Earlier this week, I posted regarding some Facebook updates that seemed to indicate the impeding closure of Golden Rule, the vintage/consignment shop, gallery, and art therapy/"social experiment" project initiated last year by Wynde Dyer. This morning I received this lengthy, detailed, and frank explanation of the impending changes. The good news is that Golden Rule will not cease to exist entirely:
It's true, we're outward bound from our physical location to a cyberspace, private-by-appointment only gallery and showroom model, in addition to perhaps doing trunk shows and pop-up shops in the future.
We'll finish off this week with our traditional end-of-month 40%-percent-off non-consignment sale this Saturday and Sunday, and we'll be open very late Sunday night until at least midnight for a moving-out party/sale.
While I do realize what our internal and external communities will be losing as we close our brick-and-mortar doors this weekend, quite frankly, my sanity, my bank account, my friendships, and my own art practices require it.
In some ways Golden Rule has been a wonderfully therapeutic experience. Through our volunteer-/intern-based model and our policy of inclusiveness, we've built a strong community of social and creative practice. We've successfully created a 100% unique retail environment with all new inventory every month for 15 months filled. We've consistently curated some of the best vintage fashion in town, predominately of all natural fabrics like silk, linen, cotton, and wool. We've supported the careers of more than 60 emerging jewelry and fashion designers, artists, and other designers of handmade goods, in addition to working with just as many consignors of vintage and contemporary clothing. We've produced some of the best look books in town for the last six months in a row. And, personally, I've transformed much of the darkness of my childhood into lightness through sharing my mother's story, using Golden Rule's monthly transformations as the conceptual framework of my morning. I've also learned a lot about what I can do and like to do (i.e. art direct, style forecast, execute compelling retail interiors, conceptualize look books and take some bad-ass pictures for them, inspire people to follow their creative pursuits, and support people feel less alone), in addition to what I can't do or don't like to do (i.e. accounting, volunteer coordination, sending out press releases and news letters, making appointments and keeping them, responding to emails promptly, keeping up with blog posts, and working 7-days-a-week behind the scenes without a break). I've learned you can't keep doing the same thing expecting different results.
To that point, Golden Rule has been an equally destructive experience. In our time of working with over 100-something volunteers, interns, consignors, artists and designers, we've burnt a lot bridges—fortunately, not as many as we've built—because of my inability to not spread myself too thin by building community more effectively than I'm able to maintain it. While our monthly re-design of the entire space is my favorite part, it's cost us a week worth of sales each month during "the flip" and made the month at large feel for everyone else like retail on crack. In spite of the excellence of our monthly collections, in Portland it's been a bit like selling sand to Arabs. Our clientele consisted pretty exclusively of with tons of good will, but no ability to put their money where their mouths were because we're all to broke to pay $24 for a silk blouse. Related to this, starting out with a 80/20 consignment split in favor of the consignors killed our revenue even back when we were grossing $9,000-$12,000 a month during the holiday season. Once 2011 hit like a ton of bricks with our gross sales dropping to $3,000-$4,000 a month at first, and then to $1,000-$2,000 in the months of late, even adopting a standard 60/40 split couldn't save us. All my personal sales and those of my mother's clothing went to our overhead, so that only consignors profited. After losing a $19,000 personal investment, and $50,000 in my own sales just to break even—always prioritizing paying consignors, rent, and bills over myself—eventually we fell five months behind in rent. The more I focused on the areas wherein I found success (i.e., the lookbooks, the creative mentoring, the art directing), the less I focused on the things that could have made us money (i.e. effectively coordinating the community towards commerce-oriented goals, marketing, partnering, etc.). Eventually I saw all the same stress-inducing patterns of my childhood replicating themselves in my own life (i.e. spending money on external gratifications to feel better about internal weaknesses, taking on too many future commitments to avoid the depressing reality of the present, and working too hard on my business and not hard enough on the things that feed me like self-care, my relationships and my art). My mom did that for 30 years in her failing retail business. After one I'm out.
Our next incarnation will take me closer to my real dream job, which has always been to run an art gallery/bed-and-breakfast. Shortly before my mother died, I built a Dwell-esque-urban-loft-meets-cabin-in-the-woods garage gallery and upstairs live space. We'll be moving into that space, having every-other-month art openings on the Second Sunday of the month. We'll rent out the loft above on a nightly or week-by-week basis, offering discounts to out-of-town friends of Golden Rule. We'll be open for business as a concept shop and gallery two days a week, probably Sunday or Monday, and in the basement we'll have a by-appointment showroom, as well as a studio and office. We'll continue to do our look books one an every-other-month basis, selling our top-notch fashion from these in a standard e-commerce model. In addition that, we'll be adopting a totally original and right now totally top-secret approach to e-commerce that aligns our mission of supporting the pursuits of local creatives more effectively with the part where local creatives have to make money to produce their work. Our hope is that without the overhead of a brick-and-mortar location, with more time/energy/and money to focus on the things we really enjoy doing and do well, not to mention access to a national and international client base outside of the poverty of Portland, we'll still be able to keep the community and creativity and to, for a change, nurture it with some revenue. We'll be off the radar for a month or so while our basement is under construction, but we hope to have a sneak-peek naked lady part in late August, and to re-open by mid-September with a solo show of installations and embroideries by Shawn Creeden of White Hinterland.
Folks who want to keep up with the Golden Rule transition should send a request to be on our mailing list via firstname.lastname@example.org, and expect a newsletter once we've rose all Phoenix-style from the ashes.
Here's our White Magic Lookbook (it's all about my mother):