I think I'm entering my third week of absolutely no sales. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I get that we are in a recession/depression and that most people are scaling back. Buying expensive works of art is more of a luxury than it has been for a long time. But seriously, I think some people need a refresher course in the do's and don'ts of shopping at an independent retail venue.


william steig "we clean em" exhibition postcard for pine street art works
Exhibition post card featuring William Steig, We Clean 'Em Poster.


If I could pay my bills with compliments, I'd be sitting pretty. Every day I hear, "this is the best shop" "this is the best gallery" "you have such an amazing collection" "this is the highlight of my visit to Burlington" Yet do my visitors reach into their pockets to buy a $2 postcard? No, they do not. Do my visitors spend an half an hour of my time looking at all the art, talking about it, asking questions, wanting to see more, yet not spending a dime? Yes, they do. I can't help but find this most unsupportive, if not downright rude.

I have postcards and ephemera that start at $2, less than the price of the latte  from next door which they walk in with (and for which they also probably, I hope, gave a tip.)  I have fabulous things for under $30 and of course, on up to work worth hundreds and sometimes, even thousands. But let me emphasize, I"ve got the cheap stuff too. And by cheap I mean fabulous, unique and inexpensive.  I'd be mortified if I loved a store and took up the owner's time and expertise and didn't spend a spend a dime. So here is

 My basic shopping rule: Buy something!

Since I know that most of my readers do not live in Burlington, or even in the United States, I urge you to apply this to shops in your own community, or when you are traveling. It doesn't have to be expensive. If they sell cards, or candy, or trinkets or maps or whatever, buy something. Buying something is a show of good faith. Buying something shows that you care that the store stays in business, because, trust me, without sales they will have to close, probably sooner rather than later.  Buying something is a win win event. You get something, the store gets something, the person or company that made the item gets something, and if you are buying something vintage (which is a lot of my stock) you get the satisfaction of knowing you are buying Green. Stores can not stay in business without sales.

Unless they are funded  (I'm not, and most in the US aren't)  art galleries cannot stay in business without sales. I know this should seem obvious, but apparently it isn't.

If you have engaged the owner or the salesperson in conversation you've spent some of their valuable time, now repay them with some of your valuable money.

I would be embarrassed to death if I spent the kind of time that some of my customers spend here without buying anything. Even if we've had a conversation about how tough the market is, how I'm not sure if I can meet my expenses, how I've had to pare down to bare bones, how scary it is to be in retail these days. Still, they walk out with a "Thank you, I adore this place."

And I sit here with my jaw dropped down to the floor. Did I hear you right? You adore this place but you walk out without anything? No! I take that back. Every person who enters this store walks out with at least one beautiful free postcard announcing an upcoming show, or a generic store card. These are gorgeous cards, which cost twenty five cents more or less to print. Everyone gets two. So they walk out with fifty cents worth of miniature art for which they've paid nothing. I know it's marketing for the store - they've basically walked out with a little advertisement - but they still get to keep and display them, and believe me, they're good.

pine street art works post card maira kalman ralph pucci mannequin photo ©Liza Cowan
Generic card for Pine Street Art Works. Photo and design by LIza Cowan. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci International based on art by Maira Kalman. used by permission of Ralph Pucci International.


Everyone who visits the store gets one of these postcards, as well as a show postcard, and often, if they've expressed interest in a particular past artist, I give them cards from that show as well.


nakki goranin american photobooth exhibition pine street art works design ©Liza Cowan
Pine Street Art Works Exhibition Card. Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth show. Photographer unknown. Photo copyright Nakki Goranin. Design by Liza Cowan.


Maybe I'm just not a good salesperson. I don't know. I try to be encouraging, and I certainly don't want to hard sell or  berate my customers, because I really do want them to feel comfortable, but sometimes I just want to say, "What the bleep are you thinking? Where are your manners? Where is your support?"

I don't usually share this kind of information with the public, but I thought that you, my readers far and wide, might be interested in some of the back stage stuff, and who knows, maybe someone has something to tell me that would be helpful or encouraging. Because I'm more than a bit depressed.