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Amy Moore – Little Luxuries Madison
You have found Authentic Business Adventures,
a business program that brings you
the struggles, stories, and triumphant successes of business owners across the land.
We are locally underwritten
by the Bank of Sun Prairie.
My name is James Kademan,
and today is a huge day because this is
episode number 200,
and I get to celebrate it with Amy Moore,
the owner of Little Luxuries,
which is pretty awesome because I’ve been
trying to get you on the
show for a long time.
And I’ve been looking
forward to this moment.
So, Amy, how’s it going today?
It’s going well.
Thanks so much for inviting
me to join you today.
And congratulations on this episode.
I feel honored to be
a part of this episode.
It’s a big deal and we’re
on location at the luxury store.
So how about you tell us just a little bit
about what Little Luxuries is
for maybe the people that don’t know?
So Little Luxuries is a gift shop located
in downtown Madison now since 1990.
So we’re stapled down here
in the heart of the city.
And let’s see,
we got a little bit of something
for everybody for gifts
from zero to 101.
So any person you have in your life that’s
looking that needs a little pick me up or
has a special celebration or maybe
a little something for yourself,
we got something for everybody.
And I just enjoy thoroughly curating
the space with some unique products
that you can’t find just anywhere.
And the items are welldesigned
and inspired thoughts and yeah,
just kind of allow someone to take
a little break from your everyday
and just enjoy life in simple ways.
It’s really cool because as we’re sitting
up around here, I was looking around and I
like to have quotes everywhere over
my office, in the shop,
all that kind of stuff.
I thought I had a lot,
but around here there’s so many
inspirational or cool little things,
little stickers and stuff like that.
Yeah, we’ve maximized every itty bitty
space that we can in this
environment, for sure.
And my background is interior design,
so merchandising is one of my favorite
things to do, actually.
I don’t think I knew that about you.
Yeah, I studied here
at University of Madison.
didn’t know that I’d use my skills in this
setting, but it works out and translates
really well to do the buying and then
figuring out where exactly it’s going to
go and how to maximize this environment.
It’s a fun project.
All right, so let’s talk about
how you got started in this.
You bought the business when
it was already running.
Okay, so that’s still
that’s over a decade ago.
Just celebrated ten years.
It’s pretty amazing.
And you were working here before?
So how long did you work here before
you end up buying the business?
Let’s see so I started
working here in 2006.
So at that time, I was
just working part time.
So the parttime position eventually
evolved into a managerial position when
the manager stepped out of her position.
And then eventually the business owner
was getting to the point of retirement.
And I just happened to already kind of be
in the position as manager,
doing a lot of the buying,
going to the shows, managing the staff,
and pretty much everything
but the financials.
And so at that point, the current owner,
she just saw some characteristics
in my capabilities that kind of matched
hers, and she thought it would be
a good match to be a business owner.
So she presented the opportunity
and I was ready to take it on.
And so I stepped forward and I’m like,
yeah, let’s do this.
So we have a couple of years before
we did the transition in 2011.
Prepare for that.
So I actually did
a class business fundamentals is what it
was called back in the day
of the Business Development Center.
Small Business Development Center.
So I learned a little bit about all
aspects of running a business and then
also have a mentor that I
continue to use there.
So just maximize the resources
in the community to learn and grow
and then use the skills that I
had learned through working here.
And it translated out already.
So when you first came here,
it was just kind of a little
side hustle rent kind of thing.
And I think that’s maybe a message
for anybody of any age, really,
especially younger folks.
I mean, you never know what
a job could turn into.
How you show up in the world and at your
job really can make a difference and I
think be possible if you’re showing
that you’re motivated and you’re
showing capability and enthusiasm.
I think it could go a long way.
If you’re in the right spot at.
The right time, that’s fair.
That drive of an employee, I think,
is a big deal because it reflects both
on them as an employee, but also just
where they’re going with their life.
You only get one shot.
Better give it your best, I suppose.
So you got in your parttime,
you build up to manager when she comes
to you and says, like,
hey, Amy, I’m bowing out.
What are your thoughts on buying a store?
Was your first thought like, absolutely,
I’ve never run a business before.
Let’s jump on this.
No, definitely not.
So first I was like, wow, I can’t
believe she thinks I’m capable of this.
Because, I mean, yes,
I thought I did my job well,
but I never really had that on my mind.
My second thought was, that sounds scary,
doing something that I’ve never done
before, taking on that big of a risk.
So then there was
that fear element, right?
Like, that fear of possible
And trying to overcome that.
And that takes some time, right,
to educate yourself,
think on it, learn more, I guess bring
in professionals to kind of guide you.
And once taking that class,
just to learn more about how to run
a business, it just kind of inspires more
confidence and also being
in an environment with other people
interested in starting their own
business or taking out a business.
Also, just like that veteran student we
had, the other students in the class,
I think it’s helpful because it just
reminds you that every business
has to start somewhere or transition
of a business, and there’s so many other
people that have been in that circumstance
and have succeeded and have failed,
and that’s kind of a part of life.
So I think also being in that energy
and seeing other people interested
and yes, taking a risk and seeing how
it goes, that was also inspiring.
All right, so when you were in that class,
this is always curious to me because
Little Luxuries is essentially
a staple of Madison.
Yeah, like when I mentioned, hey,
I know Amy, Little Luxuries, blah blah,
when you’re talking about retail,
they’re like, I know Little Luxuries.
So when you’re in this class,
you’re talking to someone that’s thinking
about starting their little coffee shop or
their little dog walking business,
and you’re like,
you know the Capital Building,
that store just a block away from that?
Yeah, I’m going to own that.
So is it interesting talking to people
that knew the business that you
were essentially going to buy?
Yeah, because like you said,
it’s been here since 1990, so people
are very familiar with the store.
That was interesting.
All of a sudden, immediately I felt like
I became some kind of famous person.
Like, oh, you’re that person
that owns that shop.
I’ve been going to since I was
a kid or since I moved here.
And yeah, so I had a little
fame associated with that.
Feels kind of strange because
I’m kind of a quieter person.
I’m not very showy myself,
and that’s unique to be kind of elevated
in that way, knowing that people
are familiar with cool business.
When I was in college here,
I worked in retail on State Street.
And so that was, like,
my first experience.
I moved to Madison from West Bend.
West Bend is a pretty small town of like
at the time, it was like 25,000, which is
about the size of the university.
As far as the amount of students that come
to this school and come to the city,
I’m like, oh, Bank City.
I got to work on stage three.
It’s so psychic.
And so that’s where I kind of got
my passion for connecting
with the community and just, like,
being in a beautiful environment
filled with beautiful things.
But at one point, Janice also owned Puzzle
box at the same time,
she had Little Luxuries, and I,
at one point, actually applied to work
there, and I did not get the job.
So little did I know later I would own one
of her other businesses
that actually moved into the space.
So Puzzle Box used to be here,
and Little Luxury has moved into the space
from just down the street into
the job that I did not get.
I later owned a different business
that person owned, so that’s
kind of funny to have that.
But I loved those stores that she owned,
and to be the owner
myself now is an honor.
Don’t switch to not getting a job.
I applied to RVs when I was in high
school, and I didn’t get the job.
They’re lost RVs.
Tell me about when she was a Janet.
Janet was Janet.
When she comes to you and she’s like, hey,
Amy, interested in buying this,
was she also pushing it out to other
people, or were you her focus and if you
didn’t buy it, then she’d have
to broadcast a little more?
That was her focus.
And, yeah, it didn’t take too long for me
to make that decision, so she didn’t have
to really do much searching elsewhere.
But I totally appreciate the idea
of looking into looking at your own team
with the skills that they have,
and in this case, not necessarily.
Does everybody have the financial means?
So we were able to establish
a circumstance where we had a five
year period paying off the business.
It was almost like
a personal loan with her.
Okay, so she financed it.
She financed it.
So there were opportunities there
that wouldn’t be in a circumstance where
you don’t have a personal
relationship on that level.
I think she wanted
the business to continue.
She wanted it to succeed.
And having someone already in the doll
kind of helps maybe
guarantee that a little bit more.
So, yeah, I am super appreciative
that opportunity arose,
and when I get to the point where I’m
ready to retire, then I would
love to do the same thing.
So it would be great to pass it on to
other staff members and
continue on with the business.
All right, so when you bought the business
from her, tell me about the transition.
Was she just like, here’s the keys.
I’m out, I’m hit the beach, or whatever?
Did she stay on to help you learn about
the financials or how she does
things that you may not have known?
Yes, she stayed on for
that five year period.
So because she was still a part because I
hadn’t fully paid it off from the get go,
and she still had some skin in the game,
in essence, she was a part of that.
We would meet quarterly,
and we would kind of review
the financials, and she was there anytime,
if something came up or
I had some questions.
So at first I’m like, oh,
this is so helpful in the way that she’s
kind of tethered to it yet,
and she’s willing to share her knowledge.
By the second half of the five years,
I was like,
and I’m ready to be independent here,
and I can’t wait for this to be over with.
But it did help with the
And even today, she does come in.
She lives downtown,
and she’ll come in and check in on things,
and she’s still curious,
and she’s still work here and there.
If we needed help in the Sandbag
I think for me it was helpful without
having a lot of business background.
It’s interesting you talk about
the transition and how you kind of got
sick of it after two and a half years.
I think I would have been sick
of it after two and a half weeks.
It’s essentially two decision
makers at that point, right?
And you’re like,
I’ve got this vision for where we’re
going to advance in the future.
And she may be like, well,
that’s not how I was thinking of it.
I don’t know how much of that was there.
Not as much as I anticipated.
I mean, she would say things, but in
essence, I was the final decision maker.
But it didn’t get too difficult regarding
positions, like, differing
positions on anything too major.
I think she did a pretty good job
of keeping enough distance,
but still being present and available.
So it didn’t get too overbearing.
It was just to the point where I’m like,
I’m done with the helicopter parent,
making sure everything is okay.
But overall, I felt like it was pretty
healthy as far as the assistance you had.
So after you bought the business the first
few years, were there some hiccups or
challenges that you did not anticipate?
Let’s see here.
Well, I think the main focus initially
well, as far as just how the business is
run as a whole,
there’s a delicate balance.
When you buy a business that already
exists and it’s successful,
there’s that balance between continuing,
not making too many changes to the point
where the success is affected.
But yet making enough changes where I’m
making my personal
impression on a business.
So initially when I started,
of course, I continued running
the business as it was and just kind
of monitoring my own interests
and the desires to make and evolve
a business to be more me than Janice.
That’s something that I initially,
especially in those first five years, were
things that I was thinking a lot about.
Now I feel like I’m like,
all right, anything goes.
My store, and I know more than I did then
as far as what the demands are and those
demands of our customers and our
community changes regularly.
And then also,
she didn’t have any social media
presence when I bought the business.
So we were a little bit
behind in that way.
It felt like the website and the social
media was back in the 90s
with technology, things evolved so fast.
So we got the Facebook going,
Facebook page and then Instagram,
but we were just a little
bit delayed on that game.
So kind of catching up
on the technological side of business
and getting a new website.
And then of course, in the last two years,
like getting some
products online to sell them.
So we have an ecommerce site now.
We’ve evolved into that, but I think yeah,
just catching up in that way.
And then also evolving a space that still
looks like the 80s because she had done
a remodel when she moved
in here with puzzle box.
So that was early 80s
with the teals and the paint.
We were kind of living
in the past in this environment.
So that was also a project I took on,
was bringing it to the present a little
more contemporary, fresh,
clean look, a little less pink.
Just kind of bringing it
up to speed for the times.
And then also evolving
the products and those products.
Now we have categories of products that we
carry like books, games, accessories,
jewelry, all these children’s
area here with the toys.
But evolving it even more so these days
to more locally made goods
with diverse makers in our community.
And then also associating values
to a lot of the products.
We have this focus on the environment
and reusable products.
So we have like that category.
We’re expanding into a pet
category with everyone.
The amount of pets in people’s lives
have increased in the past two years.
we don’t have a pet store downtown,
so just some kind of higher end fun.
Pet toys and accessories is
something we’re going to dabble in.
And I’m trying to think, oh,
and Mindfulness, you know,
that’s something people are focused on.
Just like we’re trying to create
an environment that inspires
people and creates positivity.
The diversity of products
that you have in here.
We can see everything from glasses,
stickers, handbags, hair ties,
jewelry, umbrellas, postcards, kind.
Of the one stop shop.
If you can’t find something in here
for someone, you’re not looking.
Yeah, it’s crazy.
I was trying to get the shot where you
could show all the stuff that you had
and I’m like, maybe we got
to get a drone or something.
Yeah, it’s amazing.
I want to talk to you about employees
because the transition had to happen where
she was the boss, you were
manager and now you’re the owner.
Was that tough or was that pretty simple?
Like, hey, he needs one sign in front
of your check now, so do what she says.
I think the toughest part was definitely
the relationship with the other manager.
We were equals.
And then all of a sudden going from equals
to, yes, I am the owner of this business,
making the decisions when
we would equally converse.
But then again,
I have always been a manager, like,
open to feedback and more
of a collaborative manager,
but that was a little different when
we would have different opinions.
The existing manager,
that used to be more of an equal.
Now, as the business owner,
I’d have to make some decisions here
and there, and it just takes a little
while for that relationship to evolve,
to understand the difference in
this new relationship.
But, yeah, eventually we
got over that hurdle.
But in retail, there is high
So she’s no longer with us at the moment.
The life circumstances changed for her,
and we have a lot of students, so those
students kind of turnover as well.
So I would say initially it was
the relationship with the co manager
to take some time to settle into.
Okay, so employees as a whole
is an excellent segue, right?
It’s got to be tough to find people retail
because you’re talking nights, weekends,
dealing with the public,
which a lot of people aren’t a big fan of,
and keeping track of all the stuff
and handling money.
That’s a big thing.
So tell me about how you
learn to deal with people.
I word that wrong.
Let’s just say how to hire,
train, manage people.
I totally don’t do that.
So as far as hiring goes,
what’s been most effective for us has been
putting just a sign up in the window,
which we actually permanently pretty much
have in the window, never coming down,
and it’s on every window.
But we do have high pedestrian traffic.
And to work downtown, it’s often
most convenient to live downtown.
And we do have that student
population that is dwelling downtown.
Although, yeah, there are some retirement.
It’s a retirement community too.
There are a lot of retirees that are kind
of that pop in and like, hey,
I’m looking for something to do.
All right, so that’s
been the most effective.
Of course, we’ll go online and use several
sources there, and the university does
have a job, a job site
for students to find.
So that’s worked effectively
for part time staff, unfortunately.
Also a source has been as retailers have
on the street here,
we’ve actually kind of picked up some
of the staff that used
to work in other stores.
So we have a woman that was
working here from Serve.
Serve, the Fair Trade shop next door,
had closed in the last year.
And then also Capital Kids on the Square
closed, I think, maybe
a couple of years ago.
We have a staff member from there
that applied that wanted to stay
downtown to still do retail.
We recently had a woman from the Mocha
gift shop that has closed in the last
year, just reaching out to say,
hey, are you hiring at all.
I’m looking for work.
So we’re known in the retail bounce
community, and I think if you get kind
of hooked in retail, you love it.
A lot of people enjoy being on their feet.
They like the variety, they like
the interacting with the community.
And once you kind of fall in love
with that, you want to stick with it.
All right, we have a group of people
that we’ve hired from that circumstance,
but then, yeah, it does
rotate because it’s retail.
So the student staff, it’s like, they’re
getting younger and I’m getting older.
Each batch is like another generation.
And then I’m getting that book,
and I’m like, okay, how to manage
millennials, how to manage genteers.
You got to keep educating yourself
because it’s just a different world.
But they come in and max,
we’ll have them for four years.
My school does.
They go through college
and then they move on and they leave
the nest and they start over again.
But I think what’s difficult in managing
staff is definitely the fact
that the training never really ends then.
Right when you have staff that
constantly rotating or are just putting
in a small amount of hours between ten
to 15 hours a week,
because that works with a class schedule
or whatnot, that part can be draining.
It’s just like, I remember how we do this.
You haven’t done this
in a couple of weeks.
This is how we do that.
Or, oh, welcome to the team.
Oh, you’re going to leave because the next
semester is not going to work for you.
It was nice to see you for three
months in this environment.
So I think maintaining the patience and
repeating and reiterating a lot
of the same policies and the same
procedures over and over, I mean,
there are ways you can have people read
it, but everyone’s different in the way
that they learn, as far as hearing it,
reading it, being advised
that they themselves do it.
So, yeah, I think that takes
up a lot of our time.
I can see how many even
with the businesses that I have
with employees, training is a huge
I want to call it on the edge
of a nightmare because you don’t know.
Like you said, they learn differently,
and their work ethic may or may not be
in line with where we feel it
should be and just their interest.
I feel like people want to be Connell
a little bit more than our generation
assume they’re a little bit
and it’s tough.
And I imagine here, when it’s known to be
I’m going away for the summer,
moving back home, or something like that.
Or imagine even Christmas time,
they’re going back home
and it’s your busiest time.
That commitment level is not
there like it would be if an individual is
full time or had more work experience,
you know what I mean?
With some of the students,
this is their first opportunity to work.
And if they did, then it was kind
of in high school where yeah, exactly.
They were the ones to get that job.
So have you had challenges where you’re
like things that you didn’t train
because you just assumed they knew it?
Like making change or something like that?
Or you don’t know how
to turn on a computer.
Once I use the staff members,
I didn’t know how to use a vacuum.
Didn’t know how to use a vacuum?
I was like, Wait a minute,
not too elaborate there.
So we’re having to keep the space clean.
So part of it but they didn’t realize
that the vacuum, you press
the button so it lowers.
So they were like, vacuuming like this?
No, that’s kind of awesome.
Did you follow someone
just watch them do that?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t there
to be able to comment on that.
My manager was, but I was like,
Whoa, I can’t believe it.
I feel like that’s like watching someone
that’s hand in writing, just watch this.
But I would say maybe just like
the retaining of knowledge.
It’s easy to assume that a person
remembers how to do something because it
might be something I
do on a regular basis.
In my head, I’m like, oh, yeah.
Everybody I train that.
Everybody knows how to do this.
And so what happens then is sometimes I’ll
forget that this person, oh,
they haven’t worked in a couple of weeks.
Or maybe they just need a little reminder
because they just tend to forget.
I have to remind myself that just because
I have that knowledge and I thought I’ve
communicated and trained it,
sometimes a review is necessary,
or just checking in to be like, oh,
do you remember how to do this?
Do you have questions?
Although sometimes I can say,
do you remember?
Do you have any questions?
People will say no and then
they’ll try and then yeah.
I think offering more information than not
is probably better because otherwise
I sometimes fixing mistakes.
That can be extra work
on the manager or myself.
I want to talk about product.
And let’s just segue
from employees of product.
You have so many things and so much
variety that I imagine to be an expert
in all of them is probably not realistic.
Not in every category.
So imagine if someone comes up and they’re
like, hey, are these prescription glasses?
Or ask some question,
how do you work with your employees
to know how to answer even though they may
not necessarily be the master
of any given product?
so when I get new products or when I have
category of product, as people are
hired on, we do share knowledge.
But yeah, there is a lot of product
and it’s hard to remember at all.
And we don’t actually get
through every product.
So if a person has a question,
first of all,
we remind the staff that they should be
honest about the knowledge that they have.
If they don’t know, they have to say they
don’t know and that they’ll work
on trying to figure that out.
Find the answer.
Find the answer.
when a person asks a question and they
don’t have the answer,
first thing I say actually read the box.
So I got to just grab it.
If they’re like, oh,
what’s the material with this scarf
or this blanket or this sock?
Grab it, find the tag.
Sometimes it’s as easy as that.
Otherwise, asking a co worker,
oftentimes there’s one that’s worked
longer than another and has more knowledge
and then also googling the information
and going to the website.
If the staff working,
they can’t find the answer,
then just taking name and number and
having myself or my manager get back
to them with that knowledge,
we never want to act,
and so we have an answer or make
something up or assume something.
So it’s better in my mind to say,
actually, let me get back to you on that,
to get the correct answer.
But yeah, it is a challenge,
especially if you have rotating staff
to keep them up to date
and rotating products.
To keep it fresh.
And you go to the shows every year
to figure out what’s going to be new
and fresh in six months, a year.
You kind of anticipate that.
Exactly, yeah, about six months.
So, I mean, the people,
the employees are coming in fresh,
the products coming in fresh.
So it’s going to be a challenge.
Not impossible, but interesting.
So let’s go into products.
How you find it, how you figure out
what’s actually going to be in the store.
Because this is always changing.
So it’s a combination of ways
in which I find the product.
So main one and the most fun
one is traveling to the shows.
Yes, I love that.
So I just went to Las Vegas for the gift
show there, so that’s going to be
a focus on spring summer products.
I’m still not clear what are these shows?
Are these shows for vendors that sell
the product to store owners like you?
And then just carnival barking at you
like, come on, the people
in Madison want to buy.
I don’t know, whatever.
So the gift show, it’s many booths filled
and the product is represented by a rep
that’s going to tell you about it,
or a maker or an artisan.
And so the one that I went to recently,
I mean, there’s hundreds,
if not thousands of booths and spaces.
Some are permanent spaces,
so some will be like
in a merchandise type mart,
like an environment where they have
permanent booths where they can invite
customers to come in and show the product.
And then there’s the temporary booths
to make it big enough to draw
people from across the country.
So in Las Vegas, it was
at the World Convention Center.
They are in Vegas,
and it’s just a combination
of vendors that are permanently located
and then the temporary vendors
making it a really big show.
And you go there and you’re literally just
walking the aisles and observing
what’s in each booth.
Of course, you cannot stop in each booth.
There’s no time for that.
But there’s time to, like,
take a gander and assess what’s in each
space and evaluating if that matches
the store, matches our
community, our customers.
And when you do it often,
you can do it quickly.
So it’s pretty easy for me to be like,
yes, no, definitely not.
Definitely yes, and also just observing
where other buyers are gravitating to.
So when you see a cluster of people
interested and excited about the product,
that makes me curious,
and I’ll add to that space.
But, yeah, you got to avoid every single
salesperson because if you get a little
too close and you definitely know it’s not
for you, and they’re like,
I got a sample for you,
and they’re luring you, and I’m like,
I’m not going to take the sample,
and I’m not going to get lured
because I got a time crunch here.
So that’s the process.
And I do that in a couple of,
normally two to three days so that I can
seize the product and I can absorb it
if I know right away I want it.
I’m making that purchase,
and I’m buying for the future.
So make the purchase there,
and then they’ll ship it,
probably normally within
weeks it comes to the store.
But if I’m not sure about it,
I’m on the fence,
and I’m still considering I’ll wait,
and I have three days to kind
of make that decision.
So the benefit of buying at these shows
then, is to take advantage of show
specials so they’ll be offered offering
free freight, which is huge because
the cost of freight is going up,
or you might get a percentage off on your
purchase if it meets a certain amount.
Basically as a way to kind
of grow the margin.
All right, let’s just say,
for example, this.
What did you say?
Tea towels, okay.
So you go to the stories,
you see some person selling tea towels,
they’ll tell you the price wholesale.
And do they also give you roughly idea
of what retail is, you know, kind of
percentages and margin, stuff like this?
And each store has a little bit different
margin, but it’s mostly the same.
So I can do my own math
or they’ll do the math.
It’ll have a suggested retail price.
And then that varies depending on if
you’re in New York City versus
Madison in the Midwest or La.
Depending on your cost of doing business.
But you got to do that math.
And the question then is the people
in your community, are they willing
to pay that amount for that item?
So like an umbrella, what is
an umbrella worth to an average person?
Is it worth $40?
Is it worth $20?
And that also varies
depending on where you live.
Madison versus New York City versus La.
As far as what people’s incomes are,
what they’re willing to pay,
and what value is added
to the product to get it to that.
I suppose an umbrella versus
an environmentally friendly, made
of unicorn tears umbrella or something.
Those added values to it.
All right, so this is the part that’s
amazing me about what you do is because I
would go to these stores and I’d
be like a bubble machine.
This is great.
Or like a farting pillowcase.
This is amazing.
The whole world wants this,
and I would end up with a store
with a bunch of junk that somebody
wants you like every year.
Six months from now, Madison is
going to love this and you nail it.
I think so.
Well, I mean, you don’t have a full story
as far as stuff that just like this has
been sitting on the shelf for ten years.
Yeah, that is true.
We make sure it rotates.
This product has to rotate.
And if it doesn’t, maxwell here we are
getting rid of all whatever doesn’t move.
So how do you figure out where people’s
mindsets are going to be in the three
months, six months, whatever it is,
it’s not like, what are
they feeling like tomorrow?
What are they feeling like monthly?
Yeah, that’s true.
And just the dynamic of society can change
a lot of dying really quick.
Well, we’ve seen that a lot
in the last few years especially.
But I would say well, first of all,
interestingly, I’m not
personally a shopper.
I don’t like to shop
in the way that I like to shop.
When there’s a purpose,
there’s a reason for it.
Either I’m gifting loved one or myself or
whatever it may be, but I’m
not a shopper, just a shop.
So I actually don’t have that emotional
connection between me
and my desires and the product.
I mean, of course, something I might see
and I’m maybe more gravitating
to because I like the look of it.
So I have those personal preferences.
So the color blue or whatever it may be,
but I think I do a pretty good job
of distancing myself from my personal
desires, which, like I said,
I’m not quite a chapper.
Like others could be on a personal level.
So I’m kind of thinking more in my head
about the reports that I’ve looked at,
like sales, like, okay,
what color is a good color?
Of all the colors on the rainbow,
blues tend to be good.
I mean, I like blue.
It just works out that many people
like blue, but yellow not so much.
Over time, sure, the trends
and accessories could change.
I mean, yellow could be
the pantone color of the year.
And then I changed my mind about that,
and I’m like, everything’s going
to be yellow because that’s a trend.
So I’ve just learned over the years,
like, okay, what are some general trends?
And then also I’m thinking about what’s
happening in the world, like you said.
So, like, for example,
during this pandemic,
we all know that we are pivoting.
We’ve all pivoted in our world.
The word pivot has never ever
in the history of the world been
used as much as it has two years.
By two years, I mean,
everyone has pivoted.
So I think about how are
people spending their time?
Like, okay, we’re indoors more, so how
are we entertaining ourselves indoors?
So immediately, puzzles,
we all know was like a craze and still
kind of is, but especially
on the front end of it.
So paying attention to the needs
of individuals as we evolve as humans
on this planet, like that, for example, or
fashion and what are
trends related to that?
I mean, for a while, masks were a fashion.
I mean, it’s evolving again, right,
as far as what we’re wearing.
So just kind of being in the know
of what’s coming up,
what’s coming ahead right now, of course,
I have in my mind the cost of everything
going up in general with the cost
of inflation, and that trickles down
to the end user,
which means the individual that’s buying
it is kind of what they’re seeing.
The biggest sticker shock in the end,
I’m just thinking about making sure that
we diversify the cost of our products.
So even though prices go up,
we just want to make sure that we have
products that are five to $10
as well as those bags of hers that are
closer to $100, but that a person can come
in and still find something within their
bracket of economic needs
or the gifts for the person.
That they’re looking for.
Just finding a coworker
or something like that.
Well, yeah, that too.
Yeah, that’s the thing and for
the gifting purpose as well.
we’re all affected by the last couple
of years too, in different ways,
and just making sure that
we open the environment to everyone so
that they can all find something
here for whatever purpose.
I want to talk to you also about location.
So this Luxuries has been here for over
two decades or a decade, over 30 years.
So tell me, how has the dynamic
of downtown changed?
I came to Madison 21 years ago,
and people used to always talk about
the people that lived in medicine forever,
like, oh, my gosh,
downtown used to be just tanks rolling
down or whatever it is that they had.
There’s always some, oh, my gosh,
it used to be this and now it’s that.
How has it changed over the time?
And what have been some of the challenges
of just having a retail store downtown?
Yeah, well, yeah, I mean, Downtown Edison
has always had its ups and downs.
Just more recently,
everyone kind of talked about what
we most recently experienced.
But I know for sure in the 90s,
when the store first opened,
I think Deep Street was just humming.
Retail was in a strong position.
We had, I think, more diversity
of businesses, more retail.
I mean, right now we are a little heavier
on the bars, restaurants,
and service industries like services such
as salons and tattoo artists,
those kinds of things,
as our population downtown increases.
But I think back then,
there was a stronger retail presence.
I mean, Jana is owning two gift shops
on State Street is kind of a big deal.
Like, one is owning two gift shops.
So I think the diversity of businesses
and also yeah, the presence of retail
and in general in the there’s
just a lot of spending going on.
As credit cards were reviewed,
I was like, I got it right here.
Let’s just charge it all.
And since then, in the 2000s, early 2000s,
we’ve had the introduction
of more online purchasing.
And so we’ve been influenced by that.
And in general,
big box stories were getting big.
Of course, in the we’re
seeing that shift as well.
Big box stories and malls
are kind of struggling.
So retail is evolving in a lot
of ways, especially downtown.
We’re losing a lot of retail downtown.
And I’m seeing that the ones that are
surviving or even the ones that aren’t
retiring, because a lot of them have
retired, retired out of the business.
But I think the businesses that still
remain on State Street are
pretty strong and pretty solid.
I think it’s been the test of time
in the last couple of years to see who
kind of rises above and is still here.
But State Street will always be a draw
because of the capital,
because of the university yeah.
Connected to yeah.
When people come downtown
or when they’re visiting Madison,
it’s just a part of the experience
of being downtown.
So, I mean, just yesterday
I meet people from all over the world.
I mean, yesterday I had a woman
that’s from South Korea.
That’s a change student
at the university here.
I met a mother daughter who one lives
in Colorado, one lives in Pennsylvania,
and they met here.
They flew here to go to a show
at the Orphan last night.
And I’m like, that’s cool.
People just end up on stage.
We have stewardess from flight attendants
coming in and they’re flying all over
and they always stay downtown and then
they’re visiting us and they want
us their experiences in the air.
And so we just get a variety of people
and they’re here because of our location.
Despite the fact that our visual presence
and physical presence has changed
and evolved and we do see more empty
there’s still going to be a draw and I
think we’ll still evolve
into something we don’t yet know.
Sure, we have a lot of projects,
development projects going
on in the 300, 400 blocks.
So what will fill those main
street level spaces, those retail spaces?
It will be interesting to see
what transpires from that.
There’s been a pop up shops and some
of the empty spaces, the culture
collective, that was a success.
And I think there’s a goal to get some
makers new spaces as
that space now is developed.
yeah, so we’re seeing a little less
presence of retail and we’re seeing some
empty spaces, but it could
create for new opportunities.
I think what’s hard for me,
I can control what’s happening in this
environment and I have
to remind myself of that.
But I do like to see vibrancy and I
like to see a community well cared for.
And sometimes when you have
less activation, like less spaces being
used, sometimes it can just
be a little abandoned.
And that loss of energy and activity,
it pulls from a community.
So, yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing
what happens here in Spring with events
coming back downtown and the farmers
market always kind of kicks that off
and looking to see what neighbors we do
end up being able to welcome
in our community.
Just around the corner here, we actually
have a new shop that popped up.
That was just a couple of months ago.
Yeah, actually a month ago.
So, yeah, we will continue to evolve
and I think the future will be positive.
I mean, the location is worth it
in the fact that we do have
the pedestrian traffic.
There’s always somebody wants yeah,
we pay more to be here,
but it’s worthwhile in the end if
you have that all figured out.
we’ll have the traffic here round summer
is a pretty busy time for us,
just as much as Christmas,
so we have two main seasons.
All right, we are most gift shops,
depending on their location, might
just have to focus on that one winter.
So in the summertime there’s so
much hustle and bustle going yeah.
And events going on in the Square and now
Downstate Street that really
draws a lot of people nice.
Over the course of time since you’ve been
a part of Little Luxuries,
what has changed with the relationship
with downtown and government,
as I imagine?
Well, I see.
Even Eau Claire’s an example.
When I was a kid, I grew up in Eau Claire.
Downtown was like, oh, don’t tell him.
It was just this dingy bars and
it was diet, it was dumping.
Now I go down there, visit family,
I’m like, this is amazing,
which I would have never guessed when I
was a kid that I was going
to change like that.
But I feel like or I guess I’ve heard
that there’s a lot of people in places
that can make decisions that just push
for the downtown to become vibrant
as an attraction to the city.
So I imagine with State Street,
this is a staple of Madison and a few
mayors have come and gone,
city council or whatever.
And I imagine there’s been times where
to them State Street was a priority
and to other State Street
was just like that place.
So what have you seen?
Or I guess what’s current trend?
Yeah, let’s see here.
I would say television.
Madison is unique in the way
that we have Bid.
Bid stands for Business
That is kind of unique to our community
in the way that we have this organization
funded by taxes, taxes
paid by property owners.
And that’s kind of a part of the rent
that we pay being downtown.
So property owners on the property
owners on the Strip.
Deep street and around the square.
And if you can block off in every
direction off of that order.
So there are funds that are meant to
help inspire things like
the Madison Night Market,
which is an event, or help pay for
some of the plants that we have
in the planters on the street to improve
the way it looks just at an intersection
or the lights at the holidays and such.
We do have an organization kind
of designed to kind of monitor traffic
and pay attention to the trends
of downtown and organize a lot of things
that business owners don’t have
the capability to do great.
That then takes a little bit
of the responsibility of the city
to have to focus on those details.
Because there’s tax money that goes
to that organization
and they’re not the sole one.
So the city still has responsibility.
But I do think
then that allows the city to have a little
opportunity to take a little step back.
Well, there’s a bid there and that bid
has the funds and the bid has some staff
that should be able to help with kind
of working things out on there.
So bid control by the city or
the people that work for the bid?
The people that work
for the bid work for the city.
Funded by taxes.
So what I’ve seen in my involvement is
just in general,
I think there’s a little bit of distance
like, oh, they have a different
organization that no other
community in Madison has.
So this is the only bid in the city,
whereas Milwaukee, milwaukee has like,
I don’t even know how many, but they have
multiple bids for various communities.
So then each one of those organizations
funded by the Texas,
which is associated with the city,
they can make some decisions and they have
staff on hand to specifically
kind of work on their community.
So we’re kind of unique to the rest
of the city in that way.
In some ways,
I believe that that’s just like
an opportunity for the city to be like,
there’s someone else kind
of handle in that area.
But in the meantime yeah.
There is still responsibility to make
decisions such as public transportation.
And everybody we’ve been talking about
the BRT, where that’s going and how
that will impact the downtown community.
BRT is bus rapid.
Oh, bus rapid transit.
So you talk about bigger bus
stops and things like that.
Not necessarily bigger.
Or even buses on State Street.
Buses on State Street?
There was a conversation about the idea
of making State Street a pedestrian mall
population of people wanted just
a pedestrian mall population of people who
wanted the BRT to come down State Street.
I think what we’re going to land
on in the end is going to be BRT going
down a portion of State Street,
the upper end of State Street.
But just thinking about how the community
evolves, what would a pedestrian mall do
to a community as far as activating it
and allowing for more events
to happen on State Street.
And so the city is involved in decisions
like that as we move forward
related to public transportation.
That’s a process we’re working
through at the moment.
And then also city approval of events.
It hasn’t been easy to have events
on State Street just because of the fact
that public transportation
does go down State Street.
So it does complicate the process
of getting approvals, permits all that,
especially when it’s interrupting
public transportation for people.
It would be interesting to have a segment
of the street be possibly a pedestrian
mall to see how that could open up
events on stage that could allow
for arsons to come down or
just like more activities and.
Something to do just so people know
you can’t drive on State Street.
And delivery trucks at certain times
of day that won’t interrupt the bus.
Also, I’m trying to think what else
with the city recently have
we been talking about?
Have they changed any of the events,
like there was Art fair and square
or is there’s farmers market?
Those are all going to happen.
So we’ve increased the amount of events
that are going to be
happening on State Street.
Well, that’s good.
To move to State Street versus
Gilman Street, because I think in the end,
Madison was designed to be a street
to draw people to it and to maximize
the streets versus the side
streets in my mind, makes sense.
That’s kind of the corridor of our
community and the main quarter.
That’s exciting that that will stick.
I think there are some changes that are
happening since the pandemic,
such as the streeter program,
and that’s going to be extended.
Some things will be
extended and continued.
The street program is just this
opportunity for restaurants to expand out
into parking spaces, parking lot
expand beyond maybe the limitations
of even parts of the sidewalk
to expand outdoor seating so that you can
maximize the outdoors is just a little bit
safer circumstance during this pandemic.
So that program to allow for businesses
to continue to expand outside and use some
of these spaces that were used
for something like parking
is great to continue into the future
beyond the pandemic and the conversation.
So some of these changes or adjustments or
experiments during this time period
in the last couple of years to help allow
businesses to continue to succeed
and survive throughout all that,
we might see some changes continue beyond
the pandemic, which is interesting.
I think that’ll be helpful for a lot
of businesses and that’s
in the city of athletes.
City policy affects us greatly.
So we’re always keeping
an eye on that in general.
It would be tough.
A lot to juggle it’s.
A lot to juggle.
It really is.
And I can’t imagine what it would be like
to be a mayor and manage
all of it at the same time.
Well, in my mind, because I’m located here
and I see a day to day state streets
super important because it’s in my world.
There’s so many other little streets here
and there that are also
important to people, too.
I think there’s a lot of heart and soul
behind the downtown area that I
think we’ll continue to thrive.
We’re just going to look
a little different.
And it’ll take some time because the same
thing happened, I think about the 70s.
There was a lot of change
happening as there were protests.
I think you were talking about tanks.
I don’t know if you’re tanks.
So this whole Vietnam protest thing,
I interviewed a guy that wrote about
at one of the university buildings.
I think a couple of people
ended up getting killed.
And they never found the guy that did it.
And that was Vietnam protesting, whatever.
So things change, right?
And so that was an example, I think, where
the downtown community,
as far as the businesses go, there were
a lot of closures as well after that.
And so there was a period of time,
maybe like five to ten years,
where the community down on States
straight here just was similar in the way
that there was a lot of empty spaces,
a little less active.
But then there was an uptick come,
the much change, I think, money and fun.
And then it changed, and now we’re
evolving again, and retail is evolving.
It’s an industry that’s changed so much
since then that was a big chunk
of the businesses downtown.
So, of course, as our world changes
related to technology,
that’s going to change our storefronts.
But I do think there will always
be the need to be in person.
The desire to be in person.
And to have a person face to face.
Helping you in that customer service.
And just having the sensory experience.
Smelling and touching and seeing a close.
The products that you want to purchase
and all of that is just so human
to have all of that for an experience.
And so I don’t think that small
business retail will ever go away.
Now I can see how big box stores can be
replaced if you don’t have such positive
experience, how easy it can be to go
online to get that random object right.
I mean, dishwasher detergent
versus for a friend.
It’s a little different.
So I have no fears about retail
and the longevity of it as a whole.
It will still exist.
It will just need to be special.
All right, there.
I love it.
Where do you see the store going or
evolving over the next few years?
You did a whole remodel.
Yes, this place is a remodel, which.
Means kudos to you, because it had
to be an undertaking and a half.
Well, I’m glad I did it when I did because
the cost of construction now has gone up.
And so the timing of that
worked out really well.
How long was that?
Let me think.
That was 2018.
So, yeah, let me think.
What would I evolve?
I’m going to continue.
I’m thinking very carefully
about the product.
I’m thinking about where our gifts are
sourced, where they’re coming from,
where they are, and the value behind it.
What materials are they made of,
the environmental impact, maybe nonprofit
associations to the sales of goods.
There’s a lot of companies kind of moving
in that direction,
making sure that I’m sourcing products
that are not available on Amazon.
I’m purchasing in person at these shows,
but also there are online platforms
for wholesalers to make purchases.
And one thing you can click
for a value is, like, not on Amazon.
So it’s not something that you can easily
pivot in that direction and be like,
Amazon has it for this price.
And this is a little more convenient.
So just making sure it’s not something
that’s everywhere basically unique,
and then adds value,
adding value to the product.
What else for major changes?
I think our website,
now that we have an ecommerce site,
just continuing to manage that and making
that run smoother and expanding
on the products available there.
Once you create the beast, you can’t
you got to keep up with it, right.
You can’t go back.
That’s got to be tossing because
there’s so many products.
Luckily, more recently,
we attached our inventory on our purchase
order of sale system to our website.
So it will take it off of our website as
we sell down of a product and get close
to almost being out of it,
then pull it from our website before we
were kind of managing it and watching our
inventory, we’re like, okay, take
that off the website before it gets sold.
It was all manual.
Originally when we were just quick
throwing things online and we
weren’t totally evolved.
So I think continuing to navigate
the Internet and maximize it in a way
that is still manageable for us not to.
Overwhelmingly thinking about
that and just community building.
I think during the last couple of years,
I think so many people have shared their
stories and come together
from all parts of our community.
So I feel like I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned a lot about
our business, our place in the world,
what’s important to me and what
should be important to our business.
And so probably continuing to strengthen
relationships, whether it be through
the makers that make things locally for
our vendors or reps or neighbors
and customers and just staying
involved in all the ways.
That’s a lot to keep track of.
We get products, we get employees, we get
storefront, we got people, community.
I know, it is a lot.
So if anyone’s looking for a job, then
yeah, that’s true.
In the meantime, that is
something I’m thinking to myself.
Eventually I’d like to pull out a little
bit more from the operational side
of things, but then you keep
adding more to the plate.
When you have high expectations
of yourself and the performance of your
business, then it’s difficult to let go.
So that’s a delicate balance.
I think, just as any business owner,
at least what I’ve found is
you work so hard on building that business
that even though you can step away,
you either don’t want to or you feel
guilty for doing so, and you have
to really consciously pull yourself away.
You could probably argue
it’s like an addiction.
It’s a money making addiction, I suppose.
Or fun addiction.
Yeah, probably a semi
smith maybe addiction.
To that stress, like that little inner
I have a little bit of I get a little
adrenaline from it to be challenged.
The need to be needed.
People have that where it’s like,
I’m the boss, I’m making decisions,
I’m just spinning all these plates.
And when you get people set up to spend
the plates for you, you’re more
or less an audience member.
Yeah, I know what you’re saying.
Most of the time.
That’s the goal.
Once you get there, you’re like,
I got to go create another problem.
So that I can solve it.
Well, lately there’s been plenty
of problems I didn’t have to create.
But that is a good point.
Although I am trying to pull
myself a little bit away.
So in the winter,
I’ve been taking a little longer breaks,
especially in the last few years.
It’s gotten really quiet
in the wintertime.
And so you have taken three weeks off.
A little bit, like expanding it just
a little bit just to practice letting go.
And it’s easier if you’re not around.
You’re just like literally,
I’m out of the state.
Okay, so the cell phone out the window.
Just head west or south.
Just get on the open road
and just go somewhere.
Well, Amy, thank you so
much for being on the show.
Thanks for having me.
Can you tell everyone the address where
they can find you physically in the store?
So we’re located at 230
State Street here in Madison.
And I’m Amy and, owner of Little Luxuries.
We’d love to see downtown.
And then how about a website?
is our website.
where you can find us.
And people can find stuff online,
they can buy it, and they can
be anywhere, essentially.
Or within the United States.
Nationally, within the states,
we are shipping anywhere.
It’s a small world.
So you have to ship something.
I know, right?
How much was it?
I just had to ship a computer back from
ex employee, and I’m like, it’s $200.
I think the computer was
worth maybe a few hundred.
Anyways, thank you for watching.
This is James, Amy at Little Luxuries.
You can check her out.
Tell us the website again.
Littleluxuriesmadison.com. All right.
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We’d like to thank you,
our wonderful listeners and viewers,
as well as our guest, Amy Moore,
owner of Little Luxuries in Madison.
You gotta totally check it out.
It’s so funny because when I talk
to people anywhere, you mention Madison,
and they’re like, oh, I’ve been part
of Madison and they know State Street.
It’s crazy how people all over
the country, all over
the world really just know.
And you got a story
yeah, that’s cool.
Yeah, I feel fortunate.
Check it out.
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