If you’ve read this blog even for just a few posts you have learned that I cook and I enjoy doing assorted crafts (though I do not like the label “crafter”).
A few years ago I was thrilled that a Michaels Craft Store was going to open less than a mile from home. I frequented the store close to my last job for beading supplies, baking and candy materials, to get artwork framed, and more. It’s located in a center with other shops I frequented. Other stores are located a trek away to the north and south.
Many years ago, I’d actually taken their cake decorating course and loved it. A drawer filled with long-neglected tips, piping bags, and other tools are in a bottom kitchen drawer waiting to be used once again!
Then the idea hit me, why not get a job in our neighborhood store? It would be part time. I’d still have time for whatever else I had to fill my life. And the added attraction of some packet money. I applied and I was hired!
For about a month, our crew labored tirelessly to put the store together. I did not assemble the shelving units, but added the shelves and dividers (they have a special name). Then we stocked the store. Below the bottom shelf is a special plastic drawer (it, too, has a special name) in which excess inventory is kept. Years of squats and other age-appropriate moves in my senior exercise classes allowed me to pop up and down to fill the drawers and endlessly stock the lower shelves.
More boxes of excess stock are stashed above most top shelves. I marked numerous boxes in their special coded way and scrambled up and down the ladders getting them into their right places. There’s a special language for all of this work – the containers, the codes, etc. I entertained Constant Companion with my newly acquired vocabulary most evenings. It’s all long forgotten with lack of use.*
*The rusty ethnographer in me took notes on all these minute details, but they are either carefully filed somewhere in my computer or deleted when I realized a serious study of working in retail would not follow.
We opened shortly before the winter holidays. It was really fun. People I know from Daughter’s school days (elementary through high school) and Girl Scouts, neighbors, exercise classmates were surprised to see me greet and guide them in my red Michaels vest through the store. Even one of my former university students came in for art supplies. I felt I was an asset to the store as the one community member on staff.
I forget the word for my job assignment. I was there, among the oldest of the staff members to greet shoppers, show them hard to find stock, even mastering the the digital tools we were all equipped with to find stock-on-hand. I also frequently translated requests for our few Spanish only staff members. I actually gave one guest instructions on the basics of knitting in Spanish. My limited French, Greek and few Portuguese words with a smile helped many transactions.
Then I got shuttled to the cash register. I was game to learn a new skill, though learning on this very digital electronic machine came through trial and error and asking fellow cashiers. Taking the money was easy. The numerous types of returns were another thing. When I finally complained about the lack of any sort of manual (I am an engineer’s daughter, manuals were requisite in our home) I was told that the “girls” write their own. Hmmm.
On opening day in November, our shelves were stocked with seasonal merchandise: loads of decorating items for upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays: tchotchkes for every tabletop, shelf, and mantelpiece; seasonal faux silk flowers; yards and yards of garlands (another chance to run up and down the mobile ladders). Of course, the ever popular ugly sweaters were piled high.
Our community is heavily Jewish. The only Hanukah items in the store were about six ugly sweaters buried under a pile of Santas and Rudolphs. No Hanukah lamps and candles, no dreidles, no gelt (the foil wrapped chocolate candies), no kits or crafty stuff to engage the children. Lack of market research (see below).
My adventure in retail lasted four months. After some unpleasant encounters with the cash register and issues with scheduling, I reluctantly turned in my resignation. Scheduling – here’s how it worked. On a Wednesday, the hours for the next week starting on Sunday were posted on-line. Over the next few days that schedule changed and the number of hours shrank. It was nearly impossible to plan your life from week-to-week around the moveable part-time job.
I continued to shop at the nearby store for my fimo clay, beads and findings, and other craft materials. In fact, a unopened tie dye kit is waiting for a specific tee-shirt and a specific, unnamed day to try a new craft! Nevertheless, I was so surprised the other week when my neighbor phoned to tell me that she a What’s App post told of the store closing. I think she made some purchases at 50% off; she returned a few days later to pick up more at 70% off.
This past week another friend and I ventured to see what left, precious little. The shelves I had worked so hard to stock, to refill, to arrange had been stripped clear! Many of the fine arts materials must have been shipped to other stores. In the craft area, the beads were cleared out, the baking supplies gone, and area with kid’s kit and other areas were inaccessible. Loads of paper crafting materials remained as well as wonderful DMC embroidery flosses. I embroider, but know I have assorted flosses and no project pending.
I left the store with a few hanks of beads and a fimo clay kit, including tools for working with the stuff. One or two of the original staff from late 2018 were bravely moving around merchandise or manning the crowded cash registers. With that I bade farewell to our short-lived neighborhood Michaels.
What is my general overview of its brief residence? First, thorough market research did not appear to be done, thus the faux pas with Hanukah items on opening day. Second, store access; this Michaels was on two floors in a big box also hosting a coffee shop (long closed) and a bank. Parking was in the building, through a cantankerous gate system that asked for a credit card, up a nearly 90 degree grade with an acute angle turn, then down the elevator to the street and back into the store. At least parking was validated in the store.
Art supplies and framing were located on the ground floor. The elevator or escalator took guests to the second floor to the crafting and decorating materials. Check out was also located on the second floor … only. Guests could not pay for purchases of ground floor items; they had to trek to the second floor, then back down to exit.
And so our short-lived Michaels store has exited. What will fill the two-story, 22,492 square feet space in the future?
Images are courtesy of https://www.amicon.us/blog/portfolio-item/michaels-arts-crafts/