The first sale I remember was in the 80s. It was a big deal because we went to Mrs. Wyman’s stationary store across the bridge and had postcards printed with a red trim that said, “CASH and CARRY… Croghan’s first sale!” Customers were so excited, and they came in with little bags full of cash to purchase their items. We sold a few engagement rings that day, and a lot of jewelry. Price tags were few and far between back then. If an item had one, it was attached by a thin purple thread with the price handwritten in illegible cursive.
Mariana had just begun working full-time at Croghan’s, and let’s just say that the CLUTTER was out of control. The little shop (we only occupied the alley way where the estate jewelry is now) was literally packed to the brim with more oddities and beautiful jewels than you could imagine. In Mom’s head, she was running a sale every day! She knew where every single thing was, and she had some idea of who she planned on selling it to! She never ever worried about numbers. She truly offered that up to the Lord!
Mom never wanted to know how much was on the accounts payable, my Dad paid those from the desk in their bedroom at night and on Saturdays. Accounts receivable?... Every single one was handwritten each month, with a love note that let people know if they were falling behind on payments. My Mom stayed in the present. She spent her time at 308 WONDERFUL King Street turning over the inventory. She wanted to move it and was not concerned about profit margin. If we had a piece of inventory for too long, she would give it a cash price and be happy to make just a little bit of money. One of her favorite things to say on big ticket items was, “Let’s let this go and even if we only make $1000… Where else can we make $1000 today?” She would be thrilled that the jewel was going to a new home, and would have cash to buy the next magnificent thing.
She truly got a charge, not just from buying, but selling too. The closest she ever came to having focus on the finances was when my Dad, the engineer, would say, “Mary… You can’t write anymore checks until you bring home some checks to deposit… And don’t steal them from the back of the book. They take the money out of the bank the same, whether I know about it or not.” He started taking over the books shortly after they were married, and soon realized that the record keeping may not have been the highest priority. He said it was his job to pay the taxes, record inventory, keep the business license up to date, and keep our mother out of jail! She thought he was the smartest human being on the planet! They were quite a pair and their world was full of mutual respect, and a lot of teasing and humor.
We’ve had sales since the 80s. We expanded the store into its current footprint in 1999. Leading up to that and every year after, we had pretty big “Sidewalk Sales” that took place in the courtyard. We carried more gifts back then, so there would be a lot of stuff to get rid of. Mom hated those! She was not a team player. There were many logistical planning discussions and what not about the sale, and she remained true to her precious philosophy of staying in the present. She did not worry about what lay behind or ahead. It pained her to discount purely for the sake of discounting. Instead she liked to make it personal. She would rather have given something away to someone who would love it, instead being bogged down in the details of marking it down and dragging it to the parking lot. I can hear her saying, “That is a wonderful piece of sterling, they don’t make that anymore… Rhett, take that home. You will love having that!” Of course, I would comply. It is where some of the more useful things in my life have come from. Think… Inkwells, pin cushions, buttonholers, and random silver teapots, some with no handles. There were days when a box full of sale goodies would be brought down from the third-floor, ready to be priced for the sale. She would direct the runner to carry it to her car when no one was looking, so it would not go out to the tag sale, as she called it. Lord Have Mercy!
Our last big sale was on August 8th, 2016 at 8AM, before we renovated and put in our beautiful mahogany cases that house all of our fine jewelry today. It was a lot of fun, and there were so many great deals. A lot has happened around here since then, mainly devotion to a new software system that has helped us run this business!
A word that Mary Ramsay had probably never heard of, drives our decisions of what to put on sale today: DATA! Our software tells us exactly how long we have had an item, when we purchased it, and what we paid for it. She would be completely amazed that with the touch of a button, we could tell you anything at all about every single piece of jewelry in this store, right down to its exact location.
No need to send out printed hand addressed cards… We can get the word out in a moment’s notice with social media and an email! Everyone in our store is working hard to make this fun, worthwhile, and FULL of bargains. We hope you will enjoy the morning, see you Saturday!
And shhh… Don’t tell anyone, while I get the runner to take a few little boxes to my car!