Merchandising Hell


Day three of the great girls get away and we have settled into the perfect balance of Mah Jongg playing, needlepointing, shopping, spaing, eating and lounging by the pool. This morning we ventured out of the hotel to have breakfast looking for something less formal and different. Although there are many restaurants in Highlands very few of them are open for breakfast. After searching the internet we found two choices, one in the back of a pharmacy “where the locals eat” and the other in a grocery store.  
We were not sure about eating at the grocery store so we walked up and down the sidewalk in search of the elusive “local’s spot.” Interestingly very few of the stores had street numbers on them and we were stumped. We stumbled into an alley thinking it might be on the back of the Main Street and still we could not find it. Instead we found a needlepoint store. For you non-stitchers you need to understand the sacristy of actual local needlepoint stores. This one might be the only one in Western North Carolina. Excitedly we peered in the windows of the very tiny shop. It was slightly untidy, but we were still excited nonetheless. Rounding the corner to find the front door we saw the sign “open at noon.”
Since it was still breakfast time we knew we needed to kill some time before the store would open so we settled on eating breakfast at the grocery store. It was absolutely the best thing we could have done. The food was delicious and the tables were comfortable so we had a long a leisurely gab filled meal. Since it turned out to be such a good store we bought some items to take home so we went back to the hotel to drop them off.
The mid-morning was still a little cool so we finished off visiting all the shops on the end of the street that we had not already gone in. Their merchandising was similar to the shops at the other end of the street. My favorite example was a kitchenware a store that had Crabtree and Evelyn nail polish, next to wrought iron cookbook stands, next to ceramic owls, next to fancy dish washer soap. You get the idea that it is a bit of a dog’s breakfast.
At last the hour that the needlepoint store should open approached. We wandered back through the alley and sat outside a beauty salon that was neighbor to the needlepoint shop. Noon came, no needlepoint opening. Mary Lloyd went and asked a neighboring shop owner if she knew the needlepoint lady. We came to find the hour sign on the door was merely a suggestion. As we loitered in front of the store we noticed three older ladies sitting in their car in front of the shop. They called out to us to ask if we were waiting for the needlepoint owner too?  
We struck up a conversation and they told us they were friends who all live in Florida and one of them had a house in Waynesville where she summers. They were like an older version of us, one even had a double name like Mary Lloyd. They said they came to this shop every year and had called the owner Monday to make sure she would open for them. Waynesville is an hour from Highlands and we were hopeful then that the owner would show up since now she had six customers waiting outside her shop. We were doubly hopeful she had better canvases than the ones we saw through the slightly dirty windows since these ladies came so far.
Eventually the owner came teetering down the path only twenty minutes late. She fumbled with the keys and we waited to be let I as if we might find some hidden treasure. The store was small and very well loved. Canvases were stacked on tables and in baskets and hung on the wall. Clearly many of them had been there quite a long time as evidenced by the “computer” themed belt with floppy disks and CD roms on it.
Mary Lloyd, Christy and I flipped through every Christmas ornament canvas in the place, desperately looking for something to buy after waiting so long to get in. Christy tried to get me to buy a mini stocking with a theme of cans of tuna fish, but I just couldn’t do it. Eventually I found a Peter Rabbit and Christy reached in a paper bag and found a heart that had very old yellow tape on the edges and a receipt from 1991. When she inquired about it the owner said, “you can buy it if you don’t mind that it belonged to a dead person.” Mary Lloyd had to leave the store at that point.  
Overall Highlands is a beautiful place, but it is clearly the land of misfit merchandising. I think that the whole town could be a case study for a retail merchandising class. I love to support local stores, and the ones in this town are not short on wares to sell, but clearly many of them need help to learn how to display things so customers can see what they have to sell. Except maybe the needlepoint lady, she just needs a lot more old customers who still have floppy disks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s