Sunday Opinion: Shopping

I will be the first to admit that I shop for holiday gifts via the internet.  It is an amazing convenience for a working person like me.  Not that I take the easy way out.  I do try to make the effort to research for those things that are out of the ordinary. I read most every day the Canadian blog Poppytalk-I so love how they provide a market for independent and small business people who create distinctively individual and enormously creative objects. Check out  Is her work not astonishingly inventive and beautiful?  I found her via Poppytalk.       

I can explain further why shopping on line is a big help to me.  Anyone involved as I am in a retail store is incredibly busy this time of year. The shop gets outfitted for the holidays between October 15 and November 15-this takes every bit of 30 days.  My landscape company does an astonishing number of winter and holiday projects between November 15 and December 20th. Most of those projects I have not photographed yet-no time yet. I design,  run a crew, and fabricate.  I make things for the store in my spare time.  It seems like I am working in the spaces between the days too. The shop grounds need dressing  for the winter-I plan to finish that up tomorrow. I am late on the finish-I didn’t have an idea I liked until 3 days ago.  My Sundays are a mix of planning the week ahead in the morning, and working the shop in the afternoon. The Sunday opinion post-over a slow weekend, I write it Sunday morning.  Over a fast paced Sunday, I do it Sunday night or Monday morning-as in now.  Even the weekly/daily posts get behind, though I try my best to keep up.  This leaves me not so much time to shop.  I have a brother I adore, and a sister in law I adore even more- in Colorado.  Shopping for them, and Buck, and my close friends is a serious business.  I fret and fume over locating the perfect thing for each of them.  Not that I mind this.  All of them are worth every minute I spend.  Should Christmas get too close without a clear sign, I err on the side of being on time with something.  They never seem to mind if a special holiday gift arrives just after New Year’s, but a gift on time counts for much.  I never shop my own shop for for the people I love-I doubt I need to explain this.

Shopping for Deborah Silver and Company, or for Detroit Garden Works is a much different kind of shopping.  Were I able to make internet inquiries and purchases for materials for my landscape company and store in the time it takes to click, I still would not do it.  In fact, sourcing great materials involves much more than an email enquiry.  But more importantly, we are known for a collection you will not find elsewhere.  A collection based on the eye and experience and aesthetic point of view of our group.  Rob travels overseas and all over this country to auctions, antiques markets and shows. He shops local markets.  He drives places he has not been, with the express purpose of maybe meeting people who make or collect interesting objects and plants. Over the past 18 years he has met no end of small independent business owners who have very special products to sell.  On occasion, he will be able to convince them to produce their glazed terra cotta pots in a color they do not ordinarily do.  Or in a sized they have not done before.  Their willingness to accomodate his special requests has a lot to do with the fact that he made time to go and meet them in person, and cultivate a relationship.  We may reorder from a vendor once we have established a relationship with them, but in the beginning, all of our buying is done in person. 

My landscape superintendent Steve Bernard travels extensively over the winter, sourcing plant materials, tools, new techniques, and landscape materials.  This means he visits nurseries and growers all over this country. He reviews their material, and their growing practices.  When he buys, he buys specific plants. Viewing in person-there is no substitute. Some of my relationships with growers date back to the 1980’s.  When I worked for Al Goldner, he insisted that everyone travel to meet growers and hybridizers.  He taught me to do this, and I have done so ever since.  Shopping like this takes lots of time, effort and committment.  Plane tickets.  Meals and lodging.  Car rentals, phone charges.  Days away from home.  Some trips prove fruitless, but no matter; we keep looking.  Our interests evolve. One thing can lead to an intriguing another, should the effort be made.  I do this so my clients get the benefit of our collective eyes.  I do this so both the shop and my landscape company stay fresh and vital.  I also really enjoy it; it’s satisfying to find something new and beautiful.  There are lots of beautiful things out there-it just takes some effort to find them. 

I cannot buy ribbon for the holidays via the internet, or a catalogue.  I need to see it in person-I need to put my hand and my eye to the spool, and decide if it represents our idea of useful, interesting, and beautiful.

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