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Spark Joy

My best friend sent me a picture of her freshly-organized drawers.

“I finally watched Marie Kondo. I am changed,” the text above the photo said.

I rolled my eyes at my phone, stared at the pile of pre-press pages sitting on my desk, replied back, “Who even has time for that?” and went on with my day.

But, something about her enthusiasm stuck with me.

Marie Kondo burst onto the scene several years ago when she released her book about tidying up and organization, “Spark Joy” which has now been turned into a Netflix series. In the book and series, she discusses the KonMari method of decluttering. The philosophy behind Kondo’s method is simple — in order to eliminate clutter, figure out if the items spark joy. If they do, they remain. If they don’t, then you thank them for their service to you and remove them from your life, by whatever means that may be.

Laura Havlek of Sonoma, CA-based Sign Of The Bear Kitchenware And Tableware had this method down pat before it was cool. She and husband, Stephen, are constantly asking (exactly this way), “How can we continue to surprise and delight our customers?”

It’s something that I have grown to love about Laura and Stephen and it’s something that I know the gourmet housewares community loves about them, too.

Laura is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the store for items that bring a smile to a customer’s face, incite a giggle, or even spur them to ask questions. If something is not doing any of those things, Laura tries re-merchandising them before finding the best way to exit the product, whether through a vendor return program or a discount.

Stephen, who used to merchandise for major chain stores, subscribes to this theory as well. While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and to not always take note of your familiar surroundings, Stephen actually makes it a point to walk into the store, clear his mind and pretend he is seeing Sign Of The Bear through a customer’s eyes. This helps him realize when things are a bit stale, when a different type of display is needed or when something simply looks incomplete.

Debra Kouri, owner of Tulsa, OK-based The Cook’s Nook, also subscribes to the theory of sparking joy. During our roundtable discussion (see story on page 24), she talked about how she chooses gifts for charity donations. While not always cost-effective, Kouri said she never picks a donation from her sale rack. Why? Because she said that if it’s not selling, there’s a reason and she wants to donate something that she would want to receive herself.

While this whole KonMari thing may not seem like it fits in the independent gourmet housewares world, it truly does. You don’t have to be thanking every piece of cookware or gadget that leaves the store or goods you no longer have a use for, but there is something innately basic about KonMari that we should all subscribe to — sparking joy.

Whether it’s rearranging shelving units to include more colors, changing merchandising tables more often, adding in a new category that you love but have been afraid to bring in, or even a complete overhaul, if your store sparks joy within you, it’s going to make your customers joyful, too.

So, head into the International Home + Housewares Show with the intent to spark joy. Pick products that will, as Laura says, surprise and delight your customers. Look for things that spark joy in you and will make your store a happier place to be — for you and for your customers, too.

And if anyone wants to help KonMari my closet, you know where to find me.

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