Anthony is here, too. He has always been a cheerleader, my confidant, my support partner, my legal team, my accountant, my husband. We work TEAM. Together we face life, Entirely supportive, Actively finding a solution that I will trust and learn, Meeting in the Middle. I love our anagram. I've always said it about Anthony, but he pulls my cleated soles along that I've planted in dry dirt. My resistance to breaking out of my comfort zone is what he pushes out of me. He knows that deep down, my entity evolves around care and justice, and finding a path to follow those virtues sometimes involves paving your own. When the lights went out in 2020, I will never forget his ferocious strength and sacrifice of taking two weeks of vacation, and standing at my side as we fought and scrambled to save the well-being of numerous businesses. Although he stays rather consumed with his career path, he is fully ominscent about the state of my matters, and the birth of our third child that we created together, BARR's Bars.
A relaunch feels like stirring an energy that has always been there. The BARR’s Bars stew has always been on the stovetop, on low heat. I’ve been stirring that pot for years.. since 2014. That timeline makes this business 9 years old. For many of those years, precisely the excerpt from 2016 to the beginning of 2023, I had actually been tending to two stews. In my best attempts, I tried to keep a low profile about the second pot.
The second stew was concocted one summer night in the kitchen of Clark Pope, owner of POPE'S Cocktails. I call it Business 101 with Clark. Clark gave me the basics of store ownership, permits, and generalized budgets to review, and convinced me that this would be an easy task <insert a HUGE One-Eyed Blink to my friend, here>. Together, we each collaborated a list from our own business networks, and set out to cement a foundation for the store’s operation that 2016 Holiday Season at Cleveland’s own Legacy Village. The store was to be called Merchant’s Mrkt.
What came next was a flood of learn-on-the-fly experiences, Anthony leading his outside research of validating the store, him and I creating the logo, and me, balancing this new venture simultaneously as establishing BARR’s Bars with its own retailers. I steered that ship with both Anthony and Clark through that period of shaky, unknown seas. As we established the makings of fellow businesses who would became a part of Merchant’s Mrkt, I assured each business of my devotion to share their passion about their own product. I would never center-stage my own. My vision for the store was to cultivate the strongest talents from Cleveland, and to preserve their product integrity. Merchant’s Mrkt would be a store that would entertain your eye, your curiosity, that would appeal to anyone and everyone. Products within would be as diverse as paper flowers, pickles, stationery, tea, pillows, hot sauces, you name it. At the core of this construct, I was also careful, obsessed, that no business ‘step on another’s toes’ and overlap product offerings. Creating these sensitized boundaries brought a sense to each business that they were performing their best, and that they improved upon themselves, not against a fellow business in the store. Incredible collaborations came from that construct, one in particular was watching Storehouse Tea's loose leaf tea leaves become diversified into tea bag offerings. Merchant’s Mrkt maintained a healthy environment, an encouraging community, and one helluva staff. There was never a missed shift in those five and a half years, and never, never, was anyone ever shamed for their parenting duties and obligations. We had each other's backs, and it just worked.
A novel could be written about the customers, the conversation, the excitement of their finds, the joy of us presenting a wrapped purchase for their gifting. If one ever asks what makes a vehicle run, it was the customer that was the fuel to our tank. Oh, the joy they brought, and the laughs that we shared, even between shifts with each other.
In addition, our Landlord provided us the dream of operation. Legacy Village offered us as many strategies, platforms, and notes of supportive communication. They were *The Best.* I have a mantra, and it goes as such, “You can have the Best, but the Best comes with a sacrifice.” Life has no perfection for any one soul. In our case, we had the Best Landlord, the Best Customers, but our profits were the downfall. I love talking to fellow business owners who share their profit success. There’s always a story that shares the full picture, too.
I’ve typed paragraphs, and characters, and poured details into this first delivery which has been edited out, enough to publish a series. There is a lot to say, to reflect on, to share passion about. And I’m here. There’s a continuum to this website that has just been created, and I'm even coding in the background! Yet, I am still trying to expand the BARR’s Bars offering. You could say that I take pleasure in projects, and pushing myself to new realms!
There will be more to follow. The knowledge that I share with you is that I love my fellow businesses, and their passions, and although I struggled to find the profits and keep the lights on, I stand here finding a way to keep their integration alive.