Friday, February 06, 2009


Yesterday afternoon I checked the answering machine and this was what I heard:

Girl 1:  Are you sure you got the directions right?
Girl 2:  Yes, it's on Vista del Mar.
Girl 1:  Well, were on it and I don't see it.
Girl 2:  There it is - wow, it's just a house.
Girl 1:   We're you expecting something different?
Girl 2:  Well, I thought it was a store.
Girl 1:   I don't think she's open.
Girl 2:  Well, we're just going to walk up to the door and say Hello Kaari we traveled all the way from (this is blurred) and she'll let us in.
Girl 1:  There are no cars in the driveway.
Girl 2:  There is a note on the door - what does it say?
Girl 1:  Something about only being open when they are open.

And on and on the conversation goes until finally they realize their phone was still connected and they hang up.  I get so many of these confused messages, here was one that happened a few weeks ago:

Girl 1:  Oh my God, the message says they are only open one day a week!
Girl 2: How can that be - we came all the way from Phoenix??
Girl 1: What kind of shop can only be open one day a week?
Girl 2: Obviously they must not be doing very well.
Girl 1:  How did you say you heard about this place?
Girl 2: I read about them in a magazine 3 years ago.
Girl 1: Well, they must be going out of business, no one can be only open one day a week.

What I really want to do is leave a message on our phone machine that says this:

Me: Hi, you've reached French General.  We are open on Fridays from 11-4.  The reason we are only open one day a week is because we are busy doing one of the following things: packing and shipping out our internet orders, picking up Sofia from school, writing a book, teaching a class, designing fabric or pulling together our monthly kits.  Hope to see you on a Friday.  Thanks for calling.

Molly and I also used to get some pretty interesting notes slid under the door at French General in New York.  It seems some people understand that if you are running a shop, then you should be open 7 days a week from 10-6.  Somehow I never understood that.  I always figured since it was our shop, we could run it any way we liked as long as it was working for us. My dad, who comes from a wholesale and retail background never liked this mentality.  He always thought we needed to be open at least 6 days a week and never close before 5!  I remember one day after Thanksgiving I was sitting around my parent's house and my dad was horrified that we were not going to be open on the biggest shopping day of the year.  Dad, I said, today will not be our biggest shopping day - our customers march to a different drummer.  To this day, I think he is mystified that French General actually survives!


Kathy said...

I haven't read your blog in months and WOW what a treat: This is the funniest post!

I LOVE this philosophy! We,too, are open 'by chance or by appt" although I try to be open every Tues which is our busiest day of the week. I am often asked "I see you were closed Wed and Thurs at 3...are you having trouble?" JUST THE OPPOSITE: We are so busy with internet orders, set designs, home designs and the like so I SO GET YOU.

FG is surely raging with all that you have going on....ANDI think it adds to the wonderful find that FG is: ala mystery and secret source!!!!!

Hi! My name is erica. Would you be my friend? said...

I've learned over the years that it's always best to call first when planning a visit to a small business! ;) Funny that you got those messages!

Anonymous said...

Oh my thank you so much for providing a very funny post today.
I really needed a good laugh..Sometimes I think people just don't get it, that march to a different beat thing...gotta love it. Louise

The Joy of Nesting said...

How funny Kaari!!

This is the very attitude here in Mexico that completly drives many expats and tourist absolutly bonkers :) It seems to be a concept they just can not begin to understand. But for us it is one of the reason we love living here. :)

Pattie ;)
Mazatlan Mexico

C.L. Davis said...

Hi. We called before we made our trip last summer and arrived on a Friday - were told the store would be open at 11:00 a.m. (This was when gas prices were really high.) We waited and waited and waited and finally some time after 12:00 p.m. we left. While we were there, another lady came and waited a bit and eventually left. She stated that she thought maybe this was a "French thing - opening up...whenever."

I had the intention of following up an internet purchase with a some extras from the store, however after that experience I haven't been so inclined. Later that day I called and was basically told, "Oh well, we were late." If you are only open one day, you should at least stick to what you say - because people DO travel and it DOES cost money. To follow up what another person wrote - that did drive me "bonkers" as that was half a tank of gas for us at over $4.00 a gallon. Cost me $35.00 just to drive over there.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the phone messages my friend posts when people call the number on her cat's ID tag after he's been wandering around Carmel! You can check them out here...

As for the hours you keep... being a business owner myself I think many of us start businesses because of the shared ideal to "run it any way we liked as long as it was working for us". I congratulate you for reaching the degree of success which enables you to do just that! As a customer of French General I greatly appreciate that your phone message details your store hours. And thanks for giving us a peek of what's going on behind the doors when they are closed : )

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with your dad! It's great that your internet sales are flourishing. But all those notes and messages are missed opportunities and worse yet, like The Fabric Bolt, bad impressions. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

What a treat to read that you are not only successful, but have figured out a way to combine your skills with your real life. So many of us spend years and years trying to combine the two. I applaud you and French General - you have succeeded where others have failed and it sounds like there are some sour grapes out there. Persevere...things are only going to get better and better for you!

Debi Ward Kennedy said...

With all of the press you have received over the years - the book deals and feature articles and interviews about French General - and of course the message on your machine, I find it utterly amazing that people seem surprised that A) you are not open seven days a week and B) you are successful in business despite not running it according to some arbitrary rules.
This is WHY we have our own businesses!!!

I do feel for the gal who came from out of town, waited, and left...but am guessing there must have been a serious reason why your shop didn't open on time. And I have to wonder why she didn't go to lunch and then come back by to check to see if you had opened, if it was so important to come to your shop in the first place...?

Anonymous said...

I don't know, the jury is still out on this one for me.I am the co-owner of a brick and mortor.We have been at this location for ten years 7days aweek 8 hours a day.My partner is never on time and it makes me crazy!I always think as a customer and know how important my time is.We have over the years tossed around the idea of shorter hours,but I always come back to the $100 a day it takes to be open to pay an employee run the power etc. and it always seemed well worth it compared to the fact that being closed we could lose hundreds to thousands of dollars.I do believe you have the freedom however of what ever hours you choose as long as you do honor them.After all this is why we go into business for ourselves so we DONT have anyone telling us what to do!Your store is obviously very successful, so more power to you!

molly said...

and in the end, it was dad who made us the sign that hangs in the window now, "we're open when we're open"!

Denise said...

This post is sort of funny. I visited your store last year. I had a meeting in Ventura and decided to come down a day early so that I could visit your store. I called or emailed the week before to make sure you would be there. I was so worried when driving because I had a late start from Las Vegas and hit traffic. You were there, the store is wonderful. I am hoping that I can visit again....I'm planning to be in Flintridge on March 6th - will you be in your store?

Jehannarc said...

I enjoyed this read a lot. I think that in your life, the most important thing you can do is balance your work with being available for your family (and also not being crazy when available). If being open one day a week works for you, then that is great! Nobody could do your job or live your life but you, why should anyone else dictate what you do with your time. Life is about being flexible and sometimes you have to let some things go (including potential income) so that you can attend to the things that are most valued to you.
That being said, my mom and I are planning a trip to visit someday, and I will be sure to call ahead and make sure you are open! :P

kath@retromantic antiques said...

This gave me such a mixed feeling. My upbringing always says work,work,work. You have to be open all the time. But now as I am older,have a full time job and am finally starting to take seriously my Vintage/Antiquing business it is reassuring to see how successful you can be by balancing LIFE and your loves. I am open one day a month and by appt and have felt guilty about that. No more. Kaari you were a great inspiration before and now even more so. Kath

Jacque said...

This reminds me of once when I had to close my shop for a couple hours to attend a family funeral, I left a note when I would be back, on my return there was a lady waiting there to chew me out for how I had inconvenienced her by not being there. I told her I would let my uncle know he chose a bad day to die. She quietly walked way. Being self employed has always given me the freedom to keep my priorities in order and doing so I have always been successful. Jacque

HiHo said...

well you never know...missed oppurtunites can't be counted. Heidi

Anonymous said...

That's funny, Kaari! That sounds almost like what my friend Gloria and I did when I was in LA last summer! But it was a Friday and we finally caught up with you!

Lana Manis said...

Oh how funny!!! Sounds like me and my sisters when we are out for the day.
I LOVE your books, of which I have 3!

Kim Caldwell said...

This cracks me up Kaari! Girls on an adventure are bound to say just the funniest things. Love that we can all drum to our own beat and be successful! Hope you are well. . .

Hugs, Kim

Anonymous said...

Dad's comments !!

Well, I am Kaari's DAD and I did make the small sign that she has in her window.
Just for the record.... dad's SOMETIMES are wrong and FRENCH GENERAL is successful and Kaari has so much going on everyday, I am not sure how she does it all so well... BUT she does !
And we are so proud of her !!
But PLEASE......keep coming by the shop on Fridays
so her mom and I won't have her knocking on our door to live with us !!
THANKS !!!!!
Kaari's dad

Debi Ward Kennedy said...

LOL! 'DAD', you are hilarious!!!!

The Clever Pup said...

I take it you have a shop. How can I link to it?

debi lynn mattingly said...

Hi Kaari!

I know exactly what you are talking about! My studio is also only open...when I am there. My customers that know me know that if "my lights are on...I'm home; and if they aren't then I am not."

I can't tell you how many times I hear: I always come by and you aren't here. Why not? Is this just a hobby? (Trust me I could think of a much less expensive hobby), why don't you have any hours posted? Oh, this isn't a "store"?, obviously have also heard them all.

I have been doing this for 30 years and this is how I have always run my business. Yaya Chique is not a "boutique" is a living breathing studio...a place to laugh and create.

I am still wondering when "some women" will "get it"? After 30 years, it still can make me roll my eyes. :)

In fact, now I keep the front door locked and have a sign on the door that says "please knock". You can just imagine the sayings I get now? :) But, believe it or's beginning to work!:)

xo...deb (the junkin' yaya)

Anonymous said...

This cracks me up! I think part of the allure is that you AREN'T open all the time :) It makes it even more special to access this wonderful little nest of treasures that you have created. Brava for being courageous in your convictions. Can't wait to return and make one of those aprons you spoke of ;)

Cheryl Carey Bass said...

I couldn't agree more! If it's your shop, you get to run it the way you want. If it's great enough (which the French General is), people will run their lives around YOU! Keep doing what you do! It's working!

Anonymous said...

I'm someone who made the trip to your store from Arizona with two of my grown children. It was hard to find but we did locate the little vine-covered house. I was surprised to find the door locked. I thought maybe it was a security thing so I knocked (or rang, I don't recall.) A man answered the door and curtly turned us all away. It was extremely disappointing. I thought FG was a regular retail store!

Anonymous said...

If you are so successful perhaps you could hire someone to work at your shop. Just saying.