I feel like i have a lot to catch you up on since we last talked shop. I’ll do a quick review of why we closed bloom in the next paragraph. If you are well-versed in this story or like to choose your own adventure, skip ahead.
Quick history of bloom, the first boutique I owned: In a whirlwind decision and in about two months, my husband and I opened a brick and mortar store named Bloom in McKinney, Texas in September 2011. Our shop occupied the bottom half of a two story building and the top half was occupied by a yoga studio. It was a great set-up — we didn’t have a lot of space but it was plenty for what my original vision for bloom was. In fact we didn’t have any intention of bloom being anything other than a small boutique that I could run alone (my husband was a wedding photographer at the time.) I pushed the idea of selling online far away, but eventually realized that we needed an online store as well. In February 2012 we took a leap of faith, rented the upstairs unit of our two-floor building and launched our online shop. Bryan decided to come on full-time to help me manage both store fronts and that year we finished shooting weddings in October. For almost three years we ran both the brick and mortar and online shop in tandem. Somedays it felt like living a dream, other days I could see the end of my wick from the candle burning at both ends.
Fast forward to February 2014 and the building we occupied for our online and store front sold to become another boutique. At first we were certain that we would make the transition as seamless as possible — we would just find another space. However, after looking relentlessly for space that we could immediately occupy, we found a lot of dead ends. We ended up making the hard decision of closing this spring. It wasn’t the easiest decision, but after looking at all of our options and resources, it was the right one. I always had a peace that closing, although the hardest decision, was the best. We packed up and left our space this past April, leaving everything unknown. I mean literally — all of our fixtures, everything we owned for bloom sat in a storage unit waiting for a decision to be made. (Craigslist or new store were the two options.) If you want to hear a more candid recollection, you can always listen to my interview on The Lively Show here. Now you are caught up and can proceed to how the new store came to be. 🙂
So, this is West & Lou. She’s a cutie, right?
The first question most people have asked when they come into the shop is where the name came from. It started this summer, mid-June I believe, I got a call from our former landlord. We’ve stayed in contact since closing the store so this wasn’t too out of the blue. He said he wanted to take me and Bryan to lunch and discuss something. We are never ones to turn down free lunch, so even if he was going to sell us on a pyramid scheme we were going to listen and happily eat our lunch. Turns out he found another building downtown (where we were previously located) to purchase and wanted to reconstruct it into two retail spaces. The question hung in the thick air: were we interested in renting again?
This was a question Bryan and I had avoided since April. When we closed the shop, I’ll be honest: it broke my heart. For some reason I’d only given myself one chance to make something good happen in my life. In my mind our store closing was a failure; my one chance was spent. And although the circumstance that was out of my control (the building selling) was the main reason for our store to close, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was my fault, my failure. And I don’t know if you’ve ever tried something, like really put your whole heart into something and then lost it but take it from me, you are kind of done with it. I was pretty much out after that. I understood what happened and I accepted it, no hard feelings or ill-will. But did I want to own a store again and tease that hurt again?
So when we were given this opportunity again at lunch that day (which by the way this is something we were desperate for 4 months prior when we were looking for a new place to open up shop), it stopped me in my tracks. Here I was being given an opportunity again: a new building in downtown McKinney. “This is exactly what you wanted.” my heart whispered. “But it’s all going to happen again.” my fear whispered back. “The hurt, the depression, the trying and the failing. It’s all going to happen again.”
Bryan and I sat out on our patio for the good part of a Sunday afternoon and lost hours to conversations we had avoided for months. By the end of the conversation, we both realized that yes we were hurt by something that happened to us in our life but that at the end of the day, that’s not the end of the story. In fact, that’s just what makes the story interesting. We started talking about what we do differently, what we did wrong at bloom, what we did right, etc. Before we knew it we had come up with this plan, a new solid business plan. We called our landlord the next day and said we were in.
As we were signing the lease that week, I saw that our new address would be 203 West Louisiana Street. We were going under the assumption that our new store would still be bloom. So as I was signing it I started playing around with the address and West & Lou came out. I quickly made a logo for it in photoshop (it’s a weird habit for when I make up names for fake business I’ll never open) and turned it around to Bryan. I said how cool it would be for that to be the name of our business, almost as if I was asking permission. B agreed — let’s change the name, in fact, let’s change everything. Let’s start over. So that’s where the name came from. Although it is really just a play off of our address, it means a lot to me. It’s a new name, a new start.
There is a calmness to doing something again; a comfort in failure is being able to do it again with less mistakes, or at the very least different mistakes. What I wanted to do after Bloom closed was crawl under a rock and pretend that Bloom never happened. That I could move on past what I considered my failure. But really what happened was not failure at all, it was life. It was a curveball that was thrown my way. I say all of this to you and perhaps myself at age 25: not everything will turn out exactly as you plan it to be — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give everything you have to make it happen. I won’t lie — it all hurt. But hurt goes away. (Feelings are not facts — that is my mantra most days.)
But back to feeling shiny and new, it’s been surreal to do everything again. Since we started a new business, we didn’t just move some stuff out of storage and called it a day. We started from the ground up again. It’s been nice to do things with confidence this time instead of insecurity. I remember being terrified to even apply to get into wholesale markets because I was afraid I didn’t have the right credentials (I did) or that they would just turn me away based on some subjective criteria I was not aware of (they don’t). Confidence might be the best gift experience can give you. Knowing that things can absolutely fall apart and go down the shitter (#classy) in a matter of months has actually given me confidence to move forward boldly. The fact that anything can happen is no longer that terrifying to me anymore — I mean our store was forced to close once and I lived. In fact, if we want to look at the very shiny silver lining, I got to take a summer off and open a new store in a new space with an exposed brick wall (!?!!). I feel so grateful for the experiences I’ve been given. But it has also given me perspective in the everyday. That means that if we have a slow month, we will be okay. If something doesn’t work out the way I envisioned it, it will be okay. For instance I look at the store and feel like it’s probably 70% complete, because I still have things I’d love to do with the space. But you know what? It’s okay. It’s not an anxiety that is going to nag me at night. That feeling — that it’s okay — is a huge comfort and I wouldn’t have that feeling if I wouldn’t have gone through the shop closing this April.
West & Lou is now open in downtown McKinney, if you ever want to stop by. If my husband is in the shop, that means I’m usually doing the bookkeeping in the back. (Yes, I wear a green visor.) We are right when you drive into the square on Louisiana street. And I have to say, it’s my favorite store ever. But I’m biased.
For those of you who don’t live in Dallas / McKinney area, we will open an online shop again. We had planned to do it last week when we opened the shop but again not everything works out as planned. We are hoping to launch in the next few weeks and you of course will be the first to know. Maybe even before me. It’s chaos over here.
Lastly, thank you for helping me in this journey. I know we don’t know each other really (well some of you I know!) but I feel like I have a lot of cheerleaders on my side. Through opening a shop, or closing a shop, I’ve felt your support the whole time. I didn’t know when I started this blog 5 years ago that it would make a lot of my dreams come true, but it has. And I don’t think it’s just my blog that has, it’s been you. Thank you for reading, commenting, loving and supporting me from behind a computer screen. You’ve helped me find my path. And I hope some part of my story can help you find yours.