Thursday, May 22, 2008

HiHo's Christmas Room

We always have had a permanent Christmas room here at HiHo, but in the early spring of 2007 it was moved to the second floor. The renovations were a labor of love a combination of paid contractors, friends and family working very hard in a limited amount of time. I had a goal of finishing the room in time for HiHo’s two year celebration. All work was complete in five weeks time! To view more shots of the completed room just click hiho home.

I had been thinking of moving the room upstairs for over a year. Taking in ideas at trade shows, and accumulating furniture that could be used as fixtures. When I requested the large hutch to be painted silver I was asked at least a dozen times “are you sure?” I knew what the room was going to look like, I just had to convince everyone who was working on it, that I knew. Each time another piece was finished it became clear to others that I did have a plan. The first thing built into the room was the shelf for the train, built by Dan O’Connor. We were both amazed how the spacing for the windows in the hutch were a perfect fit for the shelf to continue around the room.
The candy cane counter was something I had wanted built for the room for a very long time, Dennis Alback ran with my idea and built the bases for the counter out of old doors. Keeping the counter in character with the rest of the shop.

Dennis also framed out the vintage holiday panels I had purchased a year earlier for the project. He made them so bulbs could be changed with ease. It took a number of trips to get the right light fixtures. It was a challenge but when it was finally lit, it was worth the trouble. The other day an antique dealer visiting the store mentioned she had sold the panels years ago, she was surprised to see them again.
Most of the walls we covered in paneling, the limited time factor played into that decision. We were not about to start removing layers of wallpaper. I had worked for a full month before the renovation began cutting, painting and designing the back drop scenes for the train layout. Like most things I tackle, I get really good at it just as I’m finishing it up. This was so true when it came to making the four foot sections of scenery, I had used every piece of Styrofoam we had received in shipping and was getting very good at carving snow caps when to my surprise it was done. I played with covering the seams and had the kids paint lolly pop trees after school. There were debates over scale and whether deer looked like they were flying or just falling off of cliffs. But it got done. The stage for Santa was an idea that came from the old department store set ups for the holidays. I wanted to create a magical place where children would remember visiting Santa for the first time the rest of their lives. The mantel I had painted for the former Christmas room fit perfectly between the window and the door…so that's where the stage had to go. Dan built the stage, I painted it and Aubrey pulled the tape. Like most things in the room, even putting the drape up over the stage was a team effort. My friend Bryan came by with tools in hand and helped complete the look, by installing the grid over the stage. He helped hang skis on the ceiling and was around when I was testing spraying snow flakes on the floor.
My friend Sue has been a champion for the Christmas room from the start, even pulling out the paint brush and priming the train shelf. Her encouragement was and is always is appreciated. She is a friend with ”don’t stop” enthusiasm, the one we all need to have in our lives.
My Richard, he always has my back and he put his time in on the Christmas room too. He shopped around for the right trains and spent hours putting track together. He answered calls to come over to the shop late in the evening to finish up jobs I had gotten in over my head on, always my hero. I am sure I’m forgetting all sort of things the kids did to help and the staff put up with dust, tools, noise and the drama that comes with any kind of renovation. All said and done everyday customers come down the stairs and comment on how amazing the room is. I think it’s amazing how many people helped to make a dream of mine come true. To see more pics of the finished Christmas room visit or just stop by.

Mr. Humphrey

My dear Flora passed away suddenly early this year. She was a beautiful mutt; a mix of two breeds her father a Weimaraner, her mother a Basset Hound. She was a sweet soul and served her duties well as the family dog. I miss her, her kind eyes, her soft long ears and her silliness, she will always be in my heart, she was a good friend. I have always felt the need for a canine companion in my life. Houses have never felt like homes to me without a four legged friend.
Understanding the commitment of sharing our life with a dog and if we were going to get another, I wanted to be sure the dog could spend days here at the shop. One click to Pet Finder and it was clear a rescue is/was the only way to go. There are thousands of dogs looking for homes, you can even put in your zip code to look at dogs in your area. I am forever saying “think local first”, that’s when I phoned Gardiner’s dog warden, he knew of a small dog in a foster home. Now I was not sure about a small dog, we have always had large dogs, Flora was 70 pounds and that was the smallest dog we had ever owned. A small dog seemed like the way to go for the shop, a dog I could whisk away from customers if need be. I went to meet the five year old rescue that evening. Timid, tiny and wearing a diaper/wrap the shy guy held his distance, I was thinking, maybe he’s not the one. After an hour of visiting I had not even gotten the opportunity to pet the little fellow and then when we were (girlfriend Sue and I) about to leave he suddenly decided to join me on the couch. He picked me … I was done and sure it was not a match and he was ready to come home with me, long story short; that’s how Humphrey became part of two families. Our family at home enjoys him along with the HiHo family at work. He has come along way potty trained and not so shy anymore, he’s a happy little dog. Humphrey continues to surprise us, greeting customers and even letting strangers pet him. (It took days after I first brought him home to warm up to family.) He’s great at auction too, he arrives in his bag, really unnoticed and once I find our seat he comes out of the bag content to sit for hours people watching. He is slightly over seven pounds and loves to nap in his TV bed on one of the desks in the HiHo office. Humphrey is a cookie monster of sorts he dances, flips and jumps performing for cookies. He loves the sun shine, starting his day at work on the second floor, center hall where the smallest snippet of rays pour in through the window. Around 10:20 he wanders down to the main entrance knowing the sun has now moved to the front of the building. Very often he is sound asleep as someone comes in the door, awakening barking because he’s startled. Customers are wonderful about this new addition to HiHo and we appreciate everyone’s patience as Humphrey adjusts to his new role as a shop dog.
Mascot of HiHo, some say head of security, I say new found friend, now more than ever HiHo feels like home. Stop by and welcome Humphrey...

HiHo's Windows

There are five windows that face the street at the front of the building. We try to place things in the windows that reflect the changes of merchandise in the shop. Sometimes challenging often difficult, the windows were never intended to be store front windows. They are small, narrow and only ten inches deep. The majority of our products are large home furnishings therefore impossible to display in the windows. Often we do one color theme for all five windows, usually marking the change of color themes inside the shop. Last summer I tried something new and did each window in a different color. I love when the flower boxes are in bloom they just add so much to the front of the building and to the window displays. HiHo staff member Susan worked on the spring windows with me a few weeks ago. It was her first time working on this task. We were gathering like objects from the shop, counting in fives, debating sizes of lifts and working within the time restraints of her scheduled shift. She compared it to being on a reality show….OK you have five small windows, one color theme, twenty five objects, your choice of items from the stock room and one hour…..go! We had a laugh, but it really does feel like a challenge that can get the best of you.
On the second aniversary of the shop I had this idea to take shots of some local customers who frequent the shop and use them in the windows. I wanted to look like they were celebrating, so we shot them, cheering, toasting and laughing.

I mounted the pictures on bright poster boards and put party hats, noise makers and streamers right over the prints. Many locals came by to get a look at friends in the display windows. Don and Claudia were good sports in posing for silly shots...
The windows have changed dozens of times over the past three years and I will continue to wish for huge store front windows. Although I know there is a small part of me that’s glad I am limited, it pushes me to be more creative.