Three years y'all! Can you believe it? I cant.
Well, I can. I feel it deep in my soul because this has been a tough, interesting, rollercoaster ride for sure!! But three years - that's cause for some reflection and celebration, is it not!?
Let's look back on this wild ride:
Never Grow Up Boutique got it's name from our oldest daughter who LOVES all things Peter Pan, Fairies and Disney. We thought it was perfect and better than anything we could come up with for sure. It was that ah-ha moment that launched the rest.
We had been stalking our downtown area (Grove City, Ohio) for the perfect location. We felt pulled to begin this journey in our hometown. This is where we raise our family. This is where we are from. This is where it just felt right. Well, if you know anything about small towns and how they can be in turns of business turnovers. Ours is really no different. Our downtown area buildings for the most part are owned by families, generations deep - not property management companies. This means family businesses, too. Great right? Well, sorta. That also means businesses sit. They're not really looking for a bunch of growth, development and/or expansion. Just to feed a family and be happy. This also means spaces don't come available very often. BUT, in May on a drive through the downtown we saw a For Lease sign and jumped on it. It was kind of a frame of mind "I don't care what it looks like, I don't care how big it is, I just gotta have it" and we jumped in.
Renovations. Aside from the behind the scenes business stuff - legalities, finding vendors, building inventory, etc - we had a tough project on our hands. This building, like many others in the downtown area, was old. Not only old, it was like an onion. We had to tear away so many layers through the renovation process. I'm talking about 10 trunk loads to the dump tearing away. So many layers. The space had been a number of things in it's rich history: Barber shop a few times, Deli, Sandwich Shop, Coney Shop, and most recently a Candy Store/bakery combo. It all had to go, along with a couple erroneous walls that served zero purpose. The space was dark, old, dingy. We had work to do but I had a team (family mostly) of handy people behind me ready to get dirty!! Here's some Before/After and project shots.
Renovations were no easy, or cheap, task. It took us a long time, somewhat longer than we expected to complete things and get City sign off on the things we changed. Finally though, we made it. Although we were still waiting for some inventory and a couple last minute projects, Arts in the Alley was September 17, 2016. This is a BIG festival with parade right through the downtown. Family friendly for sure. This meant we needed to be open for a soft introduction to our downtown GC familiar crowd. As one of the biggest events and happening right outside our doors, we couldn't NOT give the public a taste of what was to come. So, we opened our doors for a soft opening through the weekend. We were not disappointed. The public, while maybe not our exact crowd or future shoppers even, wanted to come through and see what was new to GC. People were excited for new change, new business, young business, and saw it as a sign of growth for a little town! We were so honored and humbled by everyone's comments and well wishes for success.
October 1, 2016:
Grand Opening! Our GRAND Opening and presentation to the local community we were hoping to support. While we had our products also accessible online as well, local customers were the focus. We wanted to be part of families, see their kids grow (or never grow ;-) ) up and support them where we were able to! While things didn't work out as planned with our local Chamber of Commerce for assistance with a Grand Opening .... I mean, what else do they do? .... our crowd did NOT disappoint! Who needs a ribbon cutting when you have all these amazing faces outside waiting for you to open your doors?!
We made it through our first year in business! We learned a LOT. Let's not even talk about retail + Ohio Winters, okay? Yuck! We were ready to kick off another summer in our little boutique. Excited to see those regular faces. Make some new friends. Continuing serving our local community and support some new families. That was until we "heard word" (do I have to explain how small towns work? People talk. and talk. and talk.) that a business a block down the street was looking to move. A space we'd admired before was going to be available. My heart sunk. WHERE WAS THIS A YEAR AGO!? Nevertheless, we had to see it. We saw it. We loved it. We were sold. We had to move.
We had put so much into this space. Not just money - although there's plenty of that too - but heart, dreams, wishes... so much. I wasn't exactly 100% sure I was ready to say goodbye, but I couldn't deny the possibility of the growth and foundation we could grow on in a bigger space. We would still be serving the same community, plans wouldn't change, we would just be taking on MORE in a bigger space. That's okay, right?
So, leases were broken. Keys returned. Our little boutique's beginnings packed up and moved. But moved in hopes of a brighter future <3
Late June 2017:
We would be taking on MORE was right. So much more: space, projects, inventory, costs, stress... need I continue? Our footprint in the town center may have only hopped a block down the street, but it also GREW by almost 3x's. The new space wasn't in NEAR the condition of the other space. The retail frontage was almost perfect thanks to the previous tenant being a photographer - everything was white, clean, and plain. The perfect canvas. Almost. Because then someone had the great idea to see what was above the blah-bland drop ceiling. There was! A beautiful & original to this old building stamped tin ceiling. Not in the most perfect condition, but workable. If that was going to be all we had to do... we were going to do it. Famous last words.
"All we had to do" turned into a MESSSSS. Ever taken down a drop ceiling? YUCK. The nasty that lives above them is enough to make anyone yack. Tearing all that framing away AND then tackling the clearning/preserving/painting of the tin ceiling was ENOUGH. It took a solid two weeks. SOLID. We were literally moving things into our space promptly before our Grand Re-Opening because it took SO LONG.
Good News / Bad News time? Bad news... the backroom/ storage room area and bathrooms from the 1950s were going to have to wait. Seriously. We were out of time, out of money and out of steam. The store HAD to get back open. A fresh business only 1 year old HAD to have it's doors open to make any money to stay alive, it's that simple. 2 weeks was all we could afford away.
The Good News... that steam I mentioned? I ran out of it late in week 1 of this renovation project. I was SICK. Maybe the stress? Maybe the costs? Maybe the 12-15 hours days? Nope. Maybe baby. That's right. It was during these two weeks we found out we were EXPECTING AGAIN! Needless to say... shock all around. Happy shock. But shock.
Here we go again <3 Baby #3 due March 2018
(because I want to skip Ohio Winters + Retail again :-/ ...) Baby was due! Mommy had been planning for the arrival of baby by making sure to cross T's and Dot i's through the winter (blah!) where ever we needed to! Had I mentioned at this point we're still BARELY two years old (more like 1.5) and we don't have employees? Nope. We're a family business, team of just us. Hands to do things? That our's. Bodies running things 24/7? That's us. Who is us? Mom & Dad. Parents to 2 and soon to be 3 little ones. Dad NGUB also has another job - ya know, the job that pays the bills ;-) So mostly it's just mom. You know what that means? Panic. I was so panicked about what was going to happen for my maternity leave. Maternity Leave? That thing where most employers give you the time to recover, enjoy baby, soak in some family time while still earning a paycheck? That didn't exist here. Nonetheless, I was determine to roll with it and figure out how to make it work.
Baby A was born on St Patricks Day 2018. Welcomed into the fold like she'd be there all along. Healthy as a horse, nursing like a champ and ready to be worn. I'm tellin' ya, this girl knew what family she was coming into and she was ready. (Truth be told, she's still running the show now too lol) Birth went great. Mom & Baby did great, no complications, no concerns. Best we could've asked for, really.
Then we were about 2-3 days post-partum when we got thrown for a loop. I'll save ya the details, but mama wasn't feeling so hot. Checked in Midwives and off to the ER I went. Luckily no hospital stay needed - thanks to my midwives confidence in this mama - I got to go home and work through what I soon learned was "PostPartum Eclampsia". That's a fancy word for yuck meds, not feeling like myself, and not able to roll back into our daily routine as planned. The meds were the worst. While I'm sure they helped, they also made me feel like garbage. It was a constant struggle to find balance and find happy while working to get OFF these meds. I followed all Dr's orders on the meds, but also worked with my favorite local herbalist AND FRIEND - RainbowBee - to return to myself. I'd say it was a solid 8 weeks before I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Even then it was about another month before I was completely pharmaceutical free and getting into somewhat of a normal routine.
Remember the store? Yep. It still existed during all this time. Was it open? Periodically I would try. I returned back at 6 weeks, baby in tow. But, there were some days I just couldn't do it and returned home before the first hour. I couldn't ignore my body. Business - the determent of our business success and financial well being - had to come last. My body, my baby and my family were first. Always. (Side note: Baby was always fine. Nursed like a champ still, even when mama wasn't doing hott. She never skipped a beat. Always perfection.)
I wasn't 100% yet, but business was back in full swing with the support of our family, of course. Help with the big kids. Help with mom. Whatever we needed, they were there for us! #ittakesavillage ya'll.
I felt we caught a fantastic break in the negative when local media personality and mom Alissa Henry from our local Fox28 station contacted us for a spot on their local spot that features local businesses, Good Day Marketplace. I was thrilled to be noticed and have the opportunity to reach some local parents through her help!! Here's our spotlight with them: (How's that for a beautiful still photo?! hahaha)
We turned the big T-W-O. You know how people sometimes refer to a toddler as "terrible two"? We were there ;-) The entrepreneur struggle, am I right?! All the things we'd dealt with in the last 6 months finally hit us hard.
Nevertheless, we persisted. We were going to turn the corner. We were going to come back out of the darkness.
We've made it a whole year since Baby A joined our family. Back to business as usual, right? Our oldest in the thick of elementary school, our middle son deep in being three and potty trained, whoop whoop!!
Here we are.
We're Three Whole Years old. It's been a wild ride - as you may have read from above. By all means is that ^^ not all of it. There's so much good to owning a small business. There's so much good to be part of the lives of the family's we work with and love. I'm ready to keep it chugging along and see where the journey takes us in this third year.
Will we be here at 4048 Broadway? Will be move somewhere else? Will we not have a physical footprint but an online one instead? Will we rejoin the vendor shows we were once part of in the past? Who knows. Only time will tell. Here's some things I know are true:
- We are who we are. We will not compromise that for anything - not for a location, customer appeal, etc.
- Family first. Our family will always be our #1
- We just roll with it. We will roll with the tides of change. Our heart remains unchanged, but we're also business owners. You can have brains and heart, just known when to use them appropriately.
- We love our customers. You're the reason we're here. At the end of the day, without you, we wouldn't be here.