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Consumerism and my daily struggle...

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Every year at this time, I start to question what I’m doing. The level of consumerism in this country has reached unbelievable heights and I don’t want to be part of the problem. It doesn’t seem like too long ago that black Friday was….on Friday. It’s now a week long and probably only a few years away from being a month long. Stores started displaying Christmas goods before Halloween and have now started the Christmas music. I LOVE Christmas music but this is silly. Why do they do this? So you buy. That’s quite literally the only reason. We aren’t doing anything else to celebrate the holiday 6 weeks in advance. I love the holidays but despise the consumerism surrounding it. I have no issue with folks spending money that is hard earned on things that they desire but this pressure to spend, spend, spend in order to make loved ones happy every year is ridiculous. 

So what’s my problem? Years ago, this black friday thing was about insanely deep discounts (still is for some stores) that would last for a frenzied day and be done. The problem is that it’s put pressure on small businesses, like mine, to come up with deep discounts to compete. Maybe it’s a self inflicted pressure but it’s there nevertheless. Side note: Those deep discounts stores are offering aren’t to benefit you. They calculate how much they can reduce their margin by and make up in volume. It’s easy to do when you’re selling cheaply made goods that are just sitting and waiting to ship. In most cases, you end up buying products you’d never need or want because of the discount. The bigger problem is that the majority of my goods are handmade so extra sales with deep discounts mean nothing to me. The time it takes to make the goods counteracts the extra potential sales leaving my monthly gross about the same but adding a ton of stress and lack of quality in the final piece. I end up having to rush out orders and the quality slips. My goal is more than that so I’m choosing to focus on what I do and not get sucked into the holiday sale hype.

This brings me to my next problem. Am I just contributing to mass consumerism for the sake of making a profit? Well…I guess this is the challenge and the balance I have to find. I obviously have to make a profit and I want a piece of the dream just like everyone else but, at the end of the day, I want to make quality items that you will appreciate, enjoy and pass on. I’ve said for years that my dream is for a distant relative to see one of my pieces on Antiques Roadshow 100 years from now. I’m not kidding. The most difficult part is convincing myself that anything I make will actually have the desired effect. Am I really creating something of personal value that will change anyone? 

A few days ago someone wrote to tell me he was going to make a purchase but wondered if he should wait for a potential black friday sale. I told him that there wouldn’t be a huge sale but offered my 10% discount. In the end, I asked how he discovered us.

His response and timing was so perfect that I couldn’t help but think there was something/someone pulling this whole thing together.

He was in a major car accident months before and had been going through physical therapy. He didn’t get into detail but it seemed pretty bad and he said it was truly challenging his will. At the same time, there was a young guy bringing his mom in for physical therapy that would sit and spin this little top. They ended up chatting on every visit until the young man announced that it would be his mom’s last day and wished him good luck. He then handed him a coin that said “This Too Shall Pass”. The coin is from my wife’s line, Gemma Raffo, which thrilled us to hear because passing this coin along is exactly what it was intended for. He wrote that the coin got him through the rough patch and he ended up with a full recovery. Since then, gave the coin to a friend that is going through chemo hoping that it would inspire her as well. He searched the internet and found the website so he could purchase a top of his own.

My dad and I started this thing with little idea of where it would go. It was a side thing and I was just enjoying the time together. I didn’t expect the company to grow like it did but, over the years, we organically started making pieces that folks would hopefully cherish and pass on. There is a piece of me in everything I make. There was a piece of my dad in everything that he made. You purchase this for yourself or as a gift and there is a piece of you attached to it giving more depth to the piece. If it’s a top, you may carry it with you everywhere and spin this silly little handmade toy not realizing how important it’s becoming to you. One day you decide to give it to your son on graduation day and, because he knows how special this piece has become, it takes on a new meaning for him. Ten years later, that grown man sees a perfect stranger going through a really difficult time and passes it on to them. This is my little fantasy and hope for what I’m doing here. Yes, I’m selling things that I make in order to make a living but I also see something bigger than that. Otherwise, there would be no point.

Whatever your belief is, you have to know that we are all connected. We all go about our busy lives and will get occasional reminders of this fact but maybe it’s time we create some daily reminders. I know that after my dad passed away, this little company took on a whole new meaning for me and I know that he’s still with me in this shop guiding my hand and putting a piece of himself in as well.

Finally, this man that wrote me also sent me this quote from the Talmud after I shared my feelings. 

"He who saves the life of one man saves the world entire.”

This is my little thank you to all of you that allow me to do this and become part of your lives. I’m truly grateful.