513 CortlandI'm here, all moved in, and I still can't quite believe it, thanks to all the help and support of my family and friends and a ton of elbow grease. When I returned from the New York gift show at the end of August, I was notified by the realtor group Urban Solutions, that I was approved to lease my new office, showroom and store by the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. I was given one month's free rent to fix up my new digs starting September 1st, which was only a few days away. After signing 20 plus pages of documents, I was given the keys to 513 Cortland Avenue, and gave myself until October 9th, the anniversary of 12 Small Things website launch in 2009, to officially open. I had been so busy in August processing wholesale orders from the Bay Area Indie Market and Las Vegas Market, and then had flown out to attend NY Now, that I didn't have a lot of time to think about my new headquarters for 12 Small Things. It's just as well, as I probably would have lost too much sleep or my nerve.

Creative Women 
New York was wonderful and it felt great to see all my artisan contacts again. I headed straight for the Handmade section of NY Now, where I met the new owner of Creative Women, Maura Kroh and her associates. I was very impressed with the work she is doing to bring this wonderful line of handwoven linens into a more contemporary space, with new photography, website and collateral design. I also met Arthur Holcombe of the Poverty Alleviation Fund at the Aid To Artisan's booth, along with Claire Burkert and Kristine Jones and artisans Julie from Chin Chili in Myanmar and Nyima from Dropenling in Tibet. They are a wonderful organization giving dedicated support to artisans in very challenging countries.
I visited with Ted from Prosperity Candles and Anne and Sole from Craftspring, and Smita from Indigo Handloom who had a beautiful new booth design. I saw Eszter from Sidai Designs and Keith from Hand/Eye Magazine, who had just finished being interviewed by MSNBC about the Artisan Resource, produced for NY Now by Karen and Colvin from ByHand Consulting. I also had coffee with Annie Waterman from AOW Handmade who was briefly in New York before heading off to more shows in Paris and Morocco. 
My last night in New York I met Sue from Melange at the Aid to Artisan's cocktail reception before we went to dinner, and saw Carol MacNulty and Bonnie Dehan who were both part of ATA's Market Readiness Program. I spotted one of my favorite design consultants, Patti Carpenter, who showed me and Sue the embroidery she was working on with artisans from Pakistan. Patti introduced us to Frederic Alcantara, another well regarded international designer, who asked if we would like to see more of the designs they are working on, together with Siddiqu Malik from The Heritage Trust.
We found a quiet room and sat around a table to review all the incredible embroidery the women artisans in Pakistan are creating, with design coaching from Frederic and Patty. Siddiqa explained the precarious obstacles many of these women in Pakistan are facing with warfare, poverty, lack of employment opportunities and cultural challenges. Having access to international consultants and markets, to create revenue from craftwork produced from their homes, can make a measurable difference in these women's and their children's lives. I felt at that moment, surrounded by this extraordinary group of people, that I was right in the center of where I wanted to be, and tried to take in every aspect of why it felt so life affirming.
Coming home on a high, I was quickly brought back to reality with the prospect of opening a new office, showroom and store in one month's time. First thing to tackle was the linoleum floor in my new space that looked tired and worn. I enlisted some of the youth counselors working next door at the BHNC, to help me chip away at the tile, which was no easy task. Once removed my husband Rob and I rented an industrial sander to try to even out the rough colors and textures of the cement floor below. Once sanded, the floors still looked pretty rough, and following the advise of my fellow shopkeeper friend Darcy from Heartfelt, I painted them cement grey.
My husband and friends all chipped in with the painting, window scraping and courtyard cleaning, that included replacing the bamboo fence and trimming the dead ivy along the walls. The last thing left was the challenge of getting my heavy Roost fixtures down from my house two blocks up the hill, into my shop. My husband and friends were working their day jobs and my back up plans for help didn't come through.
Instead, I headed down to our local U-Haul, rented a van and asked one of the day laborers looking for work, to choose a friend and hop on board. Best decision I made all week! Fernando and his friend were very professional and had no problem hoisting all my heavy fixtures and office furniture into the van in one load. They carefully moved everything into my new office and showroom placed exactly where I wanted, and we were done in under two hours. I probably overpaid them a bit but was so happy and relieved to have everything in place, it was worth every penny.
Shushan and her friend came over the next day to install shelves and wall fixtures, which just left my artisan product to bring down and display. Working against the clock for an opening party beginning at 3:00 on Sunday, I was still setting up when the guests started to arrive. Thankfully I had Shushan and my teens from the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center there to help, along with my family and friends who put out the food and poured the drinks. I was so touched that so many friends came to show their support, including Fatimah, Sharon and Paul from my alma mater, the Renaissance Entrepreneurial Center. Even though I knew everything wasn't buttoned up, I don't think anyone minded and a good time was had by all.
I've since had a couple weeks to properly organize inventory and interview people to help with the store, and things seem to be settling into place. The Bernal Heights community has been so welcoming and supportive, and sales have been encouraging. I'm getting ready to put out my holiday products once Halloween and this crazy election are over. And just like that, this busy year is coming to an end, but wow, what a year it's been! 
November 10, 2016 by Laurie Kanes