Searching for the right words to effectively convey how I feel about living my dream of Connie’s Kids for 30 years this week, I contacted a creative friend who is an awesome writer, asking for advice on how to get the feelings in my heart down in print. She suggested taking a shower, (where she finds HER inspiration!), or wine. So I may or may not be sitting in the shower right now, glass of wine in hand, pouring my gratitude out to you. (I apologize for that mental picture.)
All I can think to say is 30 YEARS, how did that happen? It’s like giving birth to a child, & all of a sudden they are grown, except this baby never left home. And I am grateful. Beyond grateful. In awe, really. In awe of you, my friends, customers, & supporters, who have stuck by me through thick & thin, (& I am not just talking about my weight here. )
30 years ago, I was an x-ray tech, working midnight shift at Chesapeake General Hospital. It was just not cutting it in the fulfillment department. I had one baby & one on the way, and was teaching Lamaze classes at the hospital. The hospital was opening a birthing unit. I knew I had to think of a way to do something that would make my heart happy every day. On a whim, I started buying small batches of wholesale children’s clothing, & selling them to my co-workers at the hospital. Before long I was doing home parties. Within two years I had $80,000 worth of inventory in my home, with rounders in my living room, & draped chains full of smocked dresses & eton suits hung around the dining room. Something had to give.
Leaving my shift one morning, I saw a sign (pun intended)…. a shopping center was going up across the street. Call it an “Ah-ha Moment”, or what you will, but my brain went into overdrive. To say the stars collided would be a pretty apt description. I felt a fire light up in my soul that I could not ignore. I HAD to quit my job, & open a children’s clothing store right across from the hospital. I was obsessed, (some would say possessed).
Everyone told me I was crazy. Family. Friends. The banks, (especially the banks!) But my passion only increased, & I began to design my store. My “Tell me I can’t do something, & my reply is “WATCH ME!”” attitude came in pretty handy. (Generally, this had NOT been helpful with past decisions, but that’s another story! )
Connie’s Kids was the first store opened in the shopping center, and the scariest part was I had to sign a FIVE year lease! I was petrified! On a tight budget, I installed the cheapest carpet, & the installer told me it would probably have to be replaced in five years, and I thought “Oh please God, let me still be here in five years to HAVE that problem! And I am here to tell you that carpet was replaced FIVE times in 27 years!
I was in heaven working in my store. The customers that became friends, the friends that pitched in to help, the employees that became family. I loved watching all the children grow up. Seeing them model their Connie’s Kids finest was the best part! It was working. For many many years, it worked.
Then things changed. The recession, young mothers not craving the “classic” styles, expenses on the rise. Something had to be done. After much soul searching, bargaining with God, & massive denial, I made the tough decision to close the store. My heart was broken. I had been living my dream, but could no longer keep things going. It felt like death, divorce, and failure, all rolled up into one big sad heap. I was so sad. I made the announcement to my customers that we would be closing, & the outpouring of love & support that they offered literally held me up. I was sure it was all over. The storefront closed 3 years ago.
I began the process of reinventing myself, & job hunting, and was getting sadder & sadder. Customers kept calling to see if I could still order items for them , and I could, so I did. And it grew. I never had the nerve to shut my web site down. Things started turning around. I learned how to put my store on Ebay, Amazon, & Facebook & decided to have another go at it. That was three years ago.
Although this was not my original plan, I figured out how to deal with Plan B. Business is once again booming. And I am BEAMING! I joke that I work from home in my pj’s & drink wine, and it’s not TOO far from the truth! It is different, and I miss the day to day chatting with familiar faces, but most of my customers have stuck by me, and I have gained so many more online!
To say “Thank You”, or “I am grateful” doesn’t seem like enough, but what other words are there to express how much joy I feel once again, all because of customers who wouldn’t let me go away. So to you all, CHEERS! Stay tuned for a contest, sale, or celebration of some kind…I just haven’t thought of WHAT to do yet!
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of dressing your children, and grandchildren in the classic styles that keep children looking like children. Hopefully, I will be writing another one of these gratitude letters in ANOTHER 30 years, when I am 90….still in my pj’s & drinking wine!