Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What to be for Halloween, A hobo or a bride? A witch or scary goblin, Its not easy to decide.

Halloween is undoubtedly the favorite time of year at GROVE STREET kids. The windows are particularly fun to decorate and the folks that are drawn in by them are so excited to see what awaits beyond our store front displays. GROVE STREET kids likes to offer a wide range of costumes but, as well, bits and bobs so that the creative soul (pun intended!) has the opportunity to come to life! Here's a look at costumes past, both traditional and unorthodox:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back in 20 minutes

Back when my husband and I first opened GROVE STREET kids, there were many days that I wouldn't have a customer for hours at a time in the shop. I used to sit in the back and watch episodes of previous seasons of L O S T so I could be caught up with the current season! Thankfully, those days are long gone and we are so grateful for our steady stream of customers, especially in this continually uncertain economic climate.

Some days are so busy, however, that I can often go without taking any sort of break until long after Buying Hours are over (2pm). Most days I don't actually take a break - I just grab a bite here and there between laundry loads, tagging & steaming, or other such mundane tasks that are a necessity to running my own business. But on those few crazy, chaotic days where I don't get to nibble in between things, I do find it necessary to bring the dollar bins inside, lock the doors and hang my "Back in 20 minutes" sign up so I can take a break and eat my lunch uninterrupted.

I never thought this would be an issue for anyone. In fact, I figured it was commonplace for small businesses. A small business owner, working by him or herself, must need to close up at some point in the day, right - to eat a bite, or use the bathroom? I remember when I first considered renting this store, I went to the only business that was functioning in the building at the time, the Candy Bouquet, to ask the owner, Jack, about renting in this building. But when I arrived, there was a sign on the door saying "Back in 20 mintues." No problem, I thought, I will come back in a half hour or maybe on another day.

So after opening GSK I promptly made our branded version of the sign, adding a "Sorry for the inconvenience!" I don't think I have used this sign more than once a week, if even that, since we opened, and rarely do I take the full twenty minutes says I will be gone. Most of the time it hasn't been an issue. But for some, unfortunately, they make no bones about just how much of inconvenience it's been. And some take it to the extreme and post it on Yelp. But that's another blog. Lol.

Upon my last experience of being handed my head on a platter after closing for 15 minutes one day, I was prompted to ask around (other business owners, primarily) how best to deal with this situation. I realize we are not going to be able to please everyone, all the time, but I certainly don't want our customers leaving our store disgruntled if I can help it. The solution I came up with was to offer a discount to folks who are inconvenienced by arriving at a time when I have temporarily closed. Who doesn't like a discount? So our new "Back in 20 Minutes!" sign has a tear-off coupon that can be redeemed for a same-day discount off their nominal purchase upon their return. I expect that, once word gets out, people will actually look forward to arriving when I have closed to eat my lunch!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hooked on Chinook


What the...? Most of you are probably wondering... The Chinook Book is the wonderful, one-of-kind resource for supporting local, sustainable businesses (including yours truly, GROVE STREET kids) formally known to the general public as the EcoMetro Guide.

GSK jumped on the EcoMetro Guide Bandwagon in 2009, just after it's 2008 debut in the Bay Area. Our first exposure to it was when it was brought to our kid's school as a fundraising promotion. Like the Entertainment Books but way better, because these are places you actually already shop at, like GSK.

Chinook Book is a coupon book, a directory, a source of ideas and inspiration. It’s your guide to living well and having fun in the East Bay metro region. You can save hundreds of dollars while exploring the community and supporting those local, sustainable businesses. Over 300 valuable coupons make this the largest book yet. Businesses with coupons include retail, grocery, dining, entertainment, travel, garden and home adding up to savings of over $3,000. All products and services appearing in Chinook Book meet specific environmental and community criteria. We are proud to be one of those businesses. Come by and pick up the 2011 copy today at GROVE STREET kids.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Back to school? But we didn't even have a Summer!

Really, how can it be time for "Back to School" when summer hasn't even arrived!?

I spent the better part of the Spring collecting bathing suits, shorts and summer dresses, looking so forward to those lovely, sunny days. Especially, after one of the wettest Winters we have seen in a decade. Oh the cute, wonderful summer things that have come into the store! Yet, here they sit on the racks. Why? Because summer never came.

As I walk through the local CVS, the aisles swathed in "Back to School" supplies, I wonder how could it be that time already? The first year GSK opened, I had to buy a giant fan to keep the store cool those first few weeks after opening in July! Yet, this year, not only was there virtually no sun, it was COLD. Windy. Gloomy. Downright depressing. Almost as if we went back in time, back to the Winter that had just past.

So GROVE STREET kids has a store full of summer things, yet we have managed to scoop up a bunch of Fall layers for those of you already preparing your children's wardrobes. We already have a decent selection of FAll outwear, lots of jeans and other essentials to get your kiddos off on the right school start.

But rest assured, when summer finally does come (and it better!) we will still have a variety of warm weather clothes for you to choose from. Cuz on those hot, Indian Summer September days, they will be wanting to wear their shorts!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Loved Twice.

For the first time in almost 3 years, GROVE STREET kids does not have a huge back-stock of baby clothes. When we first opened, we bought a lot of baby things from our customers only to quickly realize that not so many customers were buying them from us. Was it the pricing? Was it the quality?

It was the quantity. There is so much out there that most folks don't ever need to buy baby things - they're either given as gifts or as hand-me-downs - and the babies grow out of them so fast that they barely even get used. So what to do with them? Sell 'em, that's what. But no, wait. Most resale shops don't buy baby clothes after all. In fact, GSK even stopped looking at baby clothes because folks that brought them in to sell would just donate them to us to be rid of them. Why, just today, I had two separate women come in, each with two large plastic bags packed to overflowing with baby clothes. All the while, another customer who is 8 months pregnant, is shopping. But not for baby things, as she has those already. She's buying for her older child.

So, if we aren't buying them to sell, what do we do with all these baby clothes?

Back in February, I was contacted by a lovely woman, Lisa Klein, a mother of two, who is also the Founder and Executive Director of an organization called Loved Twice. She explained to me the mission of Loved Twice is to supply free baby clothes to underprivileged newborns during their first year of life in the Bay Area. Since 2007, they have delivered over 20,000 pounds of baby clothing to more than 3000 newborns in need. Considering a newborn onesie weighs just over one ounce, this is a significant volume of items that have been saved from landfills and recycled back to our community’s highest need mothers and children. She hoped that GSK would support their endeavors.

Would we?

Since that time, Lisa has picked up the equivalent of 6 large garbage bags of baby clothes, shoes, blankets and whatnot from GSK. It's a win-win situation for everyone.

Recently, Lisa was chosen as one of People Magazine's "All Stars Among Us" for her organization's contribution to the community. You can see her being honored for her achievements at the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim, airing on FOX at 5pm PST July 13th.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The BayList Best!

We are, once again, honored and humbled by the support of our family, friends and, most importantly, our customers, who took the time to vote for us on SFGate.com. Here at GROVE STREET kids, we do our best to provide the nicest quality gently used and recycled clothing, combined with excellent customer service, to our community, and our community is showing us that we are on the right track! We know that this is an ongoing process, that we must not assume that we are doing all we need to do, without room for improvement. So the fact that we have now received this honor twice (over the course of three years as there was no contest in 2009) we believe our customers, friends and family understand our desire to continue to make their shopping experience at GROVE STREET kids the best in the Bay Area! Once again, we respectfully thank all of you for your continued support.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Something old, something new...

Wedding season is upon us. It officially starts, for the bride, Memorial Day weekend. But for the bridal party, the time to shop is now.

Most parents, of course, have been through their own wedding and can testify to the astounding expense that is a wedding. It's a racket, really. Go into any business that sells products, ie flowers, stationery, accessories year round... and mention the words "it's for a wedding..." and watch the price of those products double, even triple. And if you are one of those lucky folks who are asked to be IN a wedding, you know that expense is part of it as well. Buy the Maid of Honor, Bridesmaid or Flower Girl Dress, and not only do you shell out a small fortune for the dress, you are likely to add some more $$ when it's altered... all to wear once, and then what?

Come to GROVE STREET kids that's what. We have a large selection of flower girl dresses befitting everything from the garden wedding to a formal sit down dinner at the Plaza! We also have a selection of boys jackets and pants (even one or two Seersucker suits!) that will work for most weddings, day or night. All for a fraction of the original cost, so you won't feel so badly when your gorgeous girl spills orange juice down the front of that gorgeous white satin gown that you paid $20 for instead of $100!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Open Late on Tuesdays

To clarify, that doesn't mean "Open til 7 on Tuesdays!" It means, Tuesday is really our Monday, and invariably, we at GROVE STREET kids always manage to underestimate the amount of time it takes to reconcile the events of the past weekend and all the "to dos" that need to be accomplished at the beginning of the work week. So, therefore, we are inevitably running late on Tuesday mornings and, consequently, we almost always Open Late on Tuesdays.

So for those of you who take notice of the consistency, we hope you will bear this fact in mind and head on down around, say... 10:15? We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patronage!

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's an honor just being nominated!

Every cloud has a silver lining.

It's true. On the heels of a biting negative review on Yelp, I received a phone call from a lovely woman working over at KRON4 Television saying that "GROVE STREET kids has been selected by KRON4's Best of the Bay Television Series as one of the premier "Children's Boutique In the Bay Area." Outstanding! What a way to start the week.

She began to tell me that, as a nominee, GSK would be filmed for a two-minute broadcast segment that would play on their daily show twice a month for up to 15 months, be available for viewing online, and we would be eligible as a contender for the "Best Children's Store in Northern California." WOW. How cool is that?

Now, the fine print. She went onto explain that, of course, having a film production crew come to our store is an expensive undertaking and that we, as the nominee, would be asked to contribute to said cost. Ok. Seems reasonable, it's advertising after all. She said she would send me all the paperwork, with the breakdown of costs, and some sample segments from the program so we could see what we would be doing if we agreed to accept the terms of the agreement.

Well, let us just say, "it's an honor just being nominated!" The costs, unfortunately, would probably put us out of business. So, regrettably, we could not accept the terms of the agreement and you won't see us giving any televised interviews (at least not on KRON4) any time soon. But we hope the kind soul out there that thought well of us and nominated us for the opportunity knows how much we appreciate their support!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

To Yelp or Not to Yelp

By now, most folks have heard about all the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of Yelp and whether or not the folks there try to "extort" business owners by promising removal of negative reviews, top placement in searches for their category, etc. in exchange for paid advertising on the social networking, user review website. Here at GROVE STREET kids we have not been immune to the incessant sales calls (and emails) from their reps, though we will say that, after a long chat with one of their friendlier sales people, he offered to put us on a "Do Not Call" list and we haven't heard from them since.

That particular phone call was a gentleman trying to get GROVE STREET kids to become a "sponsored result." Those are the businesses listed at the top of the review section on a business page that suggest that "You Might Also Consider..." The benefits of which, but not limited to, he explained, were being found in the top 5 of the search results when customers searched for businesses like mine. So, for fun, I asked him to do a search with me for Resale Shops in Berkeley. Not only did GSK come up in the top five, we were the 2nd result (today as I write this, we are the first result). So I thanked him for the call and politely declined the need for paid advertising. He couldn't really argue with me about it and, I think, it was at that point he offered to put me on the "Do Not Call" list.

Like most businesses reviewed on Yelp, we presume, GSK has a love/hate relationship with the contentious website. We love it when folks take time out of their busy lives and schedules to write lovely things about our shop and their shopping experiences. We hate (and I use that word only as a euphemism -it is such a strong word) when our lovely reviews go away. We actually have 18 reviews, not 11 as is shown. The website claims that "[t]he review may have been suppressed by Yelp's automated software system. This system decides how established a particular reviewer is and whether a review will be shown based on the reviewer's involvement on Yelp. While this may seem unfair to you, this system is designed to protect both consumers and businesses alike from fake reviews (i.e., a malicious review from a competitor or a planted review from an employee). The process is entirely automated to avoid human bias, and it affects both positive and negative reviews. It's important to note that these reviews are not deleted (they are always shown on the reviewer's public profile) and may reappear on your business page in the future."

It is true, they do "stay" in cyberspace. Another thing we like about Yelp is the ability to bookmark the reviews so that folks can see them all, even when not posted on our page. We've place an "Announcement" (yet another thing we like) that supplies the link on the Yelp page for our customers to peruse.

Part of the controversy about Yelp stems from the idea that Business Owners don't like having bad reviews and want them removed and are told they will be removed if they become a "sponsored result" advertiser. Of course, no business really wants a bad review, and we will admit to feeling like we were raked over the coals after our first less than stellar review, which we received a few months ago. In a panic response to seeing our brightly 5-star rating dwindle down to 4.5 (gasp!) stars, we called upon some of our favorite customers to write honest reviews in the hopes of bringing our average back up. Two more folks spoke up (but one has "disappeared") and, coincidentally, Yelp "pulled" the bad review at the same time, and our glowing 5-star rating returned.

Our viewpoint now, however, is that negative reviews actually provide some legitimacy to the many positive reviews previously posted. No business is ever going to be able to please all of the people, all of the time. But we feel that the way in which a review is worded or written speaks for itself as to the authenticity of it's reviewer. The aforementioned review, which in hindsight we should have bookmarked as well - but who wants to keep track of negative stuff? - was all about a person's observation of another customer's experience, not even their own.

Recently, yesterday, to be exact, an "unsatisfied" customer, took the time to write a not-so-pleasant-and-would-have-left-no-stars-if-they-could-have review about our business. No, we did not bookmark it, as it is still on the Yelp sight. Upon first reading it, my first thought, of course, was to respond to it (another "plus" for Yelp - Business Owners are allowed to publicly "respond" to reviews), to apologize for her negative experience. But, then I thought to myself, if I were looking at a business review page myself and came across one scathing review amongst many positive ones, what would I do?

So I proceeded to read the other reviews that this person posted which, coincidentally, included of all the other resale shops in the area. They were all bad, save one. At that point, I figured, if folks are going to take the time to find out about us on Yelp then they are going to go through the same process I just mentioned, and would "read" exactly what I did. And, interestingly enough, some folks came into the store yesterday for the first time and mentioned that they read about us on Yelp. The woman in the couple said she doesn't even look at the "sponsored results" because she knows they are "paid for." She said she only goes by the reviews, good and bad, that people leave, and you can tell which ones are legitimate. All this before we even saw the latest review.

Finally, we'd like to say that we believe that Yelp offers a beneficial service to the community, even if not entirely on the up and up (the jury's still out on that one). And, at this point, we at GROVE STREET kids would just like to take the opportunity to, again, thank all those people who have taken the time to spread the good word about us. We greatly appreciate your patronage!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Honesty is the best policy.

I love meeting new people everyday. I love talking to folks. I love seeing my regular, neighborhood families come in and tell me how much they enjoying shopping at GROVE STREET kids. These are just some of the many pleasures I derive from running my own business.

Some of the things I don't love are picking up after someone else's kids or finding unwrapped or damaged merchandise after the the customer has left. But for a small business, especially a retail business, these things are part and parcel of running a store that caters to kids and their families.

One thing that I dread dealing with, and have yet to actually confront someone about, is shoplifting. I know it's happened, in one form or another: tag-switching, returned items that have been used and claimed not to be, or just down-right walking off with something without paying for it. I've never actually seen it happen at GROVE STREET kids, and even if I were to, I'm not sure how I would handle it. Can you imagine having to walk up to a five or six year old child, after seeing him or her surreptitiously putting a little toy or purse I have for sale in his or her pocket and saying "I'm sorry, honey, but before you can take that home, Mommy or Daddy has to pay for it." Frankly, I hope that day never comes.

So imagine my surprise when, upon my arrival to work this morning, I opened the front door to find a little leather bracelet that I sell on the floor, next to an envelope with the words "I'm Srreey" scribbled in a child's hand on it; obviously dropped through the mail slot by the "culprit's" parent. It took just a moment for me to realize what had happened and, upon closer inspection, I noticed the envelope was actually sealed. I opened it to find a lovely drawing of rainbows and sunshine on one side of the paper,
and a letter of admission of guilt and an apology
on the other.

It read, roughly: "Dear Store. I stole this bracelet yesterday. I'm Sorry."

It was very clear to me that this child probably had no idea that what he or she did was wrong- "what does 'stole' mean, mommy?" Or maybe s/he didn't know just how wrong it was. Who knows? S/he simply saw something that sparked his or her interest and helped themselves. What warmed my heart about it, aside from the hearts and the butterflies, was that the parent saw fit to recognize that the misdeed had to be corrected and had the child not only return the bracelet, but apologize for taking it. I'm certain the child learned a valuable lesson. But what is more important, in my view, was the example that was set. In my business, it just doesn't happen enough.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cleaning out your closets?

It's that time of year. Some folks are ├╝ber organized and get their closets cleared in time for the holidays, in order to make room for all the new stuff to come. Most people wait, however, until after the holidays have past to do it. GROVE STREET kids has been hit hard this week with the fruits of their labor - which is great, it allows us to peruse the gamut of styles, sizes and seasons that make their way through our doors. However, some folks walk away disappointed when they take the time and expend their energy hauling multiple bags and/or boxes and still leave with multiple bags and/or boxes.

So we thought we'd offer some tips for making your selling experience at GROVE STREET kids the most successful, for everyone involved:

1. Check our website first: www.grovestreetkids.com. We do our very best to keep it updated as to the particulars of what season we are looking at and buying, what sizes we are in need of and accepting, and what we are not accepting. In addition, there is helpful information like, our buying hours and our trading and drop-off policies.

2. We wash everything (with the exception of new items with tags still attached) before it is placed on the floor for sale, whether or not you wash it before bringing it in. However, we do not purchase items, purposefully, with stains, tears, missing buttons etc. Items with stains (only) that are of the size and season we are in need of, will be purchased for a $1 selling price. This is because, if we can't get the stain out, we send it straight away to our $1 rack or bins. What this means for you: the better condition your items are in, the better price you will obtain for them.

3. If you decide to bring in your child(ren)'s wardrobe from the age of 2 until 7, you will be asked to drop the items off (be sure and read our drop off policy!), as to allow the buyer to peruse them at her convenience. In addition, you will likely receive a volume price for your items. We simply do not have the capacity to purchase everything from everybody. It is in your best interest to bring in items periodically instead of all at once.

4. Call ahead to make sure the buyer is in. Like most people, and especially people with young children, life's little emergencies sometimes arise and the buyer is not always available at the specified buying times. If you call and you don't get to speak to a live person, please leave a message. It is our policy not to answer the phone whilst we are helping or assisting our customers in the store. If you leave a message, we will call you back.

5. Please don't take the "rejection" of your children's clothing personally! Items are chosen primarily on two factors: supply and demand. We often don't buy certain items of clothing that we personally like, simply because they don't sell. On the flip side we do buy certain items simply because there is the demand for them (can anybody say "sweatpants"?) As a general rule, GROVE STREET kids doesn't buy "character" items, however, there are simply some characters (ie. Hello Kitty or Thomas the Tank Engine) that would just be poor judgement not to buy, as they do sell, in almost any condition.

We hope these tips help you to sort things out and make your selling and/or trading experience at GROVE STREET kids to be the most successful it can be. We certainly do appreciate your business!