Friday, February 6, 2015

The Full Story Of Why We Don't Have A Sign & More...

All of the gory details of that and also the reason that I don't sleep well!


(If you plan to read everything, you're going to want to go to the bathroom and grab a drink - this is a long story. 
Or, if you want to just know the net result, skip to the very bottom.)

This is partly to give you all of the dirty details so that there can be 
NO GOSSIP OR SPECULATION!
And partly to allow me to vent about how HORRIBLE my experience with
The Lively Center in Poway, CA
has been over the last 18 months!

I would like to start off by saying that we were in this VERY shopping center about 15 years ago when Mr. Lively Sr was still alive. He was a LOVELY man. Very kind and generous. That's part of the reason I had few hesitations in moving here. 
Boy was that a mistake!

These are just a FEW of the highlights (lowlights)

As you all know, we moved closed at our old location May 2013. The rent at the old location was nearly $10,000 per month and with Michael's moving out of the shopping center, that was the final straw in my decision to move out.


As you also probably know, we had real trouble finding a space to move to.
We wanted to stay in Poway. We NEEDED at least 2,000 square feet.
I wanted to be where we could be seen from the street and near food.
I had HOPED to be in a center with lots of female traffic.

 I wanted to move into the shopping center where Michael's moved to. There was a 3,000 square foot space just to the left of Grocery Outlet that would have been great. The leasing agent for that shopping center said that Michael's had put it in their lease that no scrapbook store could move into the center. So, I contacted Michaels' Corporate offices and the reply I got was:
So, that option was out.

There was a nice space in the Stater Bros. shopping center, but it was insanely expensive!!

Everything else was too small or needed MAJOR construction.

So, then there was this space that we are in now. There was no floor in, so that was going to be a factor, but it was big enough and bright. The leasing agent here - I won't use his name - we'll just call him Dick.  Well, Dick said he had 3 other companies who were interested - told me all of them (2 of the 3 HAVE since moved to Poway), so I felt under pressure to sign or lose this space. He then told me that they only did 2 year leases and that everyone then went month-to-month under the same conditions and nothing changed. He said that EVERY tenant was month-to-month except for one (I can't recall if it's O'Reilly's or Bellus). Ok, sure. I talked with the former tenant of this space and he confirmed that they were month-to-month for YEARS until they decided to move and it was no big deal. He said that it was a good space and gave me lots of confirmation that all would be well. 

Dick also told me that there were no parking issues and if I ever had one to call him and he would take care of it. He told me that everything in the suite was in good working order.

My dad was out here, so I asked his opinion too and we all agreed this would be a decent enough location.

Ok. We signed. We had a new space. I started the process to get flooring and arrange to get moved in. Remember that we had already moved everything to a storage unit because we didn't decide on this space until after we had to be out of the old space.
So, I had center electrical put in for the registers - $1,000. 
We had the floor installed - $11,000. 
I had the window painted, utilities set up, a new alarm system, etc, etc, etch.
Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching.


We rented more trucks and moved everything in. Between moving everything out, and then back in, we spent over $1,000 in trucks and labor - and that doesn't include the TWO giant storage units we rented!

 There was no electricity when I signed so I didn't know that the AC didn't work!!! At all!! And it was the depth of the summer so that was no fun! Dick said he would get a guy out. That took a while. Then after he said it was fixed, it still wasn't and Dick had to call him again. It has never worked well, and the sun in the afternoon just BEATS down on the front of the store, so something we didn't plan on is our electrical bill being MORE when the space was much smaller.

Also, the door locks didn't work well and the door closers (what keeps the doors shut and has the "spring" to shut them after you walk in/out) were all broken. I called my guy to look at them and he said that we really needed all new doors - something like $1800 a set! Ok - called Dick - he said he'd take care of it. Some "clown" came out and hammered on them and left - didn't really fix them. I complained to Dick but NEVER got a response. 
(Literally, they are so bad that once it was really windy out and all 4 doors just flew wide open).

And the toilet ran constantly. Dick had the shopping center's maintenance guy work on it -a few times because once is never enough. 

Do you see where I'm leading with this? Moving in was NOT the best experience. And being closed for 7 weeks with no income, but paying staff to move and set up, plus setting up utilities, and a few new fixtures and accessories - it was all VERY expensive.


And, you'll remember that I had the window painted:
I was going to put a sign up above, but when we moved from our old location, we had to throw those signs out - they were too old so they would have needed to be fully updated, plus every shopping center and suite has "sign criteria" with the city and there was no guarantee that they would be allowed for this space. I had to make an immediate decision - do I rent a THIRD storage space, rent ANOTHER truck to move them, and then store then until I find out? My sign guy felt it would be better to get rid of them. And our old signs were EXPENSIVE and funds were pretty tight from moving and my then fiance not having full time work. So, I just skipped it. 

Nothing was ever said from the management or owner.  No complaints or comments.
This sign was up for 13 months.

Fast forward a bit... in November 2013, I fell in the parking lot on incredibly uneven asphalt. I ended up fracturing a bone in my ankle and had a brace for quite a while. When I contacted Dick to tell him, his first words were, "Were you carrying something?"  
Silly me, I sort of had expected, "Are you ok?", but no - I never got anything like that. 
Everyone said I should sue but:
a) I'm not that person and 
b) I was thinking, "We only have a 2 year guarantee! If I sue, he'll kick us out!"


Fast forwarding again to July 2014 - one year after moving in - I was in Maine getting married and I contacted my window painter. The Shop Hop was coming up and I asked if he could he change the sign from "CRAFTS" to be our name? He gave me what I thought was a fair price and said he could do it July 5th. PERFECT! It came out amazing! And, I had him do it in a way that it blocked the BLAZING HOT SUN that we got in the afternoons. You could see it coming down the street and I hoped our electrical bill would go down.

Since I never asked to paint the first sign, I never had any idea it would be an issue. 
Then I got this email from Dick that read in part:

When I questioned it, I received this:
I asked if there was ANY scenario under which I could keep the sign - pay a fine, put up an official sign too, take it down - get permission - put it back, or????
No answer. Just a letter in the mail stating that I was "in violation of my lease" and I had 15 days to remove the sign. (No ultimatum was stated, but I didn't want to press).

So, the sign had to come down, but I could keep the window painted to keep the sun out and I could paint my name on the doors.
THIS is what was "ok" for Dick. Really??? This is better?  
And I couldn't put back the other "Crafts" Sign.
So, my main sign is STILL on the windows (doors) but that was now ok.

And, I've been searching high and low for a picture, but if you recall, I started off by saying that I was in this shopping center about 15 years ago.
Guess what? WE ONLY EVER HAD A PAINTED SIGN ON THE WINDOW THAT SAID 
"COOL SCRAPBOOK STUFF" BACK THEN! 
Why would I ever think it would be an issue?

And, I find it very interesting that this sign is ok:
The paper front on the word Tan has all but come off.
Until recently, there were pieces that were dangling down (for months) but they have finally fallen off.





And this painting is ok. 
It's not seasonal, it's been here since we've been here and, imo, is ugly. 

And, I'm curious to know if they received WRITTEN permission.


Keep in mind that I did not get written permission for the first painting.











And, their name is on their window, but that is ok.










And this is not the greatest picture, but this is the ONLY sign they have with their name and it's on the window.







So, now my "Spidey Senses" are activated and I'm nervous that there is more going on. Again, I went and spoke with the person who used to have our suite and he said,
"I bet Bellus wants your space."

My heart sank and I felt ill. We spent SO MUCH money moving there and we signed the "two year lease" because that was their deal and no one seemed concerned. So, we've kept our heads low, but I needed to put up a formal sign! No one could find us!! Every time I called the office, Dick wasn't in and wouldn't be in later. Fine. Email again. But no response.


These are the type of "conversations" we have because he is NEVER in the office. 
So, I try to reach him via email:
No reply.


Try again the following week:


Finally an answer:


Then he cancels:
Then, he wasn't in the office on Thursday.


So, I sent a detailed email and received this reply:

So, more emails to him that go unanswered and I send ANOTHER email:

Finally, an answer: 

and:


I reply immediately:
I never heard back. Nothing.


I started working with a leasing agent to look at spaces.
Who kicks out a paying tenant? Someone who has someone else willing to pay more for the space, so now I'm convinced that Bellus wants to expand.
I found a space that I like and I got REALLY excited for it.


Then, a few weeks ago, out of the blue one morning, I get this: 
Tom was PISSED!!
He felt we were totally being jerked around and so did I!


But, I told the girls that we had a "stay of execution".

But, now I was worried that it was a ploy.  It completely contradicted what he had already said, that we needed to be out by May 31, 2015.

So I replied:
(Where it says <image00x.jpg I've added a screen shot of his emails for confirmation)

This time, he replied immediately:







The leasing agent I was working with was SHOCKED!
Shocked that he would be so rude, shocked that they wouldn't even give us a few months notice, shocked that he never replies, shocked that they think we would actually do it at this point.

So, my leasing agent tried to call the owner directly. To see if he could get anywhere with him. Even just to get an extension until Fall, after Shop Hop, and give us more time to prepare for a potential move.
This was 2 weeks ago.

Again, I'm sure Bellus still plans to expand, but for whatever reason, they now want 
to wait but Dick is too much of an ass to just tell us that and 
allow us an appropriate amount of notice.



THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Basically, the landlord has tied our hands. They will not give us more than a 30 day confirmation of being allowed to stay here and 30 days is not long enough to close out a 17 year old business. Even if I find out Bellus's intended date of expansion, without a formal contract with the landlord, we can still kick us out at any moment with only 30 days notice. At this point, he could even just be jerking us around and tell me on May 1st that I have to be out May 31st!

Like I said, I found a space that I like, and I wish it had been available when we were looking before. There are women focused businesses, food, LOTS of parking.... 
The ceiling isn't "high" like I like, but Tom and I REALLY got excited about it. 
However, in reviewing how much it cost to move last time, plus, the fact that it would be about $3,000 more per month than we are paying now,
and with my husband not working much over the last 2 years, we simply can't afford it. 
I thought about trying crowd funding, but just couldn't pull that trigger.

Therefore, barring a miracle, 
Cool Scrapbook Stuff will close its doors forever
in May 2015.
 (yes, Tom and I are actively playing the lottery and I haven't fully given up, 
but we need to be realistic.)


For now, it will be business as usual.
We will continue to hold classes and crops.
We will continue to get new product in.
For now, our Frequent Buyer Program and
Text Based Coupon Program will continue.
Everything will resume as if we are not closing - jic!

We will immediately cease issuing Gift Cards.

I'm kind of hoping that because I went ahead and told everyone "the deal", 
that something will fall in our lap! Y'know?

Please support us by shopping throughout our close.
We will probably not start seriously discounting until around May 1st.

NOTE: Most SRM items, NFL, MLB, Wellspring, and Custom will NOT get discounted!

Everything will be for sale! 
All fixtures, racks, counters, bookcases, hooks, the floor, the wall racks, 
shopping carts, shopping baskets, bathroom fixtures, sample boards, product, etc.
If there is a fixture you are interested in, please let me know.
We will keep a list and start actually selling them around May 1st.
Everything will go to the highest bidder.


I plan to enhance our online after we close, so CSS will still be around.
Maybe we'll do some Farmer's Markets. 
Not sure what the future holds really.

But, if you hear of anyone hiring... lol.

One last request...
Please don't bug the staff with a bunch of questions. 
There is nothing more to be known that I have typed here 
(aside from a few reasons that we won't miss our neighbors in this shopping center!)
But I think that we are all just so OVER this situation!
The last 18 months, our location has been nothing but a hassle and
I know that I'm just sick to death of talking about the whole thing.

26 comments:

  1. I am a new customer but am sorry to hear all that you have been through. I am praying for you and your business because my husband, uncle and many other family members are small business owners so I understand how hard it can be. Be strong. Maybe a new door will open. Keep your customers informed on where you will be so we can find you. Maybe here, maybe on facebook (nice and easy). God bless!

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  2. I'm sorry to hear the news about your store. A very similar situation happened to my friend and her consignment boutique in San Marcos. I was the only other employee besides her. They have is grief about our sign, amongst other issues, which culminated in closing

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  3. Also, I just wanted to say, this is truly a shame! Privately owned scrapbook stores are becoming rare it seems, in this area. I get tired of Michaels and Jo-Anns. You will truly be missed!

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  4. You should have sued when you fell in the parking lot. What a total JERK! What a completely frustrating situation...do you still have your eyebrows? (Raising Hope reference!) I'm sorry that I haven't been very supportive, but when I went to work full time, I decided that I have more than a life-time supply of product...more than my kids and friends could help me use up. I'll pray for a miracle...or a winning ticket...but even more, I wish you all the best and a future without JERK landlord headaches!

    All the best,

    Helen

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  5. Have you considered contacting Turko at KUSI? He might take this on. Even if things don't change the exposure may open doors to a new situation for you.

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    Replies
    1. Haha. You aren't the first person to suggest that, but I don't think he would take up our issue.

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    2. I totally think he would.... its worth a shot!

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    3. I would actually try Cristin Severance at KGTV / 10 (she is the main Team 10 Investigates person) - http://www.10news.com/about/cristin-severance-bio -
      cristin.severance@10news.com / https://twitter.com/10newsseverance / https://www.facebook.com/CristinSeverance10News

      She's gotten great results the last few years and is well respected.

      Plus, KGTV has a larger viewership and is much more into social media and has a greater following and that would mean greater community awareness (and pressure) - even if it was also just advanced by people tweeting or relaying your story to them via social media initially.

      Poway hates to lose / have businesses run out of the community - I think it's well worth trying to see if Cristin / Team 10 would do a story.

      I also think trying to get something in the Poway Chieftain at some point (even if it more initially from a pre-goodbye angle - like 'we've loved being part of this community for years type of thing') would also be worthwhile, because Poway's not going to want the notority of landlords who pull this type of stuff, and you could well get them helping to make a difference or some other place stepping up wanting to get the positive publicity.

      Stressing your history in the area, how being a small business and catering to people in the community in a way 'big box' places can't, etc. might get you a whole lot further than you think.

      I'd definitely try it - especially if Team 10 (and others) see you have a base of support of others upset about potentially losing your business.

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    4. Send me a copy of your lease agreement with these clowns...

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  6. OMG! I've been with you ever since you had a few shelves in your ex's printing place on Pomerado/Twin Peaks. It's always been a fun experience coming to your store... staff has always been very helpful. I'm sorry this has not worked out and I wish you &Tom the best. A loyal customer that's unhappy right now. Jill

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  7. What a nightmare! I'm so sorry...

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  8. I will pray for a miracle, Gena!!! I don't want you guys to close.

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  9. Why don't you consider a Go Fund Me Account where all of your loyal customers could help donate towards moving expenses and setting up a new shop? Then maybe a moving party? I would hate to see a "Dick" win. With all of the documentation you have - I still don't think Turko is a bad idea.

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    Replies
    1. My little Soul carries a LOT of stuff...as you guys know. Don't have a lot of money, and I'm not good at the carrying and lifting, BUT. I am an EXCELENT packer person.

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  10. Go Fund Me!!! Let us help!

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  11. I am so sorry to hear of this horrible time in your business. This may seem like a dumb idea, but what if you asked a High School ROP class that maybe geared towards buisness or art to see if they would like experience in setting up a business to see what it takes? that way you could move without it costing a fortune again. yes you may have to rent the trucks but usually it is the labor that costs. I bet there is even a carpentry class of some sort that would like experience in doing the floors. I dont know just a though. there maybe even help in the small business association because they have volunteers that are available for advice....maybe they have an idea of something that would help you out.? just a though....Hang in there, there is a reason for it although I am sure you are tired of hearing that, but there is another opportunity in this some where. Maybe your on-line business is where you need to focus,...like amazon! ;)

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  12. I lived in PQ until 3 years ago when I moved to the desert. I chose to remain on your mailing list. When I lived in PQ I shopped in your store all the time. I loved it..so organized and had EVERYTHING I could possibly want. I remember receiving your email a few years back that you had to move out of the shopping center. It was not a great place at all and I did not think it needed you AND Michael's there. I was happy to receive your email that you had found a new home. Receiving this email has saddened me. It appears you have been through hell and I am so, so sorry that this happened. There are some really awful people out there and you did not deserve the treatment you got. I am sorry to see your store close. However, I can tell you that here in Palm Desert my option for scrapbooking supplies is limited mostly or entirely to Michael's. While it is a decent option, it is not enough. I have now turned to scrapbook.com. Online is a fantastic option and I promise to check out your website for online supplies instead of scrapbook.com. I wish you only the best.

    Heidi Arzt

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  13. This, as you know, is breaking my heart! I just want is best for you, Gena. I will help in any way I can.

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  14. So sorry ! You did tell me to go to the bathroom and grab a drink ... I did neither ! Now I must go ( it's sickening) ... might have to grab that drink on the way back !!
    Things happen for a reason... maybe new doors are opening for you ( God's got a plan for you) ... you're being released from this horrible situation ... as you go about business as usual until then keep your "spiritual ears " open !

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  15. Gena - - First-of-all, a HUGE Congrats to both you & Tom on your nuptials - - AWESOME!! May G-d grant you both, within yourselves, much happiness and joy external from the outside world’s crap that surrounds you!!!

    There are truly no words that can be said to satisfy or ameliorate this horrendous heinous scenario you’ve faced these past 18 months!! You’ve brought nothing but goodness into the lives of no doubt thousands of individuals coming into your lives there in Poway - - 2 of which were my handicapped wife (from Tucson, AZ) and myself, who is now also handicapped in a wheelchair having suffered from the West Nile Virus 28 months ago from a mere mosquito bite. You might remember us coming in several times a year as we would visit our grandsons from our daughter and son-in-law, both instructors @ CSUSM in San Marcos!

    You should only imagine how very many really beautiful scrapbooks Lynn has made from you and your store’s products - - Dick should only know the depth of personal trouble in his life for the depth of heartache he’s created in the plethoric number of customers who’ve darkened your doors over these past 17 years . . . PERSONALLY, Gena!!

    Because of my health from the WNV since October of ’12, we’ll take only our 2nd trip away from home in over 28 months this upcoming weekend, and needless to say, Lynn will darken your doorway at least one last time personally, unless G-d should somehow work a miracle in the life of you, Tom, your staff, and your so very many satisfied customers. While I unfortunately can’t get in, our daughter will bring Lynn there to enjoy your offerings to her. I must tell you too, that I well remember when we met you so very many years ago and your story with newspaper accounting of your Hawaiian adventure so long ago!

    While we can hope that there will be some form of successful sales ability on your part to reach out to your clientele, until we’ll know, let us thank you so very much for all you’ve done in reaching out to us over these so very many years with Cool Scrapbook Store!!

    G-d’s Blessings to you!!

    Paul Mann

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    Replies
    1. Oh my gosh Paul! Of course I remember you both and I'm so sorry to hear about the West Nile virus!!! Thanks for the kind note!! I was wondering why I hadn't seen you and Lynn in a while... I thought maybe we "lost you" in the move. Thanks for writing and I send my best to both of you!!!

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  16. Hi Gina,
    So sad to hear you are closing. Cool Scrapbook is the last local "cool" scrapbook store around that carries variety as well as quality product. (Michael's has definitely gone the cheap route in the last several years). What are we going to do? You and your store will be sorely missed in the San Diego scrapbooking community. Thank you for sharing what happened since your move. Believe in karma! If you are truly looking for a new opportunity (outside of the business of scrapbooking) please send me an email. I would love to talk to you! Barbara biversen@san.rr.com

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    Replies
    1. Yes, Barbara, I will be looking for something outside of Scrapbooking. I'll send you an email shortly. I do have a line on something and will be meeting with a company on Thursday....

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  17. Have you considered moving out of Poway and further north? Maybe Escondido or San Marcos? There aren't very many scrapbook stores up north.

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  18. What a horror story, Gina! Very difficult to understand how such a "Dick" could throw around so much power in beautiful, shopper-friendly Poway. It's truly disgusting! I live 20 miles away, but I shop at Cool Scrapbook Stuff because it's the finest scrapbook store in the county. I will surely keep an eye on this story, and will promise you right now, that if you move your store elsewhere, my daughter, Robyn and I will be there as many hours a week as we can to help you move out of that crappy shopping center. Something good is going to happen!

    Kathy Reid

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