fresh all the time. Like it's just it's easy and it's also really welcoming, which makes all the difference in the world.
Michelle: So yeah. So their last question hit me. It's the one question that I'm asking everybody is your craziest anthropology story.
Elaine: Oh, God. Well, I definitely know exactly which one, which one that is. And I will preface it by saying it is not the time or one of the many times that somebody naked was like shaking it behind. Glen sank while we were doing a walk through and I was trying not to, like, piss myself from, like, break out laughing while naked person was, like, shaking it in the window. Or was it. Yeah, well I think because they could see themselves, you know, how like if it's bright outside and you're standing in front of a window, you're looking at yourself. So it was like nudie dance party looking at themselves. But meanwhile we're inside going, Just don't turn around, please just don't turn around.
Michelle: So everyone knows. Glenn Sanc was the president of Anthro who had come and do walk through your store. And it was like it was like the biggest thing.
Elaine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it was like yeah, it was like the royals coming to town and we had a good visit with him. You, like, could go home and sleep and, like, feel like you've, like, literally just won the world. Yeah. Gobsmack was that.
Michelle: Favorite. My favorite word. Gobsmacked. I just want to be gobsmacked. And that's still kind of what I aim for is the gobsmacked. So your crazy story, not being the naked person.
Elaine: Okay, so this one was Santa Barbara and we had relocated the store. So we're like on Northern State Street and not that that I need to put too much context around there, but we were in sorry. Yeah, yes, we were in northern states. So in Santa Barbara where we were on State Street, it was generally pretty chill. Like there was kind of a section of State Street which is the main drag, but it had a little bit of like you could expect a little bit more excitement perhaps. But we were there and we were doing a visit, we're doing a walkthrough. And this was when I was a district visual manager and my bosses were with me. So like we were doing like a visit. So like I was kind of a little bit on the line.
Michelle: And that is not a small group of people either. Just preface how many people are in a visit.
Elaine: Yeah. So there were like six of us just kind of wandering around together, which, you know, in a small in that store it wasn't one of those stores where like the space was just wide open. It was like smaller room. So it was a decent group of us kind of meandering through the store. And at some point my, my partner now we have a dog toy in the background. Sorry. She's very excited about this story, by the way. But anyway, at some point a couple of people wandered off like somebody got a call. And so it was just a few of us. Well, we're standing towards the front of the store, and this guy kind of wanders in. Oh, no, I'm sorry. A couple wanders in. A young couple in Santa Barbara, being kind of college town was not abnormal, like young couple just kind of walking in. But there was something about them. They were they were kind of looking behind themselves like they were. So something was like up. And so we were like, okay, what's going on? So about, I don't know, 30 seconds later, this very large, like tall and kind of encumbering, older, like older at the time. I mean, he's probably not much older than me now, but like I would say this like mid-fifties, like kind of like a dad, right? Like comes in and is chasing them and is like the couple.
Elaine: Yeah. Is chasing them. So and at some point he like we can tell, like we can see what's going on. So we kind of insert ourselves. We're like, Sir, I'm sorry you have to leave. Like, we're and we're kind of trying to handle it really delicately. And at some point he flips over a table like a table with product on it, not a home table, but like an apparel table. And we're like, okay, good lord. So I'm, I don't know, I'm always kind of the mindset like. It's our store. We have to protect the customers or I have to protect the team. Like, I wasn't thinking for any second at when this started that it was going to go where it went because, you know, normally you just kind of get in somebody in somebody's way and you're like, you have to leave now. We're calling the police. You have to leave now. Like usually that solves it. That did not solve it. So what ended up happening is he starts kind of going after this couple. And so I just kind of try to continue to be like, Sir, you have got to stop.
Elaine: So then he focused his attention on me. But this is where it gets really crazy is I'm also wearing this is at a time where I was like very invested in my like vintage style. So I was wearing some sort of like floor length vintage gunny sack dress. But I also had on, like some sort of crazy like six inch wedge, like some sort of cool wedge sandal. So he then focuses attention on me and starts chasing me. And Kylie is with me too. So like in your mind, imagine being a store and watching two women getting chased by some crazy man. And I'm like, I'm like, holding my dress, like, high stepping, like, trying not to fall, but also like being scared that he was going to grab my arm. I mean, I was significantly smaller than him. So we are doing laps and like our, our regional manager was like on the phone with the cops, like standing there on her cell phone. And then my partner though is like in the office, has no idea this is going down. So this goes on for several minutes. The staff is like keeping the customers back.
Michelle: What is the customer's reaction?
Elaine: Well, it wasn't super busy so that they were like the staff is just trying to keep them back like towards the fitting room, like basically and like if we could, if there was ever a second like catch our breath, like there wasn't once we started chasing, but prior to that, like while the, like he was still kind of focused on this couple, we were like, keep everybody back. Just like, make sure you guys just like, let's just keep this here.
Michelle: Was he saying anything to you or just chasing?
Elaine: No, just chasing. Like chasing, but chasing like. Like a bear. Like a big, like crazy. Like it was very physical. And all I remember is, like, I just kept thinking, like, keep my arms tight, because if I was, like, doing this, I was, like, so scared that he was going to, like, tear my arm back. So, but what's funny is, like, so we did a couple of laps and it's like absolute madness. And then he just kind of stopped and like stood kind of in the front door and then just kind of like wandered out into the street. And I mean, at this point, we're kind of we're just relieved because I'm like, okay, nobody got hurt. I mean, this was insane. But the funniest part was that my partner, Steve, like, at this point, just kind of comes out of the office. It's like, Hey, what's going on? And I was like, So then he took off down because the guy was just kind of bumbling around. I don't know what was wrong with him. And I feel bad because he I think he obviously had something going on that was not right. And so Steve ended up chasing him down the street and then the police got involved and they caught him because I don't think the guy actually, to be fair, like, I don't think he really knew what he was doing. Not that that made it right. But like, I think the way he like wandered out of the store was like, okay, that's over. And I never I don't honestly like I think the cops came and I think they questioned the couple. Like they were like, do you know this person? Yada, yada, yada. But it was just madness. All I know is that basically that was the end of the visit. And I was like, If we don't go and have a drink right now, I don't know what the hell I'm going to do, but I just got my ass chased in the store, like lived to tell about it. But it was absolute madness. I mean.
Speaker1: I have a lot of crazy like obviously everyone knows their true promenade has a lot of crazies. Like, did Santa.
Michelle: Barbara have a lot of.
Michelle: That? I mean, I know they have a pretty big homeless community there as well.
Elaine: But yeah.
Michelle: Are those the only two stories and how that. Well, I'm guessing New York stores also have a bit of that. Do they or.
Elaine: No, I don't know. I don't know. I've never actually like I mean, I've worked at Rock Center for a couple of days, but I mean, I think Rock Center is probably the one that's most insulated, like Soho probably had more ability to have like interesting characters off the street. Santa Barbara did have a little bit of that. I mean, I it was similar to the promenade. I mean, you just kind of get the sense that there was some some bad drugs get going around. But they weren't it wasn't it wasn't crazy. I mean, there was some there was for some reason, there's always nudity. It's always men, really.
Elaine: Oh, no. Always, ma'am. Lots to shake around, but like. Oh, my Lord. Yeah. No, it wasn't. It wasn't too bad. But, yeah, I mean, Santa Barbara, definitely. There were there were times where you just had to kind of keep your eyes open. I mean, it gets no different than being in LA. Like, you just can't really you can't get too comfortable if you're by yourself. But yeah, I mean, there were there were some I mean, for the most part, not too much craziness. I mean, you'd think that there would be like endless supply of stories. I mean, there were some weird ones. Oh, I.
Michelle: Can't wait to hear the rest of these stories, because already.
Michelle: Heard little bits and pieces of other people. I'm like, Is it all.
Michelle: Right like this? I mean. I mean. I mean.
Speaker1: The gap was like the worst with somebody pooped in our fitting room. That is horrifying. I'm like, I don't know. Thank God I don't remember anything like that.
Elaine: But that happened to me at the Gap in Water Tower in Chicago. And the worst part is they used like at the time we had mannequin arms that were like basically like stuffing, like it was like fabric, like, like almost like a tube. And they helped themself to using that as sort of a cleanup cleanup device. I mean, yeah, somebody pooped behind the wall in Santa monica, like, you know, those art walls on the second floor, like where the windows were frosted. Somebody we think it was a kid. We think some kid, like had an emergency and like went back behind. I mean, people are I mean, retail people are wonderful, but people can be really disgusting. Wow.
Michelle: So on that note.
Elaine: Sorry, I didn't mean to take it down that.
Michelle: Because I know in the brought up.
Elaine: The plumbing.
Michelle: But thank you so much for joining me. I so appreciate this and it's so great to be able to see you face to face because I love you and I adore you. And it's like it's nice to be able to catch up at the same time, kind of tell the story of like who you are as well is like what anthro and the experiences we had. And because I think it's like it's somewhat of a mythical creature, I think to a lot of people and I feel like this is like since all this came out, this is a good way of telling our mythical creature story.
Elaine: No, thank you. I mean, I obviously love you and I'm always happy to to have I mean, talking about this stuff is such a joy because it's such a strange world. And I do think I think Anthro did something that was so unique. And I see I think other retailers want to dip their toe in that water, but it is a hard thing to do. And I can you have to spend a lot of money and you have to find the great a lot of talent, which those two things alone is a huge investment. So yeah, I mean hopefully.
Michelle: It's getting dialed back now a little bit more.
Elaine: Now. Yeah, yeah, it's different.
Michelle: They're now doing it when it's like however many stores they're at now. It's like I just but it is nice to see that people are because I always say like, Anthro is all about sight, sound and scent. The smelling candle from Patti Wax and the visual of the K. I mean, it just it's all dreamy. So I'm, I'm grateful that I had the ability to work with you and talk to you this afternoon. And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at Retail whore Podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com