Rob in Scotland
June and July are distant memories now, as I make my way out to New York and the annual NY Now summer gift show, for my work with Keena Co and 12 Small Things. So much has happened that it's hard to imagine just a couple months ago, I was biking with my husband over the hills and around the lochs of Scotland. Invited by my good friend Penny Blair to help celebrate her 70th birthday, I convinced Robert to come along for the scenery, food and malted beverages, promising lots of biking with a few castles tossed in along the way. 

Coming up on our 30th anniversary, I had contemplated throwing a big party with friends and family, but the chance to party with locals at the birthplace of my father's ancestors, seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. As soon as we figured out driving on the wrong side of the road and the GPS navigating system, Robert and I embraced the journey, exploring roads, lochs and bike trails as much as we could each day, before heading back to the Blair cottage for evening drinks and homemade dinners. Penny and her two sisters and brother and their children and grandchildren were all wonderful hosts, along with Penny's closest friends who we enjoyed dining with. There were great toasts, speeches and poems recited, musicians playing, bonfires warming, and some of the best food we'd had, topped off with Scottish dancing in the town hall for the main event.


Sad to leave Scotland, Rob and I took the train down to London to visit some of his mother's family there and then took the Chunnel onto Paris to visit his French cousins and see the sights. We were so lucky to have great weather in all three countries, which is unheard of during the rainy season, particularly in Paris, were the Seine was flooding after weeks of some of the worst rain they'd had in years. 


Returning to foggy San Francisco was initially a bit of a letdown, but once back at work I found there was so much to do, the weather didn't really matter. 12 Small Things had been invited, along with Keena and a few other wholesale companies, to exhibit at the first ever Indie Market in Berkeley, CA, as an alternative to the San Francisco gift show, which folded after more than 30 years at the Moscone Center. I enlisted my associate Shushan to help me design a booth display using IKEA shelving I'd purchased at garage sales, and Keena generously loaned me some of their fixtures and paneling for this experimental event.

Shushan and my wonderful interns from Mexico City, Carolina and Paola, who are studying marketing at the Hult School of Business, helped me create a database of my artisans products using the software Handshake, so we could enter orders on our iPads instead of writing them by hand. The 3 day show was a solid success, thanks to great event planning by the Keena team, and loyal customers who were happy to place their holiday orders in a smaller, more intimate environment. 


After Indie Market, it was time to return home to process orders and get ready for the Fair Trade Bazaar at the de Young Museum, and then Las Vegas at the end of July. I had to carefully pack all my artisans products back up and bring them to UPS and FedEx to send out to the desert city. Would they arrive safely and on time, was just one of my many concerns I tried to suppress, during restless nights leading up to the big event. What I didn't anticipate was my Guatemalan artisan group, Matiox, sending a package directly to Las Vegas with new pillow cover designs for the show, but without pillow inserts.

Thinking I'd save time and money, I packed an extra bag filled with feather inserts and wooden clothes hangers to take on the flight with me. When my daughter Olivia dropped me off at the airport the next morning, I'd thought of everything except the 45 minute cut-off for checked baggage. I tried getting in line for security to check my bag at the gate, but they wouldn't let me in with two suitcases. The lines for agents were staggering long and I called Olivia panicking, to come back and pick up my extra bag, which like a trouper she did. I now had 5 minutes to run through the terminal like OJ Simpson and get to my gate, red-faced and breathing hard, only to learn the plane had already taxied away. 

Thankfully I was able to get the next flight out and as I calmed down, was so grateful I had hired Erin Kraemer from the Roost display team, who was already in Las Vegas painting my booth. When I finally arrived at the World Market Center, Erin and I got to work moving fixtures and hanging shelves and accomplished quite a lot in that one crazy day. We went over to the Keena showroom to say hi and were offered a tall glass of wine along with extra hangers and pillow inserts. Who could ask for more?


The next day Shushan arrived along with Eszter from Sidai Designs, and we all worked together to display the 12 product lines in a cohesive collection. Feeling accomplished we headed back to our hotel for a quick meal and bad TV before falling asleep. In spite of the 115 degree heat, customers did manage to walk out to the Pavilions and we had a good first day of sales, seeing repeat customers from January, along with some great new customers, including Filoli Garden Shop, The Asian Art and de Young Museums from San Francisco, the Modern Art Museum of Houston and the United Nations Store in Tucson. On our last evening in Vegas, Shushan and I had a rooftop swim at the hotel, with cocktails poolside, and watched the sun set against the yellow striped awnings and neon sign skyline, feeling pretty lucky to be in this crazy wonderful city together.



I had packed up as much as I could after the show, and decided to rent a U Haul truck to drive my product and fixtures back to San Francisco the next day.  While all this show activity was going on, I had also been negotiating for a lease on a small office and showroom space two blocks from my home, that could help relieve some of the clutter and chaos my growing business was inflicting on my family and house. 

The one caveat was the property came with a small retail space on the main business street of my neighborhood. Suddenly I was going to have a store, and I realized during the show, that the beautiful, heavy wood and metal fixtures I bought from Roost for Las Vegas, were really better intended for a permanent showroom. I asked Erin to help me design a lightweight IKEA solution for the next Vegas show. And with that decision, I handed out a bunch of $20s to the guys who helped me load my truck, and began the 11 hour drive back to San Fransisco, and the next chapter for 12 Small Things, at 513 Cortland Avenue.
September 09, 2016 by Laurie Kanes