Friday, May 30, 2014

Hustle, pt. 5: Trilogy and "Wear It, But Don't Bear It"

Trilogy Consignment is the new kid in Tarrytown. But, my goodness, does this kid have confidence.

Heather Reid, yet another transplanted California girl, knows her clothes, knows herself, and knows how to help others in need.

After reading my last post, on last year's fundraiser for the Howson girls--whose father only yesterday publicly admitted his guilt in killing Theresa Gorski, his wife and their mother--Heather immediately offered to add more of her own clothing to Trilogy's "Wear It, But Don't Bear It" collection.

Trina Turk! Size 10/12 and $108. 70% of the sale will go directly to support the girls.
"But, Badger, when would I wear something so lovely?"
The Badger says only, "Life is short but lovely. Make a reason."

Even better: the day after reading my last post, a mother whose children I tutor offered a bag of beautiful jewelry for the girls.
Photo: Heather Reid with more lovelies for The Howson Girls' Fund. Check them out at Trilogy Consignment.
Stop by Trilogy. Give something fabulous of your own for the Howson girls. Or buy something fabulous and help them out at the same time. Either way, you'll get a happy-making serotonin boost with every gesture of generosity.

Trilogy Consignment
107 N Broadway
Tarrytown, New York 10591
(914) 631-3426

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Monday, May 19, 2014

Hustle, pt. 4: "Wear It, But Don't Bear It"

On January 5, 2013, two mothers from my kids' bus stop died. They died differently, but very painfully, and--as such horrific tragedies often turn out--very publicly.

Everyone in our neighborhood, Sleepy Hollow's "Webber Park," experienced an emotional sonic boom. One family pulled together to carry the orphaned son, who years before had lost his father to an accident and was not yet adopted by his mother's fiancé. A dear friend leaped into the other family's living nightmare, rapidly establishing a fund for the young daughters who were essentially orphaned by their father's inexcusable violence.

And me? For a month, I did the emotional equivalent of "Duck and Cover." Mortality on the mind: in stunned conversations over coffee; in my dreams; in the way I examined my children's faces to see if they heard the gossip yet, if they noticed how empty the sidewalk looked at afternoon bus drop off.

Depositing a few hundred dollars in the Howson Girls' Fund and bringing a massive chocolate-chip banana bread to the grieving fiancé and son did not relieve the kicked-in feeling in my chest. Neither did the gossipy questions ("So, did you suspect he was beating her?") and snide remarks ("Time to get a new bus stop, right?") from those who didn't know either family but should have known better.

My mother's brother had died horribly. A cousin who was raised with me like a sister had died horribly. I understood what front-page death felt like. But, I didn't know what to do to help.

Elvis said it best: "A little less conversation, a little more action."

When my tutoring students went on spring break in the first icy days of March, I spontaneously erupted with a plan. I'd have a one-night clothing sale of my fabulous finds and give all the profits to the girls, who--despite the media attention and the endless chatter--had only received $4,000 in two months of fundraising.

Jenifer Ross, of W@tercooler in Tarrytown, is as good and true and generous as everyone says. Without hesitation, she offered me her place for the night's event. She also suggested that I "Go Big."

So I DID. I decided to call what would become a blowout boutique/auction, "Wear It, But Don't Bear It (domestic violence, that is)." Catchy but not too cute, I hope.

For thirteen days and nights (thanks to my Man for watching the kids), I walked the streets in sleet and wind, begging local businesses for items to auction for the girls. With only three exceptions, our Rivertown businesses stepped up and offered their best:
tattoo time from The Mighty Horseman;

If you're going to get a tattoo, shouldn't you get one from a gorgeous Viking?

baskets of books and toys from A Nu Toy Store; boxes of rare wines from Grape Expectations;

dozens of unsold items from Tarrytown Nursery School's auction;

two nights and dinner at the top-rated Tarrytown House Estate.

Strangers who overheard me pitch the story to businesses handed me twenties, handed me checks, handed me bags of their finest couture clothing to sell.
Derek Lam, $2,000 silk brocade jacket. I always washed my hands before I touched it.
The night before the event, two talented PR and web designer friends, Fiona Galloway and Thông Nguyen--both of whom have their own lives and worries, and neither of whom knew each other or the orphaned Howson girls--organized auction booklets and designed the "Wear It, But Don't Bear It" logo.

The event itself felt like a great wedding reception: hot, sweaty, crowded, happy. I couldn't run the show by myself, and I didn't need to. At every moment, friends and strangers who became friends took over the food and wine, or ran the boutique, or monitored the auction.

That night, we raised over $12,000 for the Howson girls.

Including a second boutique and direct donations, the Howson Girls Fund got a boost of about $20,000 in just over a month.

You can still donate money to the girls: they still need it.
Look for the address at the bottom of this post.
More than a year later, I'm still sending checks to the Howson girls. Go ask Heather which items are for the girls at her hot new consignment shop, Trilogy.

My mother-in-law succinctly summed up my "Wear It..." experience: I "gave the local folk an opportunity to do the right thing for those girls." I love you all for taking that opportunity, too.

And what did I get? The knowledge that Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow is my home: I chose right.

Also, I learned that I am not a used-to-be academic, or a used-to-be teacher, or just-a-tutor. I am also a Hustler, and a damned fine one, too.

There's my Happy Badger manifesto. Now go write those girls a check.

Howson Children’s Fund
c/o Jo Anne Gorski
P. O. Box 4552
Danbury, CT. 06813-4552

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Etsy: A Lesson in Humility

I've heard this one plenty of times, and if you make stuff, you have, too: "Your stuff is soooo cool! You should sell it on Etsy!"

Ahh, Etsy. Home of crafters and vintage upsellers and upcyclers, all hoping to live the dream of getting rich by doing what they love.

It's a site so powerful that it launched the stellar careers of designers and crafters like...hmm, I don't actually have any names to finish that sentence.

But, Etsy was powerful enough to launch at least one wickedly satirical site, Regretsy, which has now, regretsfully, shut down, though its Facebook page lives on to mock the intersection of DIY and WTF.

I spent months deciding that I ready to open an Etsy store and commit my life to making, selling, and shipping. Why not, if it paid better than my sales on craigslist (follow the link to get my advice on using that site!) and I could finally stop hustling my friends and neighbors to buy things like
 1960s educational films reborn as bowls and vases,
music cassettes gutted and gussied up as business card holders,
or this renovated mid-century table that made a friend enthuse, "Mmmmm, reminds me of HAM."

So, I set up the store. (Please, do step in and look around.)


Yeah, yeah, I got "Favorited" often enough, especially from Chinese Etsy fans. I now suspect "Favorite" to indicate admiration for my work, plus a gentle heads-up that somewhere--maybe where the Asian Tiger roams free--my crafty ideas are about to be mass-produced on the cheap.

But once, ONCE, I made a sale. It was the Trapezoidal Vanity Seat.

I loved this chair, in large part because it comes with a great back story about another ambitious, kind-hearted, transplanted Californian, which you can read here.

I was tempted to keep it for the kids. I was goaded into selling it for a mere $40 at a miserable Christmas Craft Fair in Croton. No, no. I would not budge for less than $60.

By February 10, I got my $60 sale through Etsy! Plus $50 to cover shipping. I was gonna make bank.

Except that the chair had to go all the way to Petaluma, California. Ah, Irony: the chair came from California, and to California it would return...for $96 in shipping fees.

Math is not the Happy Badger's strength. No, I am not an accountant. But I do have a melodramatic streak, so I wept at the UPS store when I realized that after Etsy took its small handling cut, I would walk away with about $11.
Bless this young UPS worker: he didn't even charge me for the box or for proper packaging.
If he had, my $110 sale would have cost me a total of $130.
See what I mean when I say, "Craft--like crime--does not pay"?

I should have sold that chair for $40. I should have let my kids use it as a pommel horse.

The one good thing to come out of this humbling experience? My single 5-star review.

So, I've modified my expectations where Etsy is concerned: I'm looking forward to my second satisfied customer of Happy Badger Inc....hopefully sometime before 2015.

Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Liquidate: Yard Sale Season Returns

The Man has seemingly infinite patience with my Hustle, plus he is a font of wisdom. Example:

"The point of a yard sale is to turn Stuff into Cash."

I applied this to-the-bone wisdom to our own yard sale last weekend. With few exceptions, my Stuff is found, given to me by friends, or thrift shop finds that I couldn't upsell.

The Upside: I actually make profit on my sales.
The Downside: I still have to run the sale.

This Saturday was shockingly beautiful, the kind of day that sends New Yorkers into tree-hugging ecstasy. That fact may have worked against me, but at least we weren't shivering and miserable.

This is how the yard looked at the sale's start.
If you recognize your own curbed items in these photos, all I can say is, "Thanks! You're helping to send my kids to Europe."

This year, I tried something new: NO PRICE TAGS.  Two happy results:
1. Setup was fast and easy.
2. I had fewer haggle battles. I just asked buyers, "What's a fair price?" Except for one gentleman who wanted to buy a flawless Kate Spade bag for a buck, buyers offered a sensible yard sale price, and I took it.

Plus, I gave liberal "Gifts With Purchase" like costume jewelry and clothing.

This young scrapper--and I mean that literally--took three crates of marble tiles off my hands for $20, plus he removed a pile of "junk metal" from the side of the house to sell to a scrap yard. Win-Win, right?
At the end of the day, we had about $300 more for the travel fund; Tarrytown's The Cherry Door and The Nearly New Shop had a vanload of luggage, nick-knacks, and very nice clothing to sell in their not-for-profit stores; and we had space in the basement to walk around again.
I curbed some items, making sure to post pics and directions on Craigslist and on our local Facebook page, 10591. By morning, they were gone.
For the past few months, I was holding back on nighttime cruising, since I had jammed our space with so many objects. Post-sale, I felt no such compunction. I came home with a new vanload of finds on Sunday.
You know what? Friends who missed out on those yard sale Lacrosse sticks asked me to look for more. And because I am a Magical Badger, I found them on my first night out.
Ahhh, The Badger is happy again.
Copyright 2014, Tanya Monier