Renewed Commitment

Last week, we celebrated STUFF’s 22nd birthday. Several months ago, we signed a new 10-year lease. We are here to stay, and we are excited. It’s a renewed commitment.

Last week, we celebrated STUFF’s 22nd birthday. Several months ago, we signed a new 10-year lease. We are here to stay, and we are excited.

When you start a business, people talk a lot to you about plans. “What is your business plan, your 5-year plan, your 10-year plan, and what is your exit plan?” “What if it doesn’t work; what is your plan?”

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Truly Blessed

It isn’t hard for us to find reasons to be thankful. We are truly blessed. Yet some days it is harder than others. Sometimes the din of daily challenges drowns out the good in our lives.

It isn’t hard for us to find reasons to be thankful. We are truly blessed. Yet some days it is harder than others. Sometimes the din of daily challenges drowns out the good in our lives. There are days when we are just trying to get to the end of the day without stumbling and landing flat on our faces.

This year we have had many challenges and many blessings. The most notable challenge has been having both our father and our mother fighting cancer. They are vibrant, strong, and engaged parents. They both have big personalities. They both are very strong-willed and opinionated. They are both loving and actively involved in our lives and our children’s lives.

You can imagine how scary it is to have them both facing life-threatening diagnoses. It has been humbling and all-consuming at times. Our parents have always set their expectations for us very high. They have led by example. They insist that we suit up, show up, and engage in our careers, our family lives, and our community. They have very different personal motivations and beliefs, but they share the same core value of being accountable and present. There is no “wall-flowering” allowed in the Simmons family.

Sloane, our Mom, Casey and our Dad at Wings of Hope a couple weeks ago.

STUFF celebrated its 20th birthday last week. Since our store’s birthday also falls on the anniversary of our younger sister’s death, we do not make a big deal about it. However, we do enjoy the feelings of success and pride in having built this amazing business that shares so much with so many. We mention this because this year we were given the opportunity to expand our footprint in Brookside and move our store to a larger space up the street. It was exciting and inspiring. It was a dream come true. It was also a stressful and overwhelming decision about our future in business. In the end, we decided to stay put. We are happy with our choice and know the dream will continue to grow and thrive.

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Living With Cancer

Let’s start with the simple truth: Both of our parents have cancer. At the same time, in their separate homes.

Let’s start with the simple truth: Both of our parents have cancer. At the same time, in their separate homes. One is in chemotherapy for a cancer that has been battled four times. One is in a remission that will not last. Heck, it’s not really remission. It’s just a wonderful string of days that lasts until the cancer pronounces itself and the chemical treatments resume.

But what they are both doing beautifully is living with cancer. Truly living. And the gift they have given us is that they have let both of us in for the private appointments, the fears, the sickness, the good, and the bad. The days that seem numbered, and the days that never end.

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Casey Faces Her Election Frustration

I am buying myself a new piece of jewelry today. I know many of you know I am being completely serious. But, for people who don’t know me as well, let me explain.

I am buying myself a new piece of jewelry today. I know many of you know I am being completely serious. But, for people who don’t know me as well, let me explain.

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A Love Story in Two Parts: Part Two

Our customers are remarkable. You are all real, alive, three-dimensional, diverse, and interesting people. You are not statistics on a printout to us. You are not numbers in a database. Happy holidays!

If you haven’t read Part One, you can find it here.

Love Story - Part 2Our customers are remarkable. You are all real, alive, three-dimensional, diverse, and interesting people. You are not statistics on a printout to us. You are not numbers in a database. You are Carl, Roxanne, Erika, and Beth. Ashley, Stephen, Michelle, and Kirk. You make a choice to shop at our store. You are parents, friends, spouses, work colleagues, family, collectors, and community partners. You are YOU. We celebrate YOU, and we are deeply grateful for your openness, kindness, and thoughtful shopping. You are why we come to work every day. Thank you for choosing our store. We can never thank you enough. Keep the laughter and shared stories coming. The joy you share is inspiring. Thank you for your faith in us and in our dream business.

Last week we received a giant stack of boxes. We are conditioned to piles of boxes rolling into our store every day. In October, November, and December, the piles grow pretty tall. Some days our deliveries fill half the UPS truck that Rafael – our UPS driver who, like us, also loves the lemon cake at Cafe Europa! – drives to our back door. On this day, however, a small box was cushioned in the pile. It was addressed to us personally in the most fantastic lettering you can imagine. Inside we found a handpainted ceramic bowl, made especially for serving our traditional party M&M’s. It reads: “PURSUE GOOD STUFF…LIKE M&M’S”. It is quite perfect, and we are humbled by the thought, kindness, and generosity that created such a meaningful gift. Thank you, Julie and Robin Cates. You “party girls” are forever in our hearts, and you will now be with us at every party we host at STUFF.

Our lives are incredible. They are not always simple, yet they’re not too complex. But they are always extraordinary. There is so very much to celebrate – graduations, returning travelers, small cancer victories, anniversaries, and birthdays. As we look ahead to 2016, we are already planning parties at our store and in our homes. We have no doubt it will be another year filled with celebrations and meaningful connections.

We invite you to join in all our celebrations at STUFF. We encourage you to plan parties of your own as often as possible. You will not regret it.

We would also like to recommend serving a bowl of happy and colorful peanut M&M’s. We have found it makes for a joyful journey. And added protein for the ride.

Happy holidays!

Casey & Sloane

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A Love Story in Two Parts: Part One

We have been gifted almost twenty years of success, and we are thrilled to be experiencing a busy holiday season again this year. We are constantly grateful.

Love Story - Part 1We have been gifted almost twenty years of success, and we are thrilled to be experiencing a busy holiday season again this year. We are constantly grateful.

When we started our store over 19 years ago, we were younger, naive, and deeply passionate. Many people told us we would never succeed, and there have been many times over the years when we feared the same. But we kept our dreams alive, with not much more than sheer determination and blatant denial as life support. Honestly, this business has never been easy. There have been times when it has crawled and walked by sheer willpower. Much like a toddler, it has always taken daily management and our constant attention.

We have experienced many, many challenges over these incredible years. But one thing has never changed at our store: the celebrations. We started our store by hosting art opening parties, and to this day we have continued to host an increasing number of events every year. We love a good party. Yes, we are self-professed “party girls” who believe that life should be celebrated as often as possible.

We also believe that it is not a party without a bowl of peanut M&M’s. Since our first event, we have always offered a bowl brimming with those colorful sweets. It is both a tradition and a superstition at this point. We believe the business might fold if we forgot the M&M’s. If you have had a peanut M&M at STUFF, you are part of this tradition, and we thank you.

STUFF is our careers and our creative muse, and it has been a foundation for self-discovery. Professional and personal growth came along with that. Our store is the extension of our family. Our work team is extraordinary. Today, and for the last 19+ years, we have worked with people who we are proud to call our work family. Our past team members have gone on to nestle into rich, full lives. We have attended weddings and baby showers. We have held many babies, and we have hugged past employees tightly when they drop in for a happy visit or during difficult times. They are part of the STUFF story. And the team we have this season is no exception. We are grateful for Ryoko, Maggie, Lynne, Rebecca, Andrea, Christopher, Cori, Abby, Joy, Sherry, Vivian, Ella, Sean and Sue Ann. They have offered 110% every day and in every way. They make our work together playful and happy. We offer each other support, love, and kindness. We are very proud to have a team that puts people first. These people embrace the true mission of our store. They all have seen the power of peanut M&M’s at every one of the twenty-two parties during our Season of Giving this year alone. Thank you, team; we love you!

Many things have changed over the last 19 years. Our store was designed to evolve. We recognized early on that this special project had a spirit of its own. We strive to let our treasured artists grow creatively by finding their own paths. We do not push our artists to make work based on profit. We encourage our artists to challenge themselves, to gain confidence, and to become better small business owners themselves. We try to share our experience and wisdom openly and freely. We even find ourselves offering seminars in small business, customer service, and creative motivation beyond the walls and mission of STUFF. This last part is a journey we did not foresee but continue to explore. To our artists: we admire your talent and are grateful that you have chosen STUFF to share your work with the world. We look forward to supporting you and many artists for years to come.

We, in many ways, have become the stewards of this magical little place with a very big heart. We have always worked hard to let STUFF take shape somewhat on its own.

Casey & Sloane

Stay tuned for Part Two…

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Giving Thanks

We are indeed thankful. In so many ways, and for so many reasons. We wish you the most delicious and peaceful Thanksgiving. Ever.

We are indeed thankful. In so many ways, and for so many reasons. Each year, we take a moment right about now to thank our lucky stars for this amazing planet we all ride on and the lives we’ve built within that powerful grace.

  • We are thankful for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • We are thankful for our parents’ continued gentle guidance.
  • We are thankful for our childrens’ patience in our absences and silences.
  • We are thankful for our employees’ diligent work.
  • We are thankful for our customers’ trust in our dream business.
  • We are thankful for the artists we represent and their commitment to handcraft.

And we are very thankful that you take the time to read our blogs and emails. We wish you the most delicious and peaceful Thanksgiving. Ever.

Casey & Sloane

 

 

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Brick-And-Mortar

I said something a couple days ago and it has been bumping around in my head since. I think I should share it.

I said something a couple days ago and it has been bumping around in my head since. I think I should share it.

“We only have one store. One brick-and-mortar store. One actual, real-life, real-time store. You can touch the stuff, we can see you and feel you. We can share a smile and a conversation face-to-face with you. Just this one little store.”

Sloane and I were speaking to illustration students at the Kansas City Art Institute about choices.

One authentic store. That is what we wanted. That is what we built. That is why we continue to work so hard. It is tangible. It shares the joy of art and creativity with so many. It is never easy.

SONY DSCBut, most things worth having in life aren’t easy. We were raised to know that and that is why you will find us, The STUFF Sisters, at our store, again today.

We hope you will come visit soon. We believe it is worth the journey.

Casey

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The “Perfect Storm” Tech Mess

For many years we – The STUFF Sisters – have dedicated August to a month long Rug Sale. It is our way to treat our loyal customers to a great deal on the rugs we proudly sell at our store. But, this year it seems the “Tech Gods” were conspiring against us.

For many years we – The STUFF Sisters – have dedicated August to a month long Rug Sale. It is our way to treat our loyal customers to a great deal on the rugs we proudly sell at our store. But, this year it seems the “Tech Gods” were conspiring against us.

A couple weeks ago we discovered that our email host wasn’t working and our customer emails had not been going out, so our customers missed our colorful emails about our fantastic sale. Then last week our server went down, making it impossible for us function online. Then today, our phone lines went down. And, AT&T still hasn’t repaired them. Sloane was on hold for over 45 minutes (using her cell phone of course) begging for them to come quickly. She only rolled her eyes and laid her head on the desk a couple of times.

Tech MessToday, of all days, the last day of our BIG FANTASTIC RUG SALE.

We have such kind and reasonable customers. One even tracked us down of Facebook to tell us the lines were down. Sloane was able to get his order over her cell phone. And, two more customers were kind enough to let us try and call them after hours to try and help them get their orders in before the deadline. But, what about everyone else? We started to worry.

Then Sloane had an idea…

Sloane Has An IdeaShe turned to me and said, “Let’s just extend the sale.” I immediately went to work getting the extension approved. And, since the whole month of August was a such a tech mess, we decided to just “go big”. We worked to extend the sale for another full month. It was time for an official “do over”.

Starting tomorrow – the 1st of September – we are going to try this again. You will be offered the same 20% off and free shipping deal on all our rugs until September 30, 2015. Wish us luck. Keep your fingers crossed the the “Tech Gods” will protect us this time.

We don’t often talk in our blog about sales and deals. Because we think it is more fun to talk about life, art, family and share personal stories. But, this is turned into a story about small business and what happens when a family owned business faces challenges that are frustrating and can cause our customers to be frustrated too.

Please know we work hard to avoid these situations. But, when life gives you lemons…you have to find a way to make lemonade. We hope you will take full advantage of the extension of this fantastic opportunity to purchase our gorgeous rugs at a discount. If you missed the August sale, you have a second change. If you purchased rugs in August, you have a second chance to buy more at the discount. And, if you didn’t know about the August sale, you now have the chance to go wild buying rugs.

Meanwhile, we will be dropping pennies in every wishing well in town until our luck improves.

Thank you for supporting our small businesses. It matters and we are deeply appreciative.

Casey

PS. AT&T says they are coming tomorrow morning to fix the phones. We could use a few “good luck” wishes about now.

This is us on the way to get donuts to celebrate having survived August.
This is us on the way to get donuts to celebrate having survived August.

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We Love Art!

It may seem obvious to say that, at STUFF, we love art. Over 18 years ago, we started the STUFF journey, and our mission has never changed: to help you find the stuff that makes your home and your life extraordinary. Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect time to for us to renew our commitment to artistry, artists, and art.

It may seem obvious to say that, at STUFF, we love art. Over 18 years ago, we started the STUFF journey, and our mission has never changed: to help you find the stuff that makes your home and your life extraordinary. Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect time to for us to renew our commitment to artistry, artists, and art.

We enter this renewed covenant with a much deeper understanding of what will be expected of us. We know how hard it will be. We know how incredible it will be. We know how it will drain us, raise us up, and grant us amazing rewards. We know it will continue to be inspiring, never boring, and filled with unexpected discoveries and challenges. We renew our vows with our eyes and our arms wide open.

Please join us. We hope you will choose to renew your commitment to keep shopping at our store. We love you, too, after all.

To have and to hold from this day forward….

Casey & Sloane
Casey & Sloane Simmons
Sisters & Co-owners

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