5426 Asheville Highway
Hendersonville, NC 28791
Owners Joan Colburn and Blair Justice
Hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday–Saturday
Year opened 1989
Square footage 2,500
Book titles in stock 700 (new)
Inventory method/software Go Antiquing! Point of Sale
Inventory turn: 1.5
Sales by category
Crystals and rocks 27%
Events and readings
Intuitive readers every day, intuitive arts fairs every six weeks, classes and workshops weekly on a rental basis.
Crystal Visions celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2019. Located centrally between Asheville and Hendersonville in the mountains of western North Carolina, the story of this metaphysical store reflects and is part of the history of New Age over the past three decades. In this conversation, co-owners Joan Colburn and Blair Justice generously share their stories and explain what makes Crystal Visions such a valuable and enduring part of its community.
Ray Hemachandra: Let’s start at the beginning, Blair and Joan—why and how did you start Crystal Visions?
Blair Justice: We had thought we were going to open a bookstore. But during that time, we began to study crystals and found that they were interesting and wonderful. We decided to go find a rose-quartz crystal for my mother, who was suffering with bursitis. So we drove all the way to Weaverville —
Joan Colburn: — and 30 years ago that was a long way, it was a two-lane road!—
Blair: — and we found the quartz. Of course, it worked. And we thought, this is interesting! Let’s combine crystals with books. One thing led to another, and some people said, “Oh, we know how you can find jewelry.” And somebody else said to look at New Leaf Distributing for books. All of this was just synchronistic.
Joan: Somebody said, “I’ve got a case you can use!” It was phenomenal. We should talk about the flea market!
Blair: Yes! So we bought some things — a few books and a few crystals and things — and we set up a booth.
Joan: We did our market research at Smiley’s Flea Market in Fletcher, North Carolina! And people came out of the woodwork and told us their stories about crystals and healing — that yes, they were of value. It was just amazing how lots of people came up and quietly talked to us about their stories. Because people were very quiet about it back then.
One person said, “You’ve got to meet Pam, the Crystal Lady.” And Pam has been with us since the beginning now, working with crystals and teaching at Crystal Visions.
Blair: It encouraged us to go ahead and get a storefront. This property was my mother’s and father’s. We first opened Crystal Visions in a very small space.
Joan: Your mother said, “You want to do what?” (Laughs.)
Blair: We stayed in that space three years, and then this building became available. So, we came over, and we built a little bit bigger of a store — maybe twice the size of what had been there — and it had a small meeting room. We started having small gatherings of people.
Joan: It was like this evidence-based thing. We read about what stores were doing, and that was helpful. Stores were having events to bring people in. We probably read that in New Age Retailer.
Blair: We did that for quite a while. And in 2001 we expanded the building. We were able to do that because this is family property, and it was like an investment in the property.
We were able to create a beautiful garden and add our labyrinth, too. So, Crystal Visions is really a center for people to come to experience spiritual tools and to enjoy the crystals and have meetings and workshops, to help create a community of conscious individuals who are on a spiritual path.
Ray: How do you describe the store to someone who has never been here, or even to someone who has?
Joan: Depends on who it is. (Laughs.) For an audience open to it, though, it’s a spiritual center and shop. And community is a big piece of what we do. There’s definitely community here.
Blair: We are aware that where we live includes people less familiar with or open to some of what we do. So, if I mention I have a store and someone asks about it, I’ll say, well, we have jewelry, candles, incense, books, and crystals. And they’ll say, oh, okay.
I was just telling somebody the other day who is religious that this is a spiritual store. And then I thought, “I don’t know.” (Laughs.) But I think I got out of trouble.
Joan: It is what it is.
Blair: It’s spiritual, not religious. It is store for people to experience a different path to the One. And it has all these wonderful goodies.
Joan: And honoring all paths. We honor all paths here.
Ray: And certainly, the books you carry include ones from specific religious paths.
Joan: Yes, and some people do come looking for those books.
Ray: It sounds like from the beginning, you incorporated merchandise beyond books such as crystals at the start. When you first started out, the retailer in this category was the New Age bookstore. It may have carried some sidelines, what giftware was called then. Then, as the chain bookstores expanded — Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Crown . . . I have to think actually what all their names were now.
Joan: Yes, some of those are long gone.
Ray: And then Amazon started and expanded, taking up much of the retailing space. Many of the independent stores that survived, and new ones that opened, became gift stores that also might carry books — the new sideline for giftware. Also, as the competition became tougher, giftware has better margins than books, so when things get tighter financially, shifting your use of square footage to include more giftware products both helps with your margins and also brings in a different kind of customer, so it potentially expands your customer base.
Joan: Right, and it brings in more repeat customers. Because when people have the books they want, they might need gifts. They might need the statuary or jewelry, the product lines that change more often.
Ray: So the economic model for independent retailers in this category has shifted a great deal in your 30 years. How have you changed with the times, and how have you stayed the same?
Blair: First, we never abandoned books, although we gradually expanded the range of things, just as you say.
I want to give kudos to New Leaf Distributing, because they make it so easy for smaller retailers to get everything, really, except for crystals. We always bought crystals independently. But pretty much you could get anything you wanted at New Leaf, and it made it very easy to do.
One big thing we have now added is used books. We’ve got more used-book inventory than we do new-book inventory. That is one of the reasons this store has really been able to continue to succeed beyond what it was before.
Ray: Selling used books is a completely different business than selling new books, isn’t it? How did you learn it?
Blair: We opened a separate store together with another couple, and it was called Second Sight Used Books. That lasted for a few years, and it was over in the original Crystal Visions space.
Then we opened a more general resale store in 2008. We kept the used books over there in that store for five more years. But in 2013, we went, “Aha! This is something we need to bring over here.”
Joan: Because it was making money!
Ray: And it brings people in.
Blair: Yes, and it was better for the used books to be here from an accounting perspective.
Over the years, we have experimented with different products and different product mixes. You know: Should we expand our candle line? Should we expand our incense line? Then sometimes we’d find out we went a little too far with something, and let’s go back to basics with it — keep what we need for people to have the tools they want, but not go crazy with every candle that’s out there.
Over time, you just learn what’s working for your customers, and what you need to do to help them to keep coming.
Joan: We’ve expanded jewelry. We have more jewelry, because that brings people in.
Ray: Jewelry makes up almost 20 percent of your sales.
Blair: Yes, and crystals and minerals are even more. And then sidelines, which to me constitutes everything that isn’t a crystal, isn’t jewelry, or isn’t a book.
Ray: Everything else in the store.
Ray: How have sales varied over your 30 years?
Blair: We consistently increased until 2008. With the financial crash, that was a nightmare for everybody. It was difficult for a couple of years. We had to build all of that back up.
But that was a long time ago, and things are great now, again. We’re doing just as well as we ever did before the financial crash. We feel very positive about it.
Ray: You’re in the mountains of western North Carolina, which certainly has strong religious and conservative elements. How specifically has that impacted what you do and the way you do it?
Blair: When we first opened, the local minister wanted me to talk to him about what we were doing. I naively gave him the most honest answer that I could. (Laughs.) And he didn’t like that.
So very early on, we were the topic of many sermons. We heard this from the community and family. I called Joan one day, and I said—
Joan: “They’re preaching about us!”
Blair: And she said, “Oh, great! Free advertising!” (Laughs.)
Joan: I was naively thinking people would be curious about us, not understanding how adamantly opposed some people would be.
Just a few years ago, a woman was in here saying, “You two are warriors. You are my heroes.” She went to a different Baptist church for years where they preached about us, and she was terrified to come in. She finally came around.
We were not fully aware of how much that message was out there, although we were with the local church.
Blair: It caused us to be very low key. We didn’t flamboyantly go out in the community.
Joan: We were more cautious with advertising than we might have been.
Blair: Right. So, instead of the word “psychic” we would use the word “intuitive.” Because “psychic” was . . . well, it was against the law! It might still be!
That was one of the things: the community had to get used to us. I grew up here. And I still have family members who have never set foot in here. That was one of the big things, right from the start, for the business — acceptance from the community.
Ray: It was almost an existential crisis right from the start.
Joan: Yes. And another was in 2001 before we did this expansion. It was: we’re either going to close, or we’re going to jump in, take a leap of faith and expand.
Blair: We had used all the space we could for the store. And then we had a little meeting space. That worked for a while. But then it came to that place, you know: we either had to move forward and expand, or we would let it go.
We had a spiritual mentor, a medium. She lives in England. Her name is Lillian Edwards. And she kept guiding us with her guides: “You’ll be alright. You’ll be alright. Now is the time.”
Joan: Lillian turned 89 this past September.
Blair: Later, she came from England and began to do readings here. It was fabulously popular. She would go out onto the little show porch, and have her lunch. She laughed about it being by the dustbin. That’s where it was, out where we kept the garbage cans.
She said to me one day, “You’re going to close this in, and this is where I’m going to work.”
“Oh! Okay!” So, we proceeded to close that space in, and she worked from there for many, many years.
Lillian is the one who said: This is the time to go ahead and make your expansion. You’ll be okay. Spirit will take care of you.
And Spirit was doing a good job until 2008 and the financial crisis. Then we were really in it, because we had this building mortgage. But we managed to weather all the storms, and we’ve almost got that mortgage paid off now!
Ray: Who is your core customer, and how has it changed?
Blair: It really used to be older women who were doing the spiritual work. But now it’s a mix of men and women, young and old, who are coming in and shopping. People are interested in crystals and in the beautiful gemstone jewelry. And they are interested in expanding their spiritual life. New people come in for the first time, looking to learn about Wicca or whatever it is, and this is where they come to get the information. So it’s a real mix of people.
Ray: Do you think that’s because the demographics of the area have changed, with new people moving to the area who are more open to alternative spirituality? Or is that younger people grew up encountering more diversity of spirituality in media and online, where it’s more common to the culture, so they’re less resistant to alternative spiritual paths?
Blair: The area has expanded tremendously with—
Ray: People who didn’t necessarily grow up in the mountains and with a more conservative type of Christianity.
Blair: Yes, there’s that. But there’s also the people who are just done with the religious path, because they feel it’s not big enough for them. It doesn’t hold Spirit. So they’re coming in for more than they can get in other places.
Joan: What comes to mind for me is that more and more people are opening up.
Blair: That’s a good way to put it.
Joan: They’re less willing to accept something just because it was given to them.
Ray: How has owning the store affected your personal spiritualities and paths?
Joan: It has been such a gift. The people we get to meet, the presenters we get to hear or know, including Lillian, the opportunities we’ve had to learn and hear. Whether or not it’s something we want to take on, it’s always interesting.
Blair: We had great teachers. Besides Lillian, we had Page Bryant, who did many classes here and authored books. She was a wonderful teacher. She knew so much about metaphysics and the occult and everything.
Joan: Native American — she was a student of and worked very closely with Sun Bear. She did lots of teaching here.
Blair: She was a fabulous teacher. She passed last year.
We explored lots of things. We just came to this kind of eclectic spirituality that so many of us have. A little of this, a little of that. And it works for us.
Joan: We’re constantly getting to learn and explore.
Ray: How do you hire and then train employees? When you hire, how do you decide the fit with the identity of the store?
Blair: We don’t hire very often. Sherry has been here for 22 years! (Laughs.) She wasn’t the first person we hired, but she was really close to being that. She would come into the store . . . wait, this is how I hire people!
They come in. I get to know them. We feel comfortable with one another. And I say, “Hey, need a job?”
That’s worked out pretty well for us. I don’t think I’ve hardly interviewed anybody.
Joan: We’ve never advertised positions.
Blair: I won’t advertise. It’s such a personal thing for me. It’s like I’m really careful about who I invite into my house.
Ray: Well, then, how do you train employees? Is there a philosophy you want them to embrace?
Blair: If there’s a philosophy, it’s that we want always to be kind. We want to greet people when they come in, so they know we’re here and available to them. We don’t like to hover, because this is a personal experience for people. We want people to be able to have the space to communicate with the crystals or whatever. So we’re very cautious about offering assistance, but we let them know that we’re here if they need us.
Mainly it’s being kind, open, and loving. Because that’s what we are.
Joan: And without a sales pitch, which has always been nice.
Blair: Many people want help with whatever it is they’re trying to solve or do better. So often we’re just there to hear people’s stories. To hear them sorting out what it is they need to find for themselves. And then we can say, well maybe this will be helpful to you, or maybe this is something you want to do.
Joan: So we’ve always hired knowledgeable people who can direct people to tools. On numerous occasions you feel like a bartender. Because people come in and want to tell their stories. And they’re interesting stories!
Blair: And sometimes they’ll say, “You won’t believe this!” (Laughs.) But we probably will!
Just yesterday a lady said, “I’ve been in a lot of metaphysical stores, and you are the nicest people that we’ve run across.”
Ray: Let’s talk about your inventory. Crystals and rocks make up a quarter of your sales, maybe a little more. What are some tips for selling them?
Blair: One of the things that works for us is rock cards. We give a little explanation of what the metaphysical properties are. That really helps. People come and see the rocks, read about them a little bit — we have books for people to use as resources — and find what they are looking for. Beyond our own expertise, that really supports sales.
Often people will come in and say, “I need something for my friend who has a broken heart” or an illness. So, certain stones have certain properties . . .
Ray: Which stones help a broken heart?
Blair: Rhodochrosite, for example. Rose quartz. It’s about healing the heart.
So they come in and ask, “I would like to have something for protection.” We direct them to black tourmaline, for example.
“I’ve got an energy in my house that’s not beneficial.” Try selenite or of course, also white sage.
When customers ask for what they want, we need to be able to direct them. But the rock cards help a lot, because it lets people better explore on their own, and some people prefer that. They’re really important. All those little tumbled stones back there have a little card with them describing what we feel are their most important metaphysical properties.
Ray: Do you go to Tucson, do regional shows, or both?
Joan: We went to Tucson once. It was too much. We have big G&LW (Gem and Lapidary Wholesalers) shows right here locally, in Asheville and Franklin, which is nearby. We’re very fortunate.
Blair: And they are manageable for us. We didn’t really need to go to Tucson, but it was fun one time! But there we were out there, and we had to ship everything back.
Most of the rocks that we buy are from the G&LW shows and some of the others that are around, and then every now and then we have some vendors that come by to sell to us directly.
When we started doing it, we would go to Franklin and spend the weekend. Because that’s how long it would take, plus we’d just have fun out there.
Joan: We just had to look at everything at that point.
Blair: But now we go and do it in one day, because we know what we need to do. And we’ve got dogs at home.
Ray: Jewelry is another important seller for you. What works in terms of the lines you carry and how you display the jewelry?
Joan: We have a lighted case in front of windows. It’s very bright, obviously. We focus on gemstones, as well as sterling silver.
Blair: Gemstones, sterling silver jewelry, which we do buy at G&LW, and also we have vendors who come by. The way we display it is by stone. It makes things orderly that way, and it just makes sense—if someone is looking for something with amethyst, it’s right there.
Joan: We’ve also had Seeds of Light for years now.
Blair: We’ve recently been buying a line of jewelry from Natural Creations, and that has been working well for us. What I’ve been choosing are little rough stones that are set into jewelry, as opposed to polished, and that seems to be a trend right now. People are looking for things that are more natural.
We buy some things from Kheops International, which is a great source for metaphysical stores. Silver Forest in Vermont has been good for us. That line is inexpensive and fun.
What really sells is sterling silver and gemstones.
Ray: What about in general giftware — what you call sidelines?
Blair: One steady and very important tool that people use is sage, for clearing energies. We sell a lot of white sage. We also sell a lot of incense and candles.
The line of candles we use is the reiki-charged Crystal Journey Candles. They’re very reliable.
Another thing that’s been selling well for us is leather journals from Fantasy Gifts. They’re doing really well.
The oracle cards — the tarot cards — are steady.
Unfortunately, music is probably the least that we do now. Of course we still sell CDs. We are still trying to sell CDs, but it’s not easy to get demos anymore. So it makes it hard to sell. You can’t stock a new CD without having a demo.
Ray: To the extent you still sell CDs, how does it vary by age demographic? Do younger people even buy CDs?
Blair: No. Actually, I think the people who buy CDs primarily are people who are practitioners and who play them in their office.
Ray: You still have the music section along the wall, though.
Blair: It’s shrinking. (Laughs.) But we try to keep some titles in stock, because people do want them occasionally.
Ray: It seems to me for decades there were hot trends in New Age or mind/body/spirit that moved the category and space and often brought new people into it. Often these came out of work by specific authors and teachers. I feel like there hasn’t been something like that in a long time. Let’s say with authors, an Eckhart Tolle with The Power of Now or a Don Miguel Ruiz with The Four Agreements, or The Secret, or Masaru Emoto, or before that iconic figures like Louise Hay or Wayne Dyer or Carlos Castaneda, a James Redfield or Lee Carroll or Neale Donald Walsch, Alan Watts, so many really. No one new has come along with work that has had that kind of broad impact that became a trend or movement and caused that kind of excitement, in more than a decade.
Given the sort of teaching we’re talking about, it seems to me that new people would always be coming into this space, bringing new perspectives that expand upon or at least reinvent approaches to spiritual or soul work. But it has become at least rarer for that to happen. Or maybe we’re just in a pause but, either way, I’m not sure why.
Why do you think that’s true, if you agree that it is?
Joan: Part of it was book tours. That isn’t happening. People aren’t going on book tours anymore. And people aren’t going to book events like they used to. Publishers aren’t providing them, maybe because money isn’t there in publishing in the same way. And people don’t come out in the same way. I know that Malaprop’s, the independent bookstore in Asheville, has to work hard to get people to come to book events.
Blair: Which is why we don’t do them! (Laughs.)
My thought is this, and it’s something that I always remind myself as we go through time, and we’re doing this work: Go back to basics.
The basics have been written and written and written. It’s hard to —
Joan: — reword them.
Ray: Yes, but a lot of those powerful trends, from affirmations to living in the moment, really were just a different wording, a different framing or take —
Joan: — or a different application.
Ray: Yes. And the authors and books now generally don’t seem to catch on widely in the same way. I wonder what the implications are for the whole category, as well as for retailers positioned in the category.
Joan: But also how much does that have to do with there being fewer bookstores to promote them? There are fewer of us. You know, the big bookstores aren’t going to do it for the category. And that kind of trend is not the sort of thing that can happen on Amazon.
Ray: Maybe it can happen again more through online spaces, like a repackaging for the many young people who get their content and information through YouTube. Maybe something like that is what’s next to come. Say a Gabrielle Bernstein and what she’s doing in that space. And maybe what success and reach look like, what connecting with people looks like, just is different now.
Blair: Yes. I can’t say in books that there’s anybody really hot right now for us. We do order lots of books from Llewellyn, which is primarily Wiccan, and Red Wheel Weiser. But I can’t tell you any book that I’ve been ordering endlessly lately.
Ray: How do you balance carrying classic books and new releases, then, and which actually sell more for you?
Blair: I do stock new — new as in pristine — classic books. But mostly the classics are used books in our store. I can have a far greater variety of them this way too, because a lot of them are no longer in print.
We try to keep current with what the main publishers like Hay House are releasing. And, otherwise, we primarily have used books for the classics.
Ray: What are some of your bestselling book titles?
Blair: One of the bestselling books we’ve ever had — and it’s out of print again — is The Spiritual Reawakening of the Great Smoky Mountains, which Page Bryant wrote. That’s one that we’ve sold for many years and hopefully will come back into print with an expanded edition next year.
Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak. That’s very reliable for us. And The Book of Stones by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian. Those are always good.
We had Ted Andrews here for an event. That was really fun to have him here. He was a wonderful teacher.
Ray: You might remember I invited Ted to write a column for New Age Retailer when I was the editor. He was a very kind man.
How do you select product now? Are you mostly focused on vendors you have relationships with? Do you go to shows?
Blair: We haven’t been to a show like INATS — the International New Age Trade Show — in a long time.
Ray: Do you go to giftware shows, like the big Atlanta show?
Blair: No, that would be like going to Tucson for us. It’s just so big.
I rely on Retailing Insight for ideas. We see things online sometimes that we feel like we want to pursue. I also have a few reps that come through and keep us current on product.
Ray: Tell me about how readers and events contribute to the store’s offerings and identity.
Blair: Early on we were lucky to get a few people for a reading on a Saturday. Then, one of our friends who was an intuitive was willing to come on Friday, to see if we could build that business on Friday and Saturday.
It finally occurred to us that we really ought to try to offer sessions every day, because people want guidance. So, that was a very helpful thing. Sherry, who works here, is intuitive, so she can do both — work in the shop and offer sessions. That has been very helpful in keeping traffic coming through, because people come for readings.
Ray: Do they come for specific readers, or do they just come for a reading?
Blair: A lot of people will just come in and say, “Who’s your reader today?” Or they’ll call and say, “When is so and so going to be reading.” It’s both.
Joan: We have been incredibly blessed with people who are good readers. Truly intuitive, helpful, and kind.
Blair: I sit with everybody that comes in to do work.
As far as the classes and workshops, we basically rent that space for people in the community. We keep it at a reasonable price so people can teach their work if they want to. We have some of our own events, as well, such as intuitive arts fairs. We used to do other programs in-house, and we would host people.
Lee Carroll is one who is really good to work with for small businesses. He came here first in 2001 or 2002, and we had 80 people. Over time, he has continued to come, but now we take it off premises and do it in a larger venue. In 2017 we took a group on an exploration of a few places in the mountains. Lee Carroll was there doing the channeling. That was fun. He’s coming again in March 2019.
Lee Carroll is really good about working with small businesses, because a lot of people won’t do that. I have to give him kudos.
Joan: He can fill 10,000 people in a stadium. But he likes to support the small retailers.
Blair: But, otherwise, we mostly rent the space now. We host a group every Friday morning. They’ve been coming here since shortly after we opened the additional space in 2001 and the demographic of that group is still the same: mostly women. But many of the ones who originally came have passed now. It’s a new group. But it’s still working.
Joan: We talk about community a lot. There is core community of people that we know, but there are communities in the groups that come, too, for the events that people have here. It’s not just one community. There are lots that have different reasons for coming.
Ray: You said that earlier in the store’s existence you were reluctant to advertise?
Joan: We were careful with wording in advertising. We’ve always advertised.
Like Blair said, we didn’t use “psychic.” We still to this day use “intuitive.” Like “intuitive arts fair,” because that feels safer to people. People are more inclined to come and are less put off. That’s what we want: people to feel safe.
Blair: Advertising has shifted a lot. Now, we hardly advertise in print. Frankly, we don’t pay for advertising online, either. But people find us. They Google us. They find our website. They find us through Facebook. The website and Facebook help our placement in the search engines.
We don’t advertise much, otherwise. But we put out our print calendars because some people prefer them and we email our store email list, which has about 2,000 people on it.
Ray: Do people sometimes come here just to walk the labyrinth?
Blair: Yes. And, you know, in the mountains — Asheville is considered to be the Sedona of the East, right? —you’d think all our customers are going to be concentrated right there in Asheville. But it’s different here. People are spread out all over the mountains. Sometimes they’ll drive from Haywood County or Tennessee, from Spartanburg or Greenville, South Carolina. This is a great location, because we’re right off the interstate and people can come from anywhere to get here. And they will definitely drive an hour, sometimes two, on a regular basis to come here and be in this store.
Joan: We do have this beautiful garden space, yard space, and a couple of annual outdoor events, bigger intuitive arts fairs with healing and creative arts, that also bring a lot of people here.
Ray: You’ve made the entire place such a welcoming space for them. What does the future hold for Crystal Visions? What is your vision for the store and for your own lives?
Joan: We’ve talked about lots of scenarios and lots of options lately.
Blair: As we, you know, age.
Joan: We’re nearing retirement age. And we’re wondering what we’re going to do. We just don’t know. We talk about lots of possibilities, and we go back and forth. It’s wonderful to have the store. Gee, it would be nice to have free time. But we love the store. We get so much out of it.
Blair: And we know people get so much out of it. It’s complex.
We’ve been very blessed over 30 years to still be appreciated in the community and have people still tell us, every day, that they’re so glad that we’re here. That, I think, is what keeps us going forward.
Ray: You’ve had this physical presence for 30 years. Why would someone start a physical store now, do you think, rather than be in an online space given the shift to online selling?
Joan: I think it depends on the type of store. Because there are lots of stores in Asheville that sell crystals. Not necessarily books. Bookstores don’t seem to be opening. But crystals and the sidelines, there are places like that opening up all the time.
Blair: I think it’s passion. It’s a passion! So, let’s talk about a metaphysical bookstore or a New Age store. It has to be a passion to want to do it. Because you have to work really, really hard to have prosperity and to be comfortable in doing it.
I have a young family member who said, “I want to open a store like this.” Well, you’re going to have to have money to start. You’re going to need inventory, and you’ll have all this overhead.
You can do it, because it’s something that people want to be able to go to. But it really has to be a passion to put all that energy and time into making a store like this work.
Ray: What are the cornerstones of what you do, philosophically, that brings people in here and that maybe they’ve been drawn to for, oh, let’s say 30 years?
Blair: We’re not too airy-fairy. (Laughs.)
Joan: We have our feet on the ground.
I think we’ve lasted because we’re genuine. It has always felt genuine here. People can say whatever they want. They think they’re going to shock us. They don’t, usually.
Blair: And it’s our integrity. People can trust us when they come in here. It’s real. What they find here is real. They need a space where they can explore and be comfortable in who they are.
It’s always very welcoming in here. We’ve lasted through the Amazon craze at the beginning, and people are increasingly saying “I want to shop locally, I want to feel the book, I want to read the cover.” All that.
But, again, it’s about being genuine and sticking with what is real.
Joan: Another thing we have sometimes talked about is how we’ve almost struggled in seeing this as a business. It has always felt like a service. I think that must come across to people. We’re not here looking to make money off of them.
We’re here because the people who come in are so interesting, and we can help them.