Sunday, November 29, 2009

Avoiding Black Friday and New Product - Vers IPhone Cases

Well we managed to survive Black Friday unscathed at the Market. It sounds like people were buying more online and avoiding the craziness that big retailers encourage. We had a nice gathering in the shop with cookies and some awesome cider. We even sold some things, but the best part was the relief and happiness on people's faces that comes from having a relaxing shopping experience.

In our run-up to Christmas, we wanted to make sure everyone knows about the new products we have in the shop. Today I'll talk about a cool company called Vers Audio.

Vers Audio ( started out with one simple product - an IPod music player. Most of the plastic players that are on the market have poor sound quality and really aren't very nice looking. These cheap devices will be filling a space in our landfills soon enough as manufacturers refuse to build products that are durable. Vers has used an environmentally friendly MDF in the thick speaker-box type cases on their 2X and 1.5R players. Also, they use a different type of low energy amplifier so that they aren't wasting energy when on or off. They actually use 90% less energy when powered off and 30% less draw when powered on as compared to other similar players.

The new product in the shop is a new product for Vers as well - an Ipod shell case made from sustainably harvested wood. They actually harvest most of the wood near their plant and restore trees through a 100 to 1 return program with the U.S. Forestry Service. On top of their green cred, these cases are absolutely beautiful in walnut, cherry, and bamboo finishes. We have the open front IPhone cases in the shop now. We are also considering an order of the 1.5R alarm clock radio style stereos pictured at the top of this post - let us know if you are interested and we'll add you to the list.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Black Friday? Seriously?

I don't like crowds. Ask Amy, I avoid dinners that involve more than 8 people. 15 people at my table in a restaurant and I want to crawl under it. The only crowds I ever want to get packed in involve loud, live music pouring out of huge speakers. I just don't get it. So I really, really don't get Black Friday.

Please someone help me understand how I'm going to head to Old Navy at 3 AM on Friday when I usually leave that same store frustrated without finding anything I like a couple of times during the year? Or Best Buy? Do I really need a huge flat screen TV? Maybe this is weird but we actually size our TV around the room and the furniture in it. We went without a TV at all downstairs for months and it was great. Anyway, Black Friday is a scam as far as I'm concerned and I'm apparently not the only person that believes it.

According to an article on CNN Money this morning, most of these deals are pretty impossible to come by based on some shady retail practices. There is fine print that says "minimum 3 per store." That means that they might only have 3 of the flat screen that you and 1000 of your closest friends are pressing your faces against the glass for at 3 am outside Sears. Also, they have some items called "derivatives" of popular products. So... maybe the TV doesn't have quite the resolution of the standard product, but they assure us "most consumers can't tell." I guess we're pretty dumb as far as they are concerned.

Do yourselves a favor and skip the whole ridiculous thing. Buy Nothing if you want. If you need to get out of the house, go for a bike ride or a walk to unload some of those pumpkin pie pounds. If you want to get a jump on the shopping list then visit an independent shop far far from the mall. We'll be having a little gathering at our shop involving some tasty cookies and cider. Come on down if you're in the 'hood and leave that stressful mall to the crazies.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ybor on a Wednesday night?

Need a reason to go to Ybor on a Wednesday? How about a little solar presentation followed up with a cool little band from Boston? Well here's your chance... Tomorrow night the Sierra Club is hosting local solar company Hotwire Enterprises from Tarpon Springs. It will be at the Hilton Garden Inn within walking distance of our favorite local watering hole, the New World Brewery.

photo from
After the meeting, you can head over to hear Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade at New World. I've never seen them, but according to the wonderful magic of google "Miss Tess is a Boston-based songwriter, whose "Modern Vintage" sound bridges eras and genres. Since moving to Boston in late 2005, Miss Tess formed her own band, The Bon Ton Parade, a dynamic combo comprised of saxophone, clarinet, upright bass, brushes on drums, and backing harmonies."
And here's the details on the meeting from the Sierra Club website:
This month's program will enlighten us on the various uses of solar power, the types of panels, the cost and basic requirements needed to convert.
Speaker: John Gambill, President of Hotwire Enterprises
5:30 pm - Conservation Committee Meets
6:30 pm - Social time and new member orientation
7:00 pm - Presentation begins

Meeting Location:Hilton Garden Inn 1700 E. 9th Ave.Ybor City (769-9267)Map
Anyone who owns a home or business knows the high cost of conventional energy. Many consumers are unhappy with not only the increasing costs, but increased reliance on dirty coal to supply electricity. Here in the Sunshine State, there are many advantages to seeking out solar power as an alternative form of energy. For grid-tied home-owners, it is possible for a solar electric installation to pay for itself within a few years, and future electrical power is free from the sun for the next 40 years or so.
John Gambill and his wife and business partner Libbie Ellis are the owners of Hotwire Enterprises, their home-based business in Tarpon Springs. They became involved in alternative energy when they spent four years sailing the Caribbean, powering their 36-foot boat with the help of a wind generator and solar panel. In 1998, they returned to the States to work full-time in the alternative energy business designing and installing power-related systems that harness wind and sun for use in boats, RVs, residential, businesses, agriculture and public safety. This month's program will enlighten us on the various uses of solar power, the types of panels, the cost and basic requirements needed to convert. Most states have incentives available to cover part of the cost of solar installation, and there are other federal programs as well, which John will tell us about.
Some of the projects he has designed include solar electric homes, solar battery charging for ambulances, solar powered street lights on the Hillsborough Community College campus in Ybor City, solar water pumping for a remote pasture on a cattle ranch, GPS battery charging for kayaks, electric gate opening devices, laptop battery charger, and solar sign lighting.Pretty much everything that can be done with electricity can be done with solar power, says John.
Don't miss this interesting presentation!
Sierra Club meetings are free and open to the general public.
For more information, contact Marcia Biggs at 727-797-6261 or

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Video Has Landed!

I did a rough walk-around through the shop with our little camera this last week. It's a little jerky in spots, but all in all I'm pretty happy with my first draft at video in quite a few years. At least it should be a lot easier to have people get a feel for the shop. Hope you like it...

Does green always mean more green?

To put it another way, does it always cost more for the green option?

If it does, does that hurt the ability to sell a green product?

First off, it doesn't always cost more for a green product. I have found some things that are less - check out Marcal toilet paper. I know everybody says that recycled toilet paper is not comfortable (including Amy) but you should try it first. What about something not so basic though... like FSC certified flooring or organic clothing. Expensive right?

We had a funny question from a shopper this week. After a few minutes in the store, the young female asked "Is that why everything is so expensive?" Now first off, I don't think you can describe our furniture as expensive - especially if you've ever visited a furniture store in NYC or one of the green furniture design websites (try However, if she had mistaken our little shop for a thrift store or a typical antique store (which happens more often than I care to mention) I suppose it could seem like $300 is a lot for a table. Unfortunately she got away before we had time to reflect on her question and really delve into what she was looking for.

The article from Terracycle talked about how when things are priced differently but are basically the same product, 95% of people won't pay the premium for green items. That's why we at TSM price our stuff the same as if you had to buy a table or shelf from a big box competitor like Crate and Barrel or Target. We use their prices as a guide and expect people to understand that is what a table costs everywhere. We do price some of our one of a kind pieces a little more, but that is the only way to recover the cost of making rare items which take more time and thought.

We believe, just like the Terracycle research, that the flipside is true as well. If two items are priced the same and one is better for the environment then 95% will choose it. The biggest hurdle I believe is getting people to understand that not all green items are more expensive. When people see the organic label, they automatically think expensive and the same goes for the green label.

Those high priced sellers that ask for a premium from the 5% that will pay more are making it hard for the other 95% to believe they can actually get a good deal on green stuff!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dobler on Consumerism

Photo from Pop Candy blog

"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that." - Lloyd Dobler

One of the other blogs I read* had a post about the 20th anniversary of Say Anything which involved a "mobler" (mob of Lloyd Dobblers) in NYC this week. Lloyd Dobler is credited with one of the best anti-stuff quotes of all time (at least in an 80's movie).

Thanks Lloyd for reminding me of where my anti-consumerism beliefs came from. I was only 14 when he said this and I still feel like he's talking for me. I often wonder where all my influences came together, but I know this great 80's movie stuck with me through good and bad.

I especially hate the idea of processed things. Processed foods and processed plastics are just not the answer that our big companies would like us to believe they are. I'm sure Lloyd had never even heard of genetically modified corn or cotton, but he's against it and I'm right there with him.

As far as selling things, I would update that to say "I don't want to sell anything that I didn't make or that was made unfairly."

Thanks Lloyd, now let's get a little Peter Gabriel music on for the trip down memory lane...


*Steve Spears "Stuck in the 80's Blog"