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Hotel MoJo... and HoJo

I began my visual merchandising career in a hotel gift shop,
a brand new venture that my Mom worked with the hotel owner to develop and open in the 1970's
at the Howard Johnson's Hotel across the street from Disneyland...
 That window on the left (which used to have a neon 'Kathy's Gift Shop' sign in it)
is where I experimented with merchandise to create my FIRST window displays ever.
I was thirteen years old when I started, thanks to my Mom trusting my ability.
The shop has expanded four times since then, 
and one of my Mom's original employees now manages it 
(along with the new one in the new Marriott Courtyard Hotel across the street,
owned by the same company). 

Ever since working there for six years, 
I've been watching the evolution and demise of the hotel gift shop...
 viewing many on my travels to speaking engagements, gift shows,
and of course visiting the Disneyland Hotels to see what they are doing.

Hotel gift shops have devolved 
from huge shops that carry every possible thing a traveler might want (or forget)
and offering a plethora of souvenirs silly and sublime,
into the newly-coined 'quick stop shops' in an alcove next to the registration desk,
which carry a measly offering of tiny personal care items and bottled beverages.
The change is disheartening.

Today, I read something with a more positive outlook
regarding hotel gift shops...
a new view from some independent hoteliers that have created an opportunity: 
they reach out into the community to source handmade, artisan, local products,
and to give a more entrepreneurial / independent store spirit to their shops
than we've seen in the mainstream before.

Not only that, but the design of these new shops is less 'corporate' and more 'indy' in style!
Quirky, inviting, personalized, and decidedly forward-thinking,
they are spaces that would stop any weary traveler in their tracks!

BHG has a column in their magazine called 'FRESHSHOPKEEPER'
and it was in this column that I saw these photos and read about this new direction:

I encourage you to go grab a copy of the August 2016 issue of BHG Magazine
and read up on this new outlook.

It bodes well for the hospitality industry, for retail in general, 
especially for artisans and makers who want to get their product into local shops.
It's a whole new sales opportunity that is not dependent upon
huge wholesale shows and mass-manufactured, imported goods.

Gift Shop Buyers at boutique hotels like these
are looking for exceptional, quality, unique merchandise
that will reflect the local community, attractions, and history
in a fresh, new, engaging way that customers respond to.

And that's evolution, my friends! 

Just an aside here....
I saw the Hotel Emma during construction last summer.
My son Joel is the Project Manager for the fire suppression system on the project.
Now that I have seen this photo of just one of their space designs,
I can't wait to visit him in San Antonio again so that I can see the finished hotel!

Artful Studio/Office Design Project

I'm getting a GREAT response to my new offering of 'Artful Makeover' services!
As I tell each of the clients that I work with:
You really don’t have to spend money to create an efficient, inspiring office or studio - 
start with what you have!

When designing an office space, think about the function needed for your specific work processes. 
Move around as if you were working, and decide what storage & work surfaces are necessary - and where.  
Remember that the ‘work triangle’ concept of kitchen design applies to offices & studios, too!

* Starting with the largest furnishings, assign each a place and use - considering light sources, access, and traffic flow. 
* 'Shop your house' and garage for pieces that can be used in fresh new ways to add style - think outside the box!
* Get creative with the colors, furnishings and details you select to express YOUR style and brand with every choice. 

You can have an inspiring work space that works almost as hard as you do ;)
 Want more Top Tips for your home office/studio space? asked me to contribute to a new blog post about office setup,
and it's FILLED with pro tips to consider when setting up your home office -
great advice from small business owners and design professionals!

Whether you work in a home office, art studio, craft room, or classroom,

my new 'Artful Makeover' services will help you to work happily, efficiently, and creatively.
I design beautiful, efficient, inspiring spaces where your creativity will thrive!
Read about my Artful Makeover Services

Keep reading to see how I approach the design process...

Keep Moving Forward.....


I am SO excited about a new direction for my business!
It's one that will enable me to work with creatives, artists, makers and crafters 
who need help with their work & hobby spaces!
Last week I worked on an #ArtfulMakeover in artist Sharyn Sowell's studio...
and it truly engaged ALL of my creative energy as I helped her solve dilemmas in her space
that had all but shut down her creative muse.

I helped her tackle storage and organizational challenges,
set up systems to contain the myriad of supplies she needs,
and assisted in making this space just SING her brand image in the process!
I'll share more of that project from start to finish soon, but here's a sneak peek:
As we worked, Sharyn learned a few things from me:
"Seriously, Deb is an artist's dream! She studies your work needs and your style, 
makes your studio far more efficient and then the eye candy is packed in... 
Who knew my own studio would turn into such an inspirational place for me?!?!? 
And I'm working faster, too. She's a real gift!"

I learned some new things, too - including that there are a LOT of creative people who need help like this!
So I'm broadening my horizons, breaking out of the retail 'box',
and moving forward in a new creative direction...
providing studio & booth design assistance to artists, creators, makers, and vendors.

Find out more about this NEW service HERE

Published: A Pro Tip from Deb!

I was contacted this week by Allan from Fit Small
an online resource for small businesses.
I'd never heard of them (Sorry!) but after he proposed a collaboration, 
I went to the site to check them out.

Seriously, they have an abundance of resources and materials
featuring educational information for the many varied facets of owning a small business!
I am very impressed - including with the comprehensive coverage of topics.
The articles & posts (this encompasses a website AND blog) are well-written
on a plethora of subjects that apply to many kinds of businesses - including retail.

...and there's SO much more...

Allan had come across my past blog posts on cash wraps (find them here and here)
and wanted to ask if I would consider adding the Fit Small Biz post about cash wraps to mine.
After reading their article, I was already leaning to 'YES!'...
Then Allan offered to insert content from me into one of their top-ranking articles!
Excellently written by Jason Rueger, their post is on the subject of store planning & design - 
and my recently published article in Gift Shop Magazine also focuses on retail space planning, 
so the concept of Zone Design was a perfect fit.
I pulled some information together, sent it off to Allan, 
and just a few hours later he emailed to tell me it's live. ALREADY!
I'm even MORE impressed now...

After reading his email, I went to their site to check out the article (and grab a few screen shots)...
They've chosen to add me in as a 'Pro Tip', with a link to my website.

I immediately clicked over here and added the Fit Small Business link 
to both of my own cash wrap blog posts, 
as well as their blog link in the 'Resources' sidebar section.
And I'm giving them a shout-out in a dedicated post because honestly,
anyone who can do business in a manner that is beneficial to both parties
and that benefits a LOT of readers deserves a spotlight.

I highly recommend them - so head over to Fit Small right now,
and plan to spend a couple of hours perusing their content.
Including the store planning post that features my Pro Tip!
You're going to learn a LOT!

Thank you again, Allan, for the opportunity to collaborate with you on this.
I look forward to working with you again!

Published: Gift Shop Magazing Spring 2016

The new Spring issue of Gift Shop Magazine arrived in my mailbox today, 
with my most recent article running on pages 120 - 124.
The subject this time is the efficient and effective use of space in a small store...
something I hear about ALL the time when I speak at trade shows and conferences.
The subject was inspired by a comment from a Gift Shop Magazine reader last winter,
who answered the question "What would you do with $10,000 for your store?" with this:

"We so need a makeover from a professional, 
and $10,000 would take care of any costs to make this project successful!"
Lynda Carson Sheuermann, owner of Nautica Design Gallery in Miami, Florida, 
has a 500-square foot store that, according to her, enough merchandise for DOUBLE that space. 
That presented some pretty serious challenges - and since all small storeowners have space challenges, 
I thought the subject was one of general interest and would reach a large number of interested readers.

It's a great read, with some inspiring images, 
and I hope you will visit the Gift Shop Magazine website + social media pages 
to see more of the content I provided for this issue!

In the article, I present my Top 5 Tips for Small Store Success:
* Utilize the principle of zone design for overall layout
* Learn how fixtures can help or hinder your capacity
* See how to use vertical space for displays + stock storage 
* Understand the effective use of color
*Find ideas for presenting merchandise in ways that maximize selection and sales.
Focusing on those five areas will get you on the path toward success...  
one step at a time! 

As I was writing this article, I was in contact with Lynda, and she sent me many images of her store.
I referred to them as I looked at her challenges, liabilities, and problems...
which helped me to focus on the starting points for her 'virtual makeover'.

I had an idea as I was writing, and ran it past Julie McCallum, editor of Gift Shop Magazine....
I want to cover my makeover ideas for Lynda's store here on my blog,
where I have the space to share more photos and a more in-depth view
of what I see there and how Lynda can address it.
Over the next few months, I will be writing here and sending her information
that will help her transform a store that is pretty overloaded and overwhelming
into a shopping environment & experience that she can be in control of -
and that her customers will LOVE visiting!
..and then it will get the spotlight in the pages of Gift Shop Magazine!

 My goal is to not only help Lynda solve her dilemmas, but to help everyone reading this
to see how you can utilize very last inch of space effectively in your stores.
Stay tuned.... there's MUCH MORE to come!

*sadly, I have had no response from Lynda to the information that I sent to her,

or my invitation to continue providing design assistance via my blog posts.
The previously planned content won't be developed. *

This issue of Gift Shop Magazine is available online in digital format!

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