Closing up the other night, I checked every corner of the store. As always, our showroom has seen a lot of traffic, and I've found everything from balled-up tissues to my own business card - with trample marks - on the floor. But I can always count on finding at least one item that will make me smile.
After a busy day, I always find remnants of lollipops scattered around the store. A blue wrapper in one corner. A red one under a dresser. Here, a well-gnawed white stick. You wouldn't think I'd like picking up trash every night. The truth is, I'm O.K. with it.
That's because lollipops changed this business.
Seven years ago, Diana and I bought Furniture Consignment Gallery from the couple who started the business. They'd had some good years, but they had grown weary of the grind of moving furniture, and they wanted to move onto the next phase in their life. To us, it seemed, they'd also tired of the challenges of retail.
The showroom was littered with signs, none of them friendly. "Don't Touch Me" was stuck on a topiary. "No Strollers" greeted shoppers at the bottom of the stairs. "Keep Children in Hand" was taped to the front door. Tacked in the stairwell: "No Food or Drink."
On our first day as new owners, Diana gathered up all the signs. Stopping in to say goodbye, the former owners were appalled. "What if someone spills coffee on a white sofa?" the woman demanded. "What if someone trips on the stairs carrying a stroller?" her husband asked.
"Well," I offered, a bit hesitantly. "We think you were missing a market."
"Really?" the woman huffed. "Which one?"
"Moms with kids," I said.
The next day, Diana filled a bowl with lollipops for our customers. By the end of the week, it was empty. We filled it again. A few weeks later, we got a bigger bowl.
After seven years, I can offer the Federal Reserve a reliable new indicator of business growth: lollipops. The faster we go through candy, the higher our sales.
As it turns out, moms with kids aren't the only ones who love a sweet treat while shopping. So do newlyweds. And twentysomethings furnishing their first apartment, "empty nesters" outfitting the new townhouse. And even the seasoned business man who was unraveling a root beer flavored pop. He was asking me why we seemed to be doing well in this difficult economy.
I gave him a dum dum answer.
So, stop by anytime. We promise to keep the showroom stocked with quality furniture - and the candy bowl filled with lollipops. Try to throw your wrappers away, but if one sifts through your fingers and hits the floor while you are admiring a glistening mahogany chest of drawers; I won't mind picking it up at the end of the day. Really.