Making Our Skeleton Dance, Part 2: Where We Came From

You’ve probably seen this picture before.   It’s a picture of two of the strong women who inspired Pick Up Sticks Jewelry and it’s the inspiration for the “My Mother, My Friend” Pick Up Sticks charm.  We called them Mother and Ruth, but these two women were Glena and Sabrina’s grandmother and great-grandmother.  Creative, persevering, strong women.  Unorthodox for their times.  Always proud.  Good at making their own skeletons dance. . .

Ruth and Mother

A couple of weeks ago we started this series with the tale of how Glena and Sabrina’s forebears made their way to New Mexico.  There were some missteps, some extremely hard times.  By the time we ended that part of the tale, Mother (great-grandmother Ade Johnston) had divorced her husband and become a single mother, something unheard of in the 30’s.  She was sticking it out in Logan, NM, running a cafe and raising little Ruth to be as tough and hard-working as Ade was herself.  But, of course, the story doesn’t end there.

During World War II, Mother and Ruth, who was now a young divorcee with three little girls of her own, found themselves in yet another business, flipping houses in Tucumcari, NM.  They’d pool their resouces, buy an old house and then spend several weeks scraping, sanding and painting before trying to sell it.  Glena’s mom, Anna Lee, says they spackled holes in walls with flour and water.  Times were extremely hard and rationing made finding supplies tricky, but they didn’t give up.  They maybe even made a little money.

Ruidoso, NM, circa 1950

1945 found the two women living in Hatch, NM, where Ruth’s new husband Perk was running a grocery store.  Not to be outdone, Mother opened a restaurant across the street.  Both businesses were successful, but when the polio epidemic swept through southern New Mexico,  the family gathered up Ruth’s three little girls (Anna Lee was four, and the baby at the time) and moved to the mountains in Ruidoso.

Perk with the little girls in front of the Ruidoso store

It was a bump in the road, but nothing to slow down these women, and they had found a willing ally in Perk.  He was up for anything – he bought an old motel and turned it into a long house of rooms for his wife and girls and mother-in-law.  With Ruth’s help, he opened Long’s Store, where they sold everything in the world from blue jeans to needles and thread to flour to tires and car parts.  We wrote about the store before – Perk was the consummate merchant, caring about his customers and connecting with them so that they were always happy to come back.

Ruth and Perk's girls - dance lessons were required. . .

But it wasn’t all work.  By this time, little Dee had joined the family, and now there were four girls to raise.  Ruth was the artist, the progressive thinker, determined to give her girls a world view that was relatively new for the early 50’s.  They took dance lessons and music lessons, they painted and learned to appreciate art.  If there was an event somewhere nearby, Ruth loaded up the girls and they attended, whether it was a concert or a rodeo.

Ruth being Ruth. Every day was an opportunity for adventure. . .

Perk shared Ruth’s thinking –  with their daughters and then their granddaughters (Glena and Sabrina included), they both liked to challenge the idea of traditional women’s roles.  They stressed hard work and education, and taught all their girls to never be financially dependent on a man

Ruidoso downtown - circa 1950

Ruidoso in the 40’s and 50’s was a magical place and time fed by crazy ideas (Perk decided there was big money in sand and gravel and persuaded Ruth to go along with another new company) and lots of activity.  In the midst of rampant entrepreneurship (Perk also bought a gas station in Hollywood, NM), there were  piano and swimming lesssons.

Long’s store catered to the neighboring Mescalero Apache reservation, so the girls learned to mix with and appreciate that culture without question.  At one point, when Perk decided more gas stations would be profitable, Mother moved to Alamogordo and ran a service station.   Were there other grandmothers running gas stations in southern New Mexico in the 50’s?  No, but that didn’t stop this family from trying it!

Bathing Beauties - Ruth with two of her girls

Those four little girls, two of whom would become Sabrina’s and Glena’s mothers, learned that the world was a great wide place full of beauty and possibilities and opportunity, as long as one was willing to work hard and take notice.

It’s just a little more of our story, but we think it’s what made us who we are.  We believe in possibility, in finding success in the craziest of endeavors.  We’re inspired every day by strong women, particularly those in our family.  We grew up in a family where we had the freedom to be who we really are.  That’s what drives us to create inspiring jewelry.  That’s who we are.  And that’s what Pick Up Sticks is.

The four little girls with a friend in Ruidoso. . .

. .And as you can see from the above picture of the four little girls with a donkey and the below  picture of Perk (taken at a mock wedding), we were raised to believe that life is a hilarious adventure everyday – you just have to pay attention and learn to laugh at all of it.

Perk Long. What else can you say?

Recession Proofing Your Business – Connecting with the Customer


The Lipstick Factor.  Price Point Matters.  Both are concepts that will hopefully help you figure out how to get through these interesting economic times with style, panache and success.  And both are concepts that we’ve blogged about recently. 

There’s more.  Of course, there’s always more.  There are a thousand ideas out there designed to make your retail space more appealing, telling you how to rearrange your displays, how to dress your windows, how to create an atmosphere that practically pulls the wallet out of the purse for the purchase.  We’ve been reading those, trying to glean the most relevant info just for you.  And we have a few ideas we’re going to pass along in our next “recession-proofing” post.

But you know what we think really matters?  You know what gets someone back over your threshold a second time?  The experts all say that the major reason customers return to a retailer is because they feel some sort of loyalty and emotional connection to you, your employees and your retail store.

The guy in the picture with all those adorable little girls is Glena and Sabrina’s grandfather, Perk Long, in front of his store in Ruidoso, New Mexico, in the 40’s.  The girls are Glena and Sabrina’s mothers and aunts.

It was easy for Perk to connect with his customers.  He ran a business in a small town where he knew all his customers by their first name and where they could gather around the store stove and drink coffee.  He knew their kids’ names, how their old daddy was doing, what color hat their wife wanted for her birthday.  Perk didn’t have a Wal-Mart or Target to compete with, but he still knew that speaking to customers and making them feel welcome was as important as finding the right size Levi’s for them.

But things are different today.  Connecting with your customers and staving off the competition is tougher than ever.  So how do you do it?

If you can somehow find a way to create an emotional connection, your customer’s loyalty to you and your store will be a foolproof way to get them to buy again and again.  Why go to Wal-Mart for gifts when they can come into your store, be noticed by you, have a salesperson point out something new in their favorite lines, and talk about something they just read on your Facebook page?

It’s no surprise that social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are so popular, and growing by leaps and bounds. People want to feel a part of something.  They want to be recognized as unique at the same time that they want to feel like part of a group, a community.

Pick Up Sticks started a Facebook fan page and a blog almost a year ago with the primary goal being establishing a connection with you and your customers.  We want to know how you feel about our jewelry and our customer service.  We want your feedback.  We want to know who you are, and we want to link our website to yours so that customers who are loyal to Pick Up Sticks can then be loyal to you.

Encourage your customers to connect with Pick Up Sticks on Facebook.  Send them to our blog.  Let us add you to our blog website as a link, and in turn, you add us to your website as a link.  When we blog about new designs, post a photo on an information board in the store and let customers pre-order (actually having an information board is another great way to connect – it makes people feel like you’re letting them in on insider information).  Create your own Facebook page and share our fans.  Let us “like” you on our Facebook page, and do the same for us.

And of course, do what Perk did.  Talk to them.  Try to learn their names.  Ask about their kids and their old daddy.  See what they like, and then when they come back, point them in the direction of something you think would be perfect for them.

Here’s what the experts say over and over: reward your customers for their loyalty and they’ll always choose you over the megastore.  An emotional connection is what tips the balance for customers.  And it makes showing up worthwhile for you and your sales staff – as trite as it may sound, we all feel better about our day when we’re making real connections with the people around us.

Thanks for connecting with us.  You’re the reason we show up at the studio every day, and you definitely make it worthwhile.

Published in: on October 20, 2010 at 9:30 am  Comments (1)  
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