Aug. 25, 2021


Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
iHeartRadio podcast player badge
YouTube Channel podcast player badge

This week’s interview is with Chris Willard from The Great Gift & Paper Co. Chris began her career as a registered nurse where medicine was her first love. At that time, as crazy as it sounds, there weren’t a lot of nursing opportunities fresh out of nursing school so rather than working in the hospital unit of a local prison, she took a job with Johnson & Johnson as a sales rep. After working as a sales rep for a very long time, one day she decided to open up a retail boutique and the rest is history. The Great Gift and Paper Co. is a boutique that has evolved from my brick-and-mortar store La Belle Maison. The name change to The Great Gift and Paper Co. arose to be more reflective of what my shop morphed into--more gifts and paper. Take a listen to Chris’ journey from working with Johnson & Johnson, raising a family all while continuing to build what is now The Great Gift & Paper Co. Chris is truly a hustler and inspiration to us!





MICHELLE: Hey there.

MICHELLE: I'm Michelle Sherrier and this is the Retail Whore Podcast,  stories and lessons from the life and retail. Hey guys, happy Wednesday. I am currently in Las Vegas. I've been here for a week. I've been doing the setup for the sales producer showroom here in the Las Vegas Market Center. Gift show officially starts today, so I happily am hanging up my merchandiser hat for the season and turning into a buyer for several different retailers. It is the show that is the last show, I believe, of the entire show season. And it is one of the most important shows because it's fourth quarter. So that includes everything from fall to Christmas. And I'll be here for Bert's Pharmacy and another brand new client which will be filling in their brand new store that is opening, I believe, mid-October. So lots of things to do. But it seems appropriate that we have Chris Willard today from Great Gift and Paper. She and I started following each other on Instagram, I want to say about a year ago. And I'm fascinated by I mean, she has a phenomenal eye and I'm fascinated by her store footprint. And to hear her background is incredibly impressive.

MICHELLE: She is a nurse by degree, and when she got out of school, she had a choice to go practice in the local prison or sell Johnson and Johnson. So go figure. She decided to sell Johnson and Johnson, I believe, medical devices. And for those of you who know if you are a pharmaceutical rep, it is incredibly stressful. It is a lot of hours. You are selling anywhere from medical equipment or pieces to say a a knee replacement to actual medical supplies, to medications. And you work with doctors and hospitals, etc., and it is very high stressful. And she is one of those magical unicorns that decided while she has this very busy, stressful job, that she's going to open a retail store. So we get to hear about her retail store and her philosophy on retail, as well as her decision to close her stores and then venture into a totally different type of retail, which I love and I think is truly part of the future of retail and and thinking outside of the box of how you can have a store. So without further ado, here is Chris Willard from.

MICHELLE: Great gift for. Hi, Chris. Welcome to the show. I'm so fine. I'm so grateful that you're here. Thank you so much, because I know you're busy and you do a lot of you wear a lot of hats. So I'm so appreciative of your time right now.

CHRIS: No problem. I'm looking forward to it.

MICHELLE: So you and I have gone back and forth for the last year on Instagram, which I love. I feel like I know you.

CHRIS: Which I don't even know how we hooked up on Instagram, to be honest.

MICHELLE: I'm not sure. You know, it's funny because some people find me through Stephen Young, some people find me through I'm not I'm not even sure. But I love, though, that we connected because I love going back and forth with you.

CHRIS: Yes. Yes, I.

MICHELLE: Know. I have the same question I asked everybody on. The first one is, how old were you when you first started working and what was your first job?

CHRIS: Oh, I was 15 years old, driving illegally to the next town over. And I grew up in a small town in West Virginia. So I went to work in Steubenville, Ohio, at the mall, and I worked at Richmond Brothers with like a special permit.

MICHELLE: Oh, my God, I love it. You had a permit for work, but you didn't have a license to drive.

CHRIS: Did not have a license to drive.

MICHELLE: What did you do there? I was.

CHRIS: A little salesperson, so.

MICHELLE: I would.

CHRIS: Have you heard of Richmond Brothers? Do you know what that is? Men's clothing store.

MICHELLE: Oh, okay.

CHRIS: So it was when men would come in and they would need us a jacket, a shirt and a tie, and I would put their little outfits together at 15 years old.

MICHELLE: That's amazing. It's really it's always really interesting because everybody I've interviewed except for one person, which was Annie this morning, I started work at 14 and 15.

CHRIS: Oh, my.

MICHELLE: God. There's definitely a link of the the hustle that people have. I mean, it's really interesting. And most of us have started ice cream stores.

CHRIS: It's interesting.

MICHELLE: They started selling men apparel, men's apparel.

CHRIS: I love it. Men's apparel.


CHRIS: I still love men's clothing.

MICHELLE: I bet you still know how to do a hem hem pair pants as well.

CHRIS: No hemming for me. I was not the seamstress, you know, I would tell them, you know, we would mark them, you know, when I learned how to mark them. But I didn't do the sewing.

MICHELLE: Yeah, I still from Fred SEGAL. I was in a men's store and we sold ties and suits, not suits, but pants, shirts, ties like casual dress wear. But I Fred is the one who taught me how to not hem. But same thing, mark a pair of pants.

CHRIS: Pair of pants. The brave. Where the break. Yeah.

MICHELLE: My gosh. Hilarious.

CHRIS: Exactly.

MICHELLE: That is like and I'm kind of glad I still know how to do it. So if I ever have to do it for my husband, not that he ever another, he never wears anything other than surf shorts. So if he does ever wear a pair of pants, I will know how to hem them.

CHRIS: Or at least there you go. I know where the break should be. Anywhere.

MICHELLE: I'm sure that's changed though too. From the nineties.

CHRIS: Things are much slimmer.

MICHELLE: That's it. So there's not that break anymore? Yeah. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

CHRIS: Well, let's see. I think it's really interesting because I'm actually a nurse by degree. Oh, so I had absolutely no intention of ever doing retail. So my first love is medicine. And so when I came out of nursing school, there really weren't many jobs, which I know sounds crazy thinking that and the job that I would have had to take was going to be in the prison unit at Ohio State University. So I had two choices. I had interviewed for that position and then a a job with Johnson and Johnson as a sales rep for laparoscopic surgery. So I decided to do the sales rep route instead of staying in nursing. And I did that for a very long time. And then I don't know what in the world made me do it, Michel. But I said, I think I'm going to open a little boutique. Zero experience.

MICHELLE: So left field from what you were doing.

CHRIS: Yup so.

CHRIS: Far from.

CHRIS: I had zero training. I had never been to a market. I knew nothing when it was a new development that was coming in into an adjacent neighborhood. Because now I live in Columbus, I live in a little town called Gahanna. In a little town was just developing just about 7 minutes away from where we live right now. And I'm like, man, that would be a great location for a little boutique. And I did it. I did it knowing nothing. I knew.

MICHELLE: What. You still doing? Both jobs? Yes. So with so many people like I know so many people that keep their regular 9 to 5 and then their job, their stores like their side hustle.

CHRIS: Yeah, but I had I mean, I had a big job with Johnson and Johnson, so at some point I said, Oh my. Well, when the store, the interestingly, the store opened right after 911.


CHRIS: So when I had signed the lease after 911 happened and now mind you, I had all of this inventory in my house, so I had built all of this inventory up. 911 happened and the people I was leasing from, because it was a new development, said, you absolutely can back out if you want to. And I said, And what am I going to do with all of this? Or I can't just eat it all. Wow. So anyways, we moved forward and I was that was LaBelle. That was LaBelle Amazon. And so I was there for I had a ten year lease and I think we were just shy of that ten years because I don't know if you remember, you probably do 2008 and 2011. Really, really hard years.


CHRIS: And so we closed basically in 2011 when my lease was about just about to expire.

MICHELLE: It's amazing. We waited for 911.

CHRIS: And yeah, we made it through all of that. We made it through all of that. Yep, we really did. I had two designers that were working with me and honestly, Michelle, I knew I literally knew nothing and I honestly credit any thing that I know in terms of visual merchandising. To the two designers that I worked with and two guys that my sister in law introduced me to, we were like the night before the store was going to open and things were just not coming together. And my sister in law was the head of graphic design for longer burger, the longer burger baskets. No, it's it was a big thing in Ohio anyways. She said, well, let me get the guys from Longer Burger to come over and help. And they taught me everything that I know now. I mean, I literally knew nothing.

MICHELLE: Of the interview. I didn't know. This is amazing.

CHRIS: Oh, yeah. I was like a total sponge watching these guys do their work. And, you know, whenever I would do the buying and they would come in and then set the store and then little by little, I learned how to do things. And so that's how that's how it happened.

MICHELLE: So when you were doing your 9 to 5 and had the store, like how how much time were you spending in your store at that point? Was it like all of your spare time?

CHRIS: It was all of my spare time and then some.


CHRIS: And I had a three year old.

MICHELLE: I was just about..that was my next question. Did you have a husband and a kid or did you family or.

CHRIS: I had two children. My daughter and my son are eight years apart and I had a husband. So yeah, I was oh my.

MICHELLE: Gosh, that's crazy. I don't I.

CHRIS: I look back and I think to myself, how how did you do? You know, because now it's like I'm standing still compared to the stuff I used to have to do because kids had to get to, you know, my daughter had to get to ballet. Kristopher got very busy with youth sports. And I don't know how I don't know how I did it.

MICHELLE: I think, you know, it's funny, a lot of people I talk to you when they look back on all the all the hats they were wearing and all the juggling, everyone's like. To be honest, I have no idea how I did that. I mean, it's I mean, I guess it's that that that hustle, that that drive to success to do anything, you just kind of go through the motions and just do what you need to do.

CHRIS: You just do it. That's all there is to it. We would just pack up the kids and go wherever we needed to go. That's it. We just.

MICHELLE: So now, now, now. I have questions that aren't on your list. What? When you. So you opened and you didn't know anything about anything. Where did you find all this merchandise and how did you put it together?

CHRIS: I don't I don't know. There must be something to be said for an innate ability. Do you know what I mean? There must be. Something to that component. You know that some people know how to do things innately, you know, like, I guess I just. I knew it was just a talent that I didn't know that I had. You know what I mean? I just didn't know it. But I sort of was drawn to it because maybe inside I knew I could do it, you know?

MICHELLE: Did you buy? Because a lot of my clients, not a lot. But some of the clients that I that I come into, they have gone to shows and they buy everything they liked. And then it gets to the store and it's like none of it goes together.

CHRIS: Yeah, no, I never, ever did that. I because I always knew that I was trying to tell a story with whatever I was buying. That's so that's that's what I would do.

MICHELLE: It is an innate sense. That is an innate sense. My I have a client that's up in San Jose and she has a normal 9 to 5. She'll be on this as well. She has a store called Missoni, which is beautiful and it's so well edited and it's so well bought and the visual of It's beautiful and she's her normal job. She's an HR person for like this massive manufacturing company with a plant in China and a plant in Mexico. So she's on the phone still to this day. She's doing this and like she works in the store and then she does her 9 to 5 and she's on the calls with like China at three in the morning and then goes to like, I don't know how you're doing this like that.

CHRIS: And I will say this. Had I had the technology that's available today, I probably would have continued to do it. But we didn't have all of this in 2001. Do you know what I mean? So, you know, everything had to be done in person. We were lucky that we had emails back then. So archaic. So it sounds so foreign. I know. I mean, now you can do all of this. We didn't have.

MICHELLE: That. Yeah.

CHRIS: It was much more difficult. Probably had I had all the access that I have now, I probably would have kept going with my big job.

MICHELLE: So with, so you close the bell in your bio, it said you took a much needed hiatus.


MICHELLE: How long were you on a hiatus for?

CHRIS: Well, what happened was when that was closing, when the bell was closing, my son was starting high school. And a lot of my life, Michelle, revolves around my son's golf. He's a.


CHRIS: And so he golfed all through high school. And I certainly did not want to miss a minute of it. And so he golfed all through high school, and I had to take him to tournaments before he started driving. You know, we were going all over the place for him to golf. And then, of course, high school ended. And then he played Division one college golf in Florida. And when he did that, my friend who owns the salon said, Chris, why don't you come and put some stuff in the salon? And I'm like, Kelly, girl, I am retired. I am not starting that because, you know, there's heartache in this business. Do you know what I mean? Not every day is great. Yeah. And so I'm like, I put that all behind me. I'm done. And she had me come into the salon. She was like, Well, just come in and take a look around. Oh, my gosh. All right. And of course, suckered right back in. So that was that.


CHRIS: That was five years ago. Now I have become like a squatter in.

MICHELLE: Set right.

CHRIS: Now. She can't get rid of me even if she wants to.

MICHELLE: So you're a store within a store. So a salon, which I think is brilliant because it's much like pharmacies where you have a captive audience, they're coming.


MICHELLE: They've got time sitting there with foils on their hair. They can walk around the store. I mean.

CHRIS: Oh, they love it.

MICHELLE: It's brilliance.

CHRIS: Factor. Yeah, it wasn't my idea. It was her idea.

MICHELLE: That's I mean.

CHRIS: Like I said, I had I declined. And then she was like, well, just try it. And then little by little, it just people just love the convenience of it. It is just a convenience factor, number one.

MICHELLE: Wow, that's great. Now, how many how many square feet do you have?

CHRIS: Oh, I couldn't even tell you. I mean, I just operate out of the lobby, you know, I she just has a beautiful her salon is lovely. It's beautiful. It goes way back. There's a day spa on the other side, but everybody comes through this entrance. And so when they're waiting for their appointments, you know, we have a captive audience. We just do.


CHRIS: Especially I could not I cannot even give you a guesstimate of I mean, I think I started there with like one little table, one little table of goods. And then, like I said, I sort of spread out. She's like she's like, you're getting a little comfortable.

MICHELLE: That's great. I love it. I went on her side. I love seeing that she cross promotes you across the product. Almost like. Yes, almost like it's her product, which is.

CHRIS: Oh, yes, yes, yes.


CHRIS: That. Yes. Yes. Well, in the way that we have it, Michelle is my rent, too, and I'm just fortunate because she's my friend. But my rent is a percentage of sales smart. So? So everything just sort of runs through an iPad and there's incentive for the staff to move product because the owner then is getting a higher rent from me the more we sell.


CHRIS: So it's, it's. It's all her idea. It was genius. So I can't take you.

MICHELLE: Or do you have to be there all the time or do you have other people or this or it's just they sell it and you put it in and merchandise it and. Exactly. That's great. So you don't have any I mean, you have essentially almost no overhead. You don't have payroll restraints. And that's so it's it's almost like a permanent pop up shop.

CHRIS: It that's what it is. It's like a permanent pop up shop. I don't want to be too comfortable, though, because I never want to take advantage. I know that I'm a guest there. So I am.

MICHELLE: Always. And you've been there five years.

CHRIS: What's that?

MICHELLE: Your five years of being a guest in five years?

CHRIS: Yes, I've been there five years. Yeah.

MICHELLE: Wow. Tell me a little bit about the neighborhood and the location that you're the the neighborhood that you're in.

CHRIS: Super interesting because the salon is located. I don't know, you could probably Google Eastern Town Center, and that's a major shopping area in Columbus. So it's probably our best shopping area in Columbus. But this salon is across the street, so we're not in the mix of that major shopping area. So my clients are not really people who are shopping at Easton, more people that are just coming to get their hair done, massage, whatever. So I don't really pool those people because of the because of the shop, do you know what I mean? But it is in a premier area. But the problem with that, Michel, is there are a lot of lines that are tied up across the street.

MICHELLE: Yeah. That that I mean, I, I respect and I am when it's on my side and very thankful that they have a zip code restriction. But it does make it so challenging.

CHRIS: It does.

MICHELLE: New line. So then that that breach is a whole other question that also wasn't on your is so how do you find lines that aren't so saturated within your area? I mean, if you have that many shopping areas in that that zip code is very full.

CHRIS: It's very challenging. It really is very challenging. Now, you have to remember some of the lines I have been ordering since 2001.

MICHELLE: So you already had.

CHRIS: A like Archipelago like I have lines like Milk Bar that I've had for some time. Yeah, I have, you know, some of the lines that, you know, a lot of people buy I actually try to stay away from anyway because those do become stale. You know, people like it's just too much. You see them too frequently. So say that again.


CHRIS: Done the line. I don't carry that at all.


CHRIS: Unfortunately. I mean, it's an adorable line.

MICHELLE: Yeah, but it's everywhere now. Now Home Goods has it, so it's really everywhere now.

CHRIS: Like, my pie is kind of getting that way. So you just I sort of like, pick and choose. I'll tell you one of the lines that I found, which is very interesting. Do you know Ben's Garden?

MICHELLE: Yeah, I used to buy that. Wow. Back when I had a store at Fred Segal. So this is like 20 years ago when he was just a kid. He was.

CHRIS: Funny. Same thing. He was in Atlanta in the at the very least, expensive foods that they can buy. And I have been buying them. I did Sugar Boo very early on. It's very funny because I don't mean to say this to be boastful or whatever.

MICHELLE: But for whatever.

CHRIS: Reason I seem to spot a line ahead of the time.

MICHELLE: That's great. You've got to get on.

CHRIS: What? I mean, like, I'll pick up. But the problem with that is people haven't caught on to it yet. Like as an example, there's the Buddha girl bracelets. They're everywhere. They're all over Instagram. They are a phenomenal line. I bought those years ago.

MICHELLE: You have a good eye then, and a great instinct.

CHRIS: Yeah.

MICHELLE: So the girls at Kingfisher Road who do apparel also have a really good instinct like that of being bought something and know that there's something there before it becomes, yes, even a.

CHRIS: Color trend or whatever. It's just it's just a bizarre thing. So I don't know, just so.

MICHELLE: You you have a lot of lines and a lot of different divisions if you have milk barns. So what tell me about the divisions that you have in this little.

CHRIS: Big little shop and this little lobby. Yeah, it is a lobby, so it changes seasonally. But certain departments stay like baby is always there, but it's always new and fresh baby. Because here's the challenge of being in a salon where you have regular customers. The challenge is they have to see something new.

MICHELLE: Absolutely.

CHRIS: So what I don't ever do is buy very deep into a line.

MICHELLE: So you kind of cherry pick it.

CHRIS: Say that again.

MICHELLE: You kind of cherry pick it.

CHRIS: Well, yeah. And I just don't buy like ten of any one item. I just I can't do that. So because of my client, because of the way the clientele there is. So we have always baby, we always have personal care like the archipelago. I love the milk. I was always known for having that product at LaBelle. Let's see what else? Rifle paper. Great line for us. And then everything else is just depends on what story I'm telling. Like today I went in and I did a little bridal story. So I will sit at my computer and I know what I'm going to do next. Like Father's Day, I knew that I wanted to do, like, a bourbon story. And then for 4th of July, I'll change. I'll change the Father's Day. And like, my next theme is like fruit. So I did I bought some fro fruit just like you do. That's why I found you. I had the display, but that's just how I mean, that's what I do. But everything to tables are seasonal and the rest sort of stay.

MICHELLE: So when you do.

CHRIS: January two, we do a lot of jewelry.

MICHELLE: I bet. I'm sure you do phenomenal jewelry. So when you do when you're laying things out, like do you are you working on a calendar and you're looking at like, we're going to set up Father's Day a month beforehand? Or are you or are you just kind of winging it and just doing it?

CHRIS: I've been doing it for so long. I could show you like all of the notebooks that I've had from the past. But I remember I went from 100 square feet to this little lobby. So, you know, I can manage this more or less in my brain, do you know what I mean? And plus, I've been doing it for five years, so I know exactly when things are going to change, you know? I know exactly, you know, when I need to set up for Father's Day, when I need to be ready for Mother's Day. You know, I just it's it's become intuitive now.

MICHELLE: I don't I don't know. Two years.

CHRIS: Is a long, long.

MICHELLE: Time. Sounds like it. I mean, I love it. And this is what it's like. I your your back story has completely diverted a lot of the things I.

MICHELLE: Was going to ask you.

MICHELLE: But when you when you since you have holiday do you buy like for the pharmacy? I stopped buying like straight holiday like Christmas and Santa snowmen.

CHRIS: Oh, my gosh. I did the same thing, Michelle. None of it.

MICHELLE: Because it all goes on sale.

CHRIS: It all goes on sale. So what I do is I decorate for the holidays, but I don't. Because here's the thing. When people the way I figure is that when people buy a gift, they want it to last beyond Christmas.


CHRIS: And so I will decorate for the holidays. But I don't I stop doing that too. I mean, because I just don't think people are buying from a little boutique like mine ornaments or it's just not going to happen.

MICHELLE: Mine is just because it became such heavy rotation of sales. It's like, yeah, I mean, I mean sadly because the big box homewares target, everything goes on sale.

CHRIS: It's like, yes.

MICHELLE: 15, 30 days before the holiday and that's just when we're rolling it out. So I don't like.

CHRIS: Right, right. Right.

MICHELLE: And I mean that, that now I'm like, forget it. So same thing.

CHRIS: We might do the same.

MICHELLE: What we've started to do is kind of take some of the like for Valentine's Day and Jelly Cat and we'll do red, white, red and white ribbons on it.

CHRIS: So we do the.

MICHELLE: Exact same like valentines. So that's that's interesting.

CHRIS: I use ribbon. To sort of signify the holiday.

MICHELLE: That's great. I love that. Yeah, it's I'm seeing that. Although I did talk to a lot of people this last holiday because everyone was home and no one was going. Everyone was decorating their houses. So I did talk to a couple stores that were like, we had Christmas in and out and it was sold out like literally like two weeks after we got into that. That would be probably the last time that happens. But that happened because everybody was home. I mean.

CHRIS: Everyone was.

MICHELLE: Made to feel like Christmas because they're not going anywhere.

CHRIS: Right. Have you ever been to Kansas City to store called Nell Hill's?

MICHELLE: No. There's so much travel I end up doing is mostly in New York. I've been to Chicago once to that crazy candy expo. Yeah, and. But I don't get a chance. I wish I did, but I have no.

CHRIS: She I went I went to visit her store that I mean, honestly, my husband and I would pack up our kids. I would find these great stores and we would just go visit these stores. So. Wow. It was unbelievable. And we were it was in Atchison, Kansas, and she would have an open house at her house. But there was a mag. The way I found her was that there was a magazine, Country Living or something like that. Did an article about Now Hills I'm talking 20 years ago.

MICHELLE: Still one of my.

CHRIS: Friends she would sell out of Christmas by Thanksgiving.

MICHELLE: It's people that do it, do it and do it deep. And I think you have you cultivate a clientele that just waits for that. And then obviously having the Mecca of all magazines like Country Living dropping your.

CHRIS: Yes. Your story. Exactly.

MICHELLE: I did a store and this is years ago and I was on Main Street in Santa Monica. And she wrote Christmas so deep and it was like nine, 11 foot trees. Garland, garland over every single armoire.

CHRIS: Yeah.

MICHELLE: Your fingers by the end of it, trying to do this and I'm so grateful. It's like no more.

CHRIS: I can't. I can't.

MICHELLE: I don't have anybody really that would do big Christmas like that at all. And I think it's just kind of some of the past, but the people that do do it and do it deep, I think that, oh, I can see now because I can only see. So tell me. So you went through the items. What are some of your favorite brands that you have?

CHRIS: Well, let's see. I use the only lotion that I use personally for myself, like for my legs and my arms is Archipelago. The milk. I have loved it since 2001. It's just it's the best.

MICHELLE: It has a cult following.

CHRIS: It never is greasy. I love that. The ones that I mentioned previously, those have been with me forever. Like rifle paper I did. I used to do votive candles. I didn't pick those back up here. I mean, I do Valuspa now which I.

MICHELLE: Love great line.

CHRIS: Those are those are great candles in volcano from Capri.

MICHELLE: Blue yeah. So that's a total cult. I mean, like that that is a cult cult following.

CHRIS: Yeah, exactly. And that's, you know, primarily those are like my staples that I reorder the most and everything else. I try not to reorder, you know, I try not to have the same.

MICHELLE: It's funny, we think a lot because I, I have a rule now that don't as soon as you reorder it. I mean, you have bread and butter lines like balloons and stuff.

CHRIS: That people.

MICHELLE: Are going to come back for a day and day out. And then I've learned the hard way. As soon as you venture out of that and you reorder something, it comes back in and it bombs. It's like if everyone's seen it and now I'm like, much like you, I cherry pick all the lines. I don't, I don't go very deep and I work on delivery windows. So I always have something new, kind of dropping into the store every month or so.

CHRIS: Yeah. So I have a question for you.


CHRIS: Did you go to school to learn to do this or, you know, are you self-taught?

MICHELLE: Self-taught? I, I started in Wet Seal when I was like 14. And then I found out I love retail and I, I, I ventured away from it for a little bit. I came back and I decided I went for an interview at Fred Segal. Like, I just like it was crazy because I lived in Manhattan Beach and Santa Monica was so far away because I don't even know if I had a car then. But I went in for this interview. I worked with Fred, he was my mentor and I was doing apparel then and I had this love of apparel and I had stores. And so I learned merchandising from my mentor, but it was merchandising apparel.

CHRIS: Yeah.

MICHELLE: And then when the Northridge earthquake came, I lost. I lost so much that my accountants were like, you're done. Like, we're not we're not putting more money into it because the fault line ran straight down basically Santa Monica Boulevard. So everything that had just been delivered on net 30, most of it was broken. No one had insurance because even my even my insurance guy, Hoffman Brown, I think he his offices were leveled. He was in the valley and he was like, who? Who ever knew this was really ever going to happen? He's like, oh, my gosh. So I closed them and then I went to work for Z Gallery for I want to say like four years. And it was I started as managing it because that's what I knew. But I kept gravitating and gravitating because they would get a truck every week and I kept going and helping the merchandisers. And I kept I was doing more merchandising than I was managing.

CHRIS: So it became.

MICHELLE: Like, let's so I made the jump over to merchandising and then Anthro recruited me. And that's really where the real eye comes in. Like I had an eye. But you really start to finesse that understanding of balance and scale and building the architecture of your table and then building in and all those little weird lessons like don't treat your window like a garage sale. Like all of that comes from Anthro.

CHRIS: And yeah, so.

MICHELLE: I just, I mean, and this is all I've done. I mean, literally my entire 41 years I've been in retail and now it's, it's, it's funny when I interviewed kids for interns and whatnot that are in the school, it's like, I'm kind of glad I learned hands on because you realize that you run into situations when you're merchandising. Like, I just had him peeking handicraft. We had a window display. I'd ordered this really thick, cool jute rope that was for the it never came. And it was like, you have to you have to figure it out.

CHRIS: Otherwise, yeah, you get it.

MICHELLE: And you don't learn that. And I know I'm going to hear people about like you're telling people not to go to school, but you really you learn something different when it's hands on and you learn how to improvise. And you don't learn that in in a school like it's you literally learn it on the moment.

CHRIS: And sometimes I think. Michelle like. You can't teach people to have an eye.


CHRIS: Do you know what I mean? Like there's a certain component of visual merchandising that just comes naturally.

MICHELLE: Yeah, it's true. And it's. I think for the people that do it and they're really, really are passionate about it and really love it, those are the ones that really just kind of keep pushing the envelope. And and I love seeing like some of the younger merchandisers coming up now because it's a different I'm starting to tweak even the way I'm doing it because some of some of it I can see it's starting like it's like, okay, I'm getting bored of this, you know, it's like, okay, so I'm sorry, but it's interesting to watch the younger generation now, but it's still my style is still so Anthro.

CHRIS: I mean, it's, and it's so funny because before because, you know, I changed the name of my business. And so some of my clients from LaBelle were clients of Style Salon and they would come in and they didn't know it was me. And they would even say, Oh my gosh, this feels like La Belle Amazon. Because you have a signature style. I have a signature style. I didn't try to do that, but it just happened. And when I had my big store, one of the biggest compliments is that people would come in and say, Oh my gosh, I just want to live here.

MICHELLE: That is a huge compliment.

CHRIS: That's it. They would say, I just want to live in the store. And I'd be like, We would love for you to do.

MICHELLE: You need to post more pictures of your inside your store because.

CHRIS: I know just a little.

MICHELLE: Yeah, because I'm now I'm hearing this and now it's like I really want to see what interior looks like and your fixtures and your table. Like, you have to post more of that.

CHRIS: Because I have to do that. It's hard for me to get like a. You know, because what I end up capturing is both more of the salon than I do of the.

MICHELLE: Portrait portrait mode. On your iPhone.

CHRIS: On my iPhone. Maybe I'll try that because.

MICHELLE: The portrait mode will shoot whatever, six or eight feet in front of it and all the backgrounds kind of.

CHRIS: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I should try.

MICHELLE: That. Think I do the same thing. I'm like, all I'm seeing is like the ceiling tiles or the.

CHRIS: Front desk because don't forget, the front desk is there.

MICHELLE: Yeah. So yeah, you need to pose more pressures because now I'm like dying to see what the store looks like. So now show season's coming up. And I don't know about you, but I'm so excited. I mean, I've gone to a couple of shows, but they're so weird now with like, temperature, like, I'm so excited now. It sounds like it's going to be a normal show. What shows are you going to be attending and which are the ones you're most excited about?

CHRIS: Do you know what I the last show that I went to before COVID hit was magic. We happen to be out in Utah watching golf, of course, and it coincided with magic. And so that was the last show that I was at. I would definitely go back to Vegas.

MICHELLE: Do you sell apparel?

CHRIS: Yeah, we have apparel.

MICHELLE: You know, apparel as well. Okay. That's right. Because the blue and white linen shirt. Yes. I mean magic. I mean, I just had this conversation with Annie from Urban Girl Accessories is that she has gifts and apparel as well.

CHRIS: I've been in her store.

MICHELLE: They're so cute. And she's so cute. She's honestly the most positive, inspiring. I mean, she's just happy all the time. Like, that's just her. And it comes out so much in her business. Yeah, but we were talking about the shows and it's like the difference to me. Like I always say, like magic and apparel shows are so much energy and music and gas installations going on and it's fashion is so.

CHRIS: Vibrant, exciting.

MICHELLE: Of the gift shows and it's like old ladies and cat sweaters is.

CHRIS: Like, I think you're right. I never even thought no music.

MICHELLE: No music.

CHRIS: There's no pressure in the temporaries that's a little bit more upbeat.

MICHELLE: It is. And it's funny. It's like, I don't know what it is. I mean, Atlanta does a good job because every floor has cocktails and yes, there is some stuff, but L.A. never hit that mark I don't really like. And and Vegas kind of does. But it's.

CHRIS: Still.

MICHELLE: You'll walk down halls where it's still quiet.

CHRIS: Quiet.

MICHELLE: There's not I mean, there's some.

CHRIS: That that is actually one of my biggest fears is to go to market because I feed off of the energy of who is there and when it's a quiet market, I lose all my mojo. I'm like, Oh my gosh. Because then you start thinking to yourself, Should I even be here? Should I be buying? What should I be doing? Should I not be here either? Why am I here? Why is no one else here? And it's a weird it's a weird vibe.

MICHELLE: If you say energy creates energy.

CHRIS: Yeah. And it's it's important to feel the energy from other people and like, like you should be spending money because it because everybody else is.

MICHELLE: Yeah, yeah. It's, it's it's true. It's funny, too, because, like, you'll go, I'm sure, you know, you go to shows and there's a showroom and there's tons of people in it and it's like it's it, it's not just the people that are there to get the free bag, which.

CHRIS: Is right, right, right.

MICHELLE: And start on. It's my biggest ever. But where people are there and they're writing and also now you're looking and it's like there's that energy. And then you go into other showrooms and it's like no music playing the person sitting behind the counter, they're on their phone, they barely look up at you. It's like.

CHRIS: Oh yeah, it's painful right.

MICHELLE: Now, so you are going to go to Vegas.

CHRIS: That's what I'm hoping to go to MAGIC, and I'm debating Atlanta because I need to see like, here's the thing with the way that I'm buying now. I need to be sure that the clothing that I'm buying. Is a certain quality because a couple of times when I've bought things online, Michelle, I'm like, Oh, I just got bit on this becasue .

MICHELLE: I can't.

CHRIS: I have to be able to feel the hand of the fabric, you know, with other things I can manage, you know, I can fill in. I am not that gift heavy that that it matters. Do you know what I mean? Like, I can probably manage the rest of my buying from catalogs, you know what I'm saying? Because I know the integrity of the brand. But with clothing. I can't guess.

MICHELLE: Anymore. I got so screwed on. Like, you know, when everything shut down, the pharmacy are still open.

CHRIS: So I was.

MICHELLE: Like, okay, we still have customers coming in.

CHRIS: Right?

MICHELLE: So I had to rely on, on the portal for the apparel, which is fashion go.


MICHELLE: Oh my God, because I didn't go into the store for months and finally got there and it was safe for me to go in and it was like, this is the sweater, the hand on. It's horrible. The fit. The fit is insane. It's like it's like one's like for a 12 year old and one is like, I mean, it was so.

CHRIS: It's not just it wasn't just.

MICHELLE: Me. No, I will never buy from. I told the store that like I will never buy from online again for apparel, like unless it's a line we buy it from. But you've got.

CHRIS: To find like the certain lines, like fate is pretty safe on fashion. Go and.

MICHELLE: Good. What else?

CHRIS: No, I don't buy that.

MICHELLE: It's it's a cute line. It's I mean, because everyone was wearing sweats out here forever. It was when everyone was doing that is they're great cute like easy joggers, easy matching sweatshirts, tight eyes, really cute colors. Now they're doing really thin weights. But unless it was like the people I knew, their their production.

CHRIS: And their.

MICHELLE: Sizes, the sizing was, was the biggest nightmare.

CHRIS: Oh, my gosh. We would get some things. And I'm like, Kelly, let's just donate this because I just can't because I don't want for people to question. Yeah, like my taste. First of all, do you know, I'm like, oh my gosh, please, I don't want that associated with us. So it became very difficult. It really did. So that to me, like me going to a clothing show. Like, I wish I would have went to Dallas this week. That's really where.

MICHELLE: I said there. It sounds like from everyone I've talked to on the other side that there's so much energy in so many people going to the shows because everyone, one, everyone, it sounds like most of the people that I've talked to, both who I work with as well as people in the interviews, is their business is actually above pre-COVID numbers.

CHRIS: Like that's great.

MICHELLE: I mean, it's like everybody else and the green light like, let's get out our house. Everyone's sick of shopping at Amazon. Yes, everyone wants to get back out and shop and like so now people are doing so much business that.


MICHELLE: It's like we got to go, we got to go to the show. So it's nice because I was at market last time and there was like still not a lot of people, they had temps. So at least it felt like there was but it's I miss in Dallas sounds like it was like everyone's.

CHRIS: Expecting yeah so I mean I had intentions of going and then I don't know why I just never pulled the trigger. So we'll see what happens next. I just got a postcard for style Max in Chicago. So that that helps a lot because that's that's close to us. That's like a 50 minute up and down in the plane. And, you know, that makes it more convenient for us. I just need to go and see. The brands that I do most of the time. And I just got to see the quality and the cut and the colors and all that kind of stuff. So I could probably manage by going to style. Max I probably could.

MICHELLE: I'm looking forward to MAGIC. I really am, because that was the one show that didn't happen. Like LA, they try to have gift shows and still had some but it MAGIC. I'm really excited to see MAGIC and it will be nice because it sounds like tomorrow we're supposed to be back to normal pre-COVID. Like no more masks, like, oh, good.

CHRIS: In California, that's funny.

MICHELLE: And it's funny because women's market's going women's markets started today and the instructions were Monday. You have to wear a mask Tuesday using your mask. It's like, what's the point? But.

CHRIS: Okay, whatever, whatever.

MICHELLE: So I'm over the word pivot, but I know everyone did it. So how did you pivot when everything shut down? Because obviously you're in a salon.

CHRIS: So we were.

MICHELLE: Closed and you did Salon. Was that some of the last places that were allowed to start opening like it was here, like retail opened up before salons did here.

CHRIS: You know what, to be honest with you, I think we were closed for two months. I ate too much. I drank too much, way too much of all of that. And then I think we opened right back up. But we did. Yeah, she did a really good job of plexiglass saying everything. Everything was socially distanced. She was on the news like multiple times because she had it sprayed with the special disinfectant. So yeah, so we really, we really didn't, we really didn't miss but like a couple of months. And then the only thing that I did different, Michelle, because I never knew what was coming next, because they could have shut us down at any point in time. Again, it just depended on the numbers.

MICHELLE: So happened to us.

CHRIS: Yeah. So what I did was I was just very cautious about my buying. And so I never, ever, ever in the 20 years that I've been in business, I never overextend myself financially, ever smart. If I don't have the money to buy it, I don't buy it. So I don't I don't do terms. That's not for me. I just am cash only business and I pay for everything, whether that's smart or not.

MICHELLE: No, I think it's really smart.

CHRIS: Yeah. I just sleep better at night. I don't want to have to owe anybody anything, you know, I just. That's it. So, like I said, if I can't afford it, I don't buy it. I think a lot of businesses like ours get into trouble because they overextend.

MICHELLE: And I mean, I think because, you know, as weird as it sounds or woo woo, but the ego gets involved.

CHRIS: Yeah.

MICHELLE: And then all of a sudden, I mean, you start to get like super overconfident and then your ego gets involved, like, look how much business we're doing and I'm going to do this. And next thing you know, it's like.

CHRIS: Whoa.

MICHELLE: Drop. And when the shoe drop like.

CHRIS: That, it's.

MICHELLE: People got caught two ways. Either too much inventory, like because I don't bring in a lot of inventory in January. I know we've sold out of stuff. We really we really are. I mean, it's I just I never understand it because it's like everyone's getting their credit card bills now, right? And nothing really is new. So let's just run it on sale for January and like bring in a little for new for Valentine's Day and then really start bringing it in in March like. So luckily I did not have a ton of bows rolling through the doors.

CHRIS: Oh, neither did I. No way.

MICHELLE: No way. I mean, I know people that, like, bring in so much stuff in January, and I'm always like, why I.

CHRIS: I know because then when people were in the mood to buy again, it's stale.

MICHELLE: Totally. Like, yeah, I kept thinking about like all the department stores that had do get in big loads in January.

CHRIS: And I stop it. They can't do anything to stop it.

MICHELLE: And how the malls like Del Amo here is a mall and it it was the only reason why North Shore can open up before the mall could because it was on it had its own entrance to the street. If it was enclosed in a mall like anybody that was deep in that mall was not opening up until the state. And that was like I mean, I've lost total track of time, but I'm guessing that was like two months ago. I mean, it's been we have come back super, super slow because of our numbers. But all I could think about is like, what is all that inventory doing? And then what do you do when you open up? It's like you closed and it was winter and freezing and now you're reopening and it's hot.

CHRIS: You know? And I went in so many stores everywhere and they still had their winter merchandise. I said, Oh, you made a mistake.

MICHELLE: I didn't. On sale is like at that point, it's like don't. So how how is business changing now that you're now that. I mean, you guys sound like you've been at reopen for a little while. How how did business change? Did change from the get go or did you just go right back to normal?

CHRIS: We had we had highs and lows because people were still you know, it was all dependent on, you know, like there was stimulus money. There wasn't. Is there a stimulus money? Isn't there stimulus money? So it just we just had we had highs and lows. And so we just sort of rolled with it, you know what I mean? And if something wasn't moving, I just mark it down. And then we sold I think we sold all of our I finally after five years, I had enough to fill a rack of clothing that was left over really because we would only have ones and Tuesday's left over because I don't buy a lot of stuff. So finally I had a rack and I think I was left with maybe five pieces of clothing.

MICHELLE: Wow. That's like almost unheard of. So. Talking about sales, what's your philosophy on sale? Which is another question that's not even on the list.

CHRIS: But yeah, that's that's that's a really good question because. I know everything that you read, whatever I read about retail or whatever it says, just to get to get it out. But the thing that worries me about sale is sometimes it can become a four letter word and people get very. Smart and they think she's going to mark this down.


CHRIS: And so sometimes I don't mark it down because I don't want my customers to get in the habit of me doing that. So some lines never go on sale. You know, the core of the of the business never goes on sale. It just doesn't there's just there's no reason to because it's going to be there. And then but clothing, I'll save up enough, you know, to have a sale and then do a sale rack. And that's that's all I do.

MICHELLE: So I agree with the I mean, it's hard for the pharmacy. We have five locations and when you have a bomb, you have a bomb and it's like now, right?

CHRIS: You got to get rid of it.

MICHELLE: So we we have usually a sale rack. But I mean, the customer has gotten very smart on people know Anthropologie's markdowns come on I think Wednesday and now gap does their markdowns on.

MICHELLE: Tuesday and.

MICHELLE: Literally people just like knowing what day HomeGoods delivers the new stuff like people literally that's how they shop. It's like, yeah, and it is a horrible habit to get into. But, you know, sometimes it's like, you got to get rid of it. You don't have a choice. And it's like, that's always what I so it's.

CHRIS: Always, yeah. And sometimes what I do is like I people are on vacation in July and so sometimes I'll do a lot of like a little table of sales stuff in July because I know that that's a downtime. So I'll try to get rid of some inventory in July and then by August, because I've gone to market in July, typically all the new stuff starts rolling in and that's when I just go back to regular price on everything.

MICHELLE: How do you do your deliveries do you like? A lot of people go to show and just write everything for ASAP and then you store some of it. And so do you do delivery windows or do you just do everything ASAP and kind of roll it out slowly from wherever?

CHRIS: Because I don't have anywhere to store it. Like if it were all to come in, I would cry. And so so I just do sort of delivery windows. And again, I have a notebook where I used to I'd have a notebook and I would have every month, August, September, October, I'd know whatever I was going to like, what my stories were going to be because I went and bought it, you know. And so then I would say, okay, this is coming in August. This is what this is going to be. This is coming in September. That's what that's it. I mean, for me, it's not really science, it's more intuition.

MICHELLE: Yeah. So, but I, it's always interesting to hear and for the people like there's going to be a lot of new retailers that are listening to this. And so it's always interesting for to hear how people do it because I work on delivery windows as well and I do by gut, same thing, but I'll map it out so I can kind of at least see how much because we have with five locations like trying to see like how much you're spending because you still have a budget. So it's kind of spread it out. And I know like my slowest months are usually July and July.

CHRIS: What are you buying when?


MICHELLE: Yeah. I mean, most people.

MICHELLE: The pharmacies are all in the valley and it's like it's I mean, this year it's already like 110 degrees, but usually July, August, it's like kids are out of school and it's a million degrees out there. So most people will take off and go on vacation. And even the pharmacy the pharmacy scrips even kind of drop.


MICHELLE: Down, right. So I kind of gauge it on on those pharmacies up and down as well as.

CHRIS: Do your pharmacies that you work with, do they have drive thrus or people are still coming in this pharmacy?

MICHELLE: We have one with a drive thru, but the people were still coming in. They you know, I mean, it's it's I wish they didn't because so many of their team ended up getting COVID. I mean, because they all were literally like, much like anybody that's on the front lines. Like we're literally like dealing with people face to face and they still put up, they amass and they still put up plastic. But you're talking about a whole bunch of people that are coming in for their meds that probably may or may not have it or not even know. And they're touching everything. And I just I feel for them because so much of their so many of their team members ended up I mean, one.


MICHELLE: My gift manager ended up so, so so she got it the worst. I mean, she was out for weeks. And I mean, it's it was so scary and but, but we have one drive thru and I think the other one they just started giving free deliveries to try and keep people from coming in.

CHRIS: Right. Right.

MICHELLE: So everything became like a delivery. I mean.

CHRIS: Really, did you find that people were shopping other departments? Other than getting just.

MICHELLE: And what's what's weird is it. So in L.A. County you target was told to stay open and CVS and you know obviously they have pharmacy and they have gift and food so they were all allowed. But Ventura County, which is technically what a couple of locations are. They were saying even though you're a pharmacy, you can't sell your gift, your apparel, you can't sell any of that. You can only sell pharmaceutical and you know. Target in Ventura from what I understand literally yellow taped off the store except for go in the pharmacy and you have to go out. We didn't do that. Yeah, it was it was crazy how Ventura how and we didn't do that but they were very cautious about like they weren't advertising new stuff. We got this in, we got that in because they didn't want it to be. But they, they, they had it got where I guess people were like calling, calling the news stations and calling people and saying, oh, this store is open and they're selling stuff like other pharmacies or or target, I think got called out by a group. And I mean, it was crazy. But luckily, yeah, people were still allowed to, to shop. I mean, because that kind of saved us. I mean I'm getting I get to while wise for for the stores and it's interesting to see the numbers from last year where I was thinking I would get the sales reports every week still and now a year later and looking I'm going you know for being not really open those aren't horrible numbers so I was kind of surprised.

CHRIS: I horrible and you have to remember for us a lot of people were hesitant to come in and get their their hair, their nails done. They were worried about before the vaccine, about coming in. And so now that the majority of people have gotten the vaccine, they do feel more comfortable and we're actually totally open.

MICHELLE: Again, I can imagine. I mean, it seems like the people that were ready to get their nails and hair done, I mean, it was like I.

CHRIS: Don't even yeah, yeah, I am.

MICHELLE: Done. So you're obviously very creative. Where do you find inspiration? For me, it's out of magazines, but I'm always interested in hearing like where you find inspiration or where you get your your ideas for your new concepts you're doing.

CHRIS: I would say it used to be magazines, but now I do a lot like I look a lot on Instagram. I really do. I spend a lot of time looking and I don't know if something will just spark an idea from Instagram or whatever. And then every time that we went to a golf tournament, which is a lot, your site.

MICHELLE: Still plays, right?

CHRIS: He just turned pro.


CHRIS: Congrats, Mom. He just turned pro. So anyways, what he we would do is I would like, like say I wanted to see a store that had a tree because you know that if somebody has the tree, they're going to be a good store. And so I would do like a store search in the area that we were in, like who has the tree? Or I would look for like Anthropologie. And you knew that there was going to be a good shopping area where Anthropologie was. And so that's what I would do. I would just go into any store like I've been in Kingfisher, I've been in I mean, the the urban.

MICHELLE: Girl, it's hysterical that, you know, one store I go to all.

CHRIS: That. I mean, if there's a store to be if there's a boutique to be found, I find it.

MICHELLE: I love it.

CHRIS: That's what I would do. That's more than anything. And then the other thing is market. I get all my color inspiration from going to market. So when you start to see like what they're displaying at market, you know what the color trend is. And so and then then I sort of build my buying around color trends.

MICHELLE: And it's nice because your apparel then works with your gift. So they become kind of merchandise together.

CHRIS: Like they do. Like the blue tie dye would be great for the 4th of July. So now I would like get some earrings that are blue or whatever, you know, but it's just it's so much more streamlined because the store is so much smaller.


CHRIS: So I'm not buying 30 pair of earrings. I'm buying five pair of earrings.

MICHELLE: So do you like having small versus big?

CHRIS: Oh, my gosh. Yes. So much.

MICHELLE: Also don't have to be in it every day, which is great.

CHRIS: So much more manageable just like my brain at this age. Because one of your questions is, what do you see yourself doing in ten years?

MICHELLE: Yeah, that's my next.

CHRIS: Question on a beach. Yours is close to 70.

MICHELLE: Oh, my gosh. You look amazing. Yeah, I'm gonna be old by then. Yeah, I was saying to somebody, I'm like, I think. I think, actually. My husband, maybe we were talking. I'm like, I just can't imagine. What am I going to be doing this still in ten years, schlepping merchandise like opening boxes? I know it's.

CHRIS: Hard taking the trash out, you know, taken out after you knocked down all the boxes, walking that trash out. You guys at least don't have snow.


CHRIS: Got to do it in the snow. And I'm like, Oh, this is too much. So I want to retire in three years, so I know I'll keep going for three years of Kelly. You'll have me that long.

MICHELLE: Do you. Do you. Do you think you could still do it and still be retired? I mean, it's.

CHRIS: No if because we're going to we would move to Florida. So we have a little place there. So he's he when he says he's done, he's done. And so and I can't change his mind.

MICHELLE: Right. Well, it's all right.

CHRIS: I mean. Yeah, yeah. So he's done work in three years. That's all there is to it. And that's it. So he's going with or without me, so.

MICHELLE: Well, never say never, because Florida has some really cute shopping, too, so. Yes, I know. Okay. So your last question of the day is any advice for somebody who's looking to open a shop within a shop? Kind of how you're doing is like a permanent pop up.

CHRIS: Yeah, I would say I think one of the most important things is that if you're going to work at the way that we have worked, it is that there has to be incentive for the owner of the business that you're within to sell the merchandise. Otherwise your merchandise is just going to sit there because there's no incentive to sell it. They don't care if you sell it or not, you know. And so I think you have to tie the rent or commission to selling the inventory if you're going to do it like we do it like on an iPad or whatever. So there has to be incentive to sell. But and I think the most important thing is to remember that you are a guest. You know, I'm a guest. I don't own the salon. I am very cognizant of the fact that they are Kelly's clients and I am a service to that clientele. And so I never assume or take advantage or I don't reach out to them personally because I don't. You know, what I do a lot of with Kelly's clients is I'll handwrite them a note and I'll mail that to them and I'll say, you know, thank you so much for shopping. You know, some of our clients, you know, there are some clients, Michel, that literally come in to get their hair done or blow out every week and they shop every week.

CHRIS: I believe, every.

CHRIS: Single week. And I mean, you know, and they're not walking out, you know, the hair hair is not inexpensive today and no matter where you are. And so on top of that, they're buying something. And how much you can't appreciate that any more than I mean, I can't say thank you enough for that. Do you know? So I really am grateful. And you know, and if you are in with somebody who is basically lending you their space, there's a that's like a debt of gratitude. You can't really I can't ever repay that, you know, because I get to do what I love. But at the same time, you know, it's beneficial to both of us. But I do it because it's a labor of love, because I just enjoy it so much. So without her, I'd have to go rent a whole place. And I don't want to do that at this age, you know? So I.

MICHELLE: Love that. And I, to be honest, like, my favorite thing that you just said is that you handwrite thank you notes. I yes.

CHRIS: That's I don't even want people's emails.

MICHELLE: You know, I I've said this and I say it all the time. Like even with birds, it's like they all work with their clients. And I had started like send thank you notes, like a handwritten thank you note.

CHRIS: Yes, yes.

MICHELLE: Speaks volumes. And it's like the argument that everyone's like, Oh, Amazon is taking everything. It's like, Amazon is never going to remember or send you a birthday card. They're not going to ask you how your kids are and how.

MICHELLE: Your vacation.

MICHELLE: Was. They're not going to call you and say, This candle came in. I know you're.

MICHELLE: Waiting for it.

MICHELLE: Put it on hold for you. That that part of it. And Amazon is never going to send you a thank you card. And it not to me is like the the best customer service you can ever give. And I think that that there's nothing that's ever going to be that ever.

CHRIS: I don't either. I agree. I agree. I mean and you know, and I just I mean, there's just something to be said about opening the piece of mail. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, it's so easy to swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe.

MICHELLE: Yeah. And it's like, honestly, like I have the emails I get I don't even so there's no delineation between a thank you and hey, you know, we're giving away it's like it's opening a mail you're it has your. Tension only like you don't have 15 of them in front of you. I mean, it's there's something to be said that was a perfect way to end this. I can't. That was fantastic. Thank you so much. I really I it was so much fun catching up with you.

MICHELLE: And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it.

MICHELLE: And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and.

MICHELLE: Lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast and you can find us online at the