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Home: Business Issues and Advice: Reflections after a year in retail:
3rd year - some assorted ramblings



Dec 6, 2004, 9:13 AM

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3rd year - some assorted ramblings Can't Post

We are actually heading for our 3rd birthday, which starts off our 4th year. (funny how numbers work that way. Your first celebrated birthday, is really your second, since the day you were born, was actually your FIRST birth day!).

We are going to get a little silly, probably, with our "Free year old" celebration, at http://freeyearold.com Look for more, in odd places. Beading should be fun. This is my "retirement." I do this because I love it, it makes me feel good, it lets me do different things all the time, and it puts all my hobbies in one place. Our shop is not just about beads. It's about crafts, and education, building and developing skills, accomplishing something you can be proud of for years to come.


We've learned a lot in the past 3 years. Some good, some bad. Some things work, and a whole lot of stuff doesn't. Things that work, or are popular in big cities, don't seem to work -- or even get to -- Pittsburgh some times.

We are still trying to get a regular, Pittsburgh based, bead show that attracts outside vendors on a regular basis. We are trying to get the Bead League to run weekend projects, crafts and workshops. We are still trying to build EXCITEMENT in the Pittsburgh community for the rocks, beads, crystals, and FUN you can have with them all. Lasting hobbies, that are real, meaningful, and useful. Hobbies that can make your life better, bring joy to you and others, and give you the relaxation and feeling of accomplishment you need after a day, or week of work.


A few things do seem to have been constant. They help us through the day, to make decisions, and put a smile on our face.

We listen to our customers, and our wholesale accounts, and watch what they are buying, and look at (YES! We look at!) what they are making -- especially if they wear it in, or remember to show us. It helps us seek out more -- and different -- materials that might be attractive to them (you). There is an infine variety of beads out there. We (no one) can stock them all. We have to know what and where to start. We start with our customers.

We realize we can't have it all, but we've arranged some good accounts with some larger distributors, smaller specialty manufacturers, and several off-shore companies we import from. This lets us get what you need, fairly quickly, and it lets us keep a varied stock of much higher grade (over all) materials. If you need something quickly, something that's a stock item (most rounds, or common materials, findings, etc) we can usually have it in a few days.

But, our goal has been to really stock the stuff you can't find in a catalog, or you'd have to search pretty hard for -- AND to have it on our walls so you can touch it, see it, and match it exactly to what you are doing. The picture on the website, or the image in the catalog is not what you are going to get. It's not like actually putting your hands on it, and seeing all the detail -- and defects -- in a specific piece.


Classes are hard to pull off. Students don't show. Instructors don't show. People can all get to gether at the same time. And, most often, while the class was a social event, you didn't come away with the skills you really needed to do what you had wanted to do. So, you take another class.... And another.

We've moved away from that. We offer individual instruction during our regular hours. Make an appointment, or roll the dice and just stop by. But we can show you what you want to know, help you through your rough spots, show you how to finish off or start off, or anything else you want to learn, do or try. We have to be there, so come in and join us! We'll pass on anything we can.

The biggest secret in jewelry making is "THERE IS NO SECRET!". It's just a few skills, and practice. Sure, you need to have some creativity to do big design work, but no class will be able to teach you that. Other than that, it's a bit of skill -- crimping, making a loop, setting up a loom -- and then just doing it. Our big excitement is seeing new beaders and crafters suddenly realize they *CAN* do it, and we get energized by their excitement. We pass on skills you can use in many ways, not one "cookie cutter" pattern you are stuck with. And, we are happy about it. It makes us happy to see people of all ages get bit by the bug. It's why we do this, and why we have a "Rock & Bead Shop"... (or a Rock'n Bead Shop <G>)


Things cycle.

One cycle is supply. We can have a period where there is a load of great rose quartz. Then, for months, the material is pale, and lifeless. Or, there can be a time where there is no malachite around. What is is just a sickly green. Mother Nature does not supply on demand, and when she does yeild up one of her treasures, the cutters may not cut what you want out of it. They may make chunky beads when you needed/wanted small rounds. Or they may carve pictures when what you wanted was fluted.

The other cycle is demand. We can go months without selling a certain item, like a pearl, then in a week, sell out of them, and go through 3 reorders. That makes it really hard to plan, and it's caused our inventory to mushroom. We have a central stem, and thicker central cap of basics, and things we know sell all the time, or which will sell (like unique gem strands), but then around that are more and more (thinner) areas of materials we carry for a few customes, or to go with something, or just for interest. Like a mushroom it grows up and out. We've added hundreds of square feet of shelf space and drawer space this past year, and it's not enough.

As a family business, we go through cycles with our lives, our kids, and all the other stuff not quite related to the store. It can sap time, and energy. Illnesses (ours and others) can affect things. Everyone ages, and our family is getting older, there are more demands on us to care for outside things. All this affects what we can do in the store.

There are times we can't get all the stuff out of the boxes, and even displayed. Our dreams exceed our ability to accomplish them. Even on something as simple as unpacking.

It's really frustrating for us, since we can't ever get "done" and take a breather and say "wow!" it's all out. Sometimes it gets down right depressing, when we know something is there, but can't find it. (And our regular customers know the beads run away when you put them down! It's not just us, they don't want to leave, so they hide! Right in plain view most of the time. )

The good part, though, is we have such a variety (especially if you ask for something specific), that we can *usually* pull something out that is exactly, or very close, to what you are looking for. If we can't get it out, and displayed, though, the average customer can't see it, and only a few of our regular customers have learned to *ask* for stuff, or move a box, and look under it.

We have over 50 storage boxes of the glass and wood beads, pressed glass and such. Some boxes are labled, some aren't. But, even putting them into boxes is hard. Do you sort by color or shape? Do you put all the hearts in one box (or 3 like we have), or do you mix them into the size and colors -- reds, greens, etc. When someone is looking for a certain bead, how do you make it available? Beads don't take kindly to bar codes Smile

We are getting closer.Angelic

There is more organization, and its more organized with at least DOUBLE the variety of inventory we had a year ago.

We have places for people to work in the store, and our one-on-one is doing well.

Our Kits & Classes, Make And Take, and other little programs are catching on. We have more pre-packaged kits, and groups of items, to make it easier to grab, and get on with a project -- while still providing all the thrills of picking stones or findings one piece at a time. Packages are for the chain stores! Picking each individual stone, bead or spacer is something you can't do in most places.

We have House Parties, and parties in a box for all ages. We custom tailor each to your needs.

We are offering more items for our jewelry designers to help with display and sales of their work. We offer more bulk buys and discounts, and stock emergency items for our regulars.

We are working with more teachers and schools, and even having the children in in the mornings to look at the fossils learn a little about the rocks, and make a take home item. It's not all about beads. The beads come from rocks. The rocks have a history that pre-dates the beads. So there is science, and adventure, and history, and sociology all rolled up with the arts and crafts.

Do I miss medicine? Yes. Do I wish I could still practice, and help people? Yes. But, I made the decision that my own health was important to me, and my family, and that I couldn't keep fighting the HMO's, and telling people "You need this, but can't have it." In my shop, if I want to give someone a crystal or not charge them for something, or discount their purchase, I can, without be accused of "Medicare Fraud." I still make people happy, and feel better, but in a different way, and I can do it without compromising my own values, or making myself sick. I can still be a "Physician" or "TEACHER" and help people learn about themselves and their world.

So, reaching the end of year 3, and heading into year 4, I'm confident I made the right decision to open to the public and run the shop, and that something we are doing is working. We know there is room to grow, change and do some things better, and we are *ALWAYS* listening, and watching, our customers, and the environment to see what we can do. Your feedback is always welcome.

Robert S. Pataki, MD
President, PUGDOG Enteprises, Inc.
Main Proprietor of "PUGDOG'S Rock & Bead Shop"
PUGDOG's Rock & Bead Shop
Pittsburgh, PA 15217


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