Monday, December 6, 2010

On Rusty Nails and Shopping

Hoping everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I sure did! Thanksgiving is actually my favorite family holiday. I grew up in Massachusetts and Thanksgiving is quintessential Fall in New England. It has also always been the "gathering holiday" for my family. We tend to scatter to Inlaws and or other families at Christmas time, but Thanksgiving is always when we are all together. Even my Inlaws have started joining my family for the holiday.

As much as I love it, though, something in the last few years something has started to damper Thanksgiving for me. Black Friday. The entire month of November no longer leads up to that great day of breaking bread with those you love and giving Thanks. It leads up to BLACK FRIDAY!! Yes, I am aware the day after Thanksgiving has always been the biggest shopping day of the year. Sure. It makes sense. People are off of work for the 1st and maybe last time before Christmas. It is nice to get out of the house, walk of some of that dinner. A few years back, though, this marketing assault began. Build up. Commercials. The name. It became extreme. Hysterical, even. And I despise it. I try to do the bulk of my shopping locally, yes. However, with 5 nieces, 2 nephews and 2 sons of my own, sometimes the mall comes in to the equation. But not on Black Friday. I would actually chew rusty nails rather than wake up at 4 AM for a "door buster." It honestly drives me insane. It used to be a fun, traditional shopping day. Now it's risking your life in a stampede for a tv. No thanks.

This isn't to criticize people who do Black Friday shopping. I have friends who don't even need to set the alarm to be up-and-at-em for the 4 AM white sale. More power to them! But I also know there are a lot of people like me, who would rather chew rusty nails.

And in this group of people who would rather chew rusty nails are inevitably others like me who have people on their list who are hard to shop for. My hardest is my doesn't-have-any-hobbies, isn't-a-gadget-guy, doesn't-have-time-to-read husband. Last year I hit the nail on the head with a bike and double trailer to tote the kids. Probably the best gift ever, but now I was left with nothing in the arsenal.

Then I met Beth Heitmann. This Heights area mom has a great answer to my question of "How do I support someone local, find something unique for my tough to buy for husband, avoid sales stampedes and not have to drink rusty nails?"

Beth is an independent consultant for menswear maker J. Hillburn. Through Beth, I have the option of getting my husband some custom clothing in the comfort of my own little bungalow. At the same time, I get to help support a local mom who made a big change for her family.

Beth didn't start out with a career in menswear. A graduate of Texas A&M, Beth started her career working at a law firm doing contract negotiations for construction projects. After the birth of her first son, she found she couldn't maintain her schedule and went to reduced hours, which helped her get the balance she wanted with work and family. However, as time went on the economy wasn't going to support her part time position and another bouncing baby boy was on the way. Beth started to think about other options, but we all know career changes are tough, especially with small kids at home. However, she was ripe for a change at the time an opportunity happened to come along. A Dallas native, Beth had some friends back home who were working, basically for themselves, selling custom mens clothing for a Dallas based company. J Hillburn wanted to get in to the Houston market and it was a perfect opportunity for Beth.

Limited run fall patterns, which can be a whole shirt or just accents in the collars or cuffs. Popular with some of Beth's clients now: calico prints in a Western Cut with pearl snaps.

Now, this husband of mine is set in his ways about what he wears. He likes what he likes and no gimmick or slick sales pitch is going to make him get something that isn't what he wants. This is why I am glad I got a chance to meet with Beth and check out the merchandise first hand. She showed me huge books of fabric samples and so many configurations of collars, cuffs, plackets, pockets. It was overwhelming... but not the same way as trying to find a Black Friday parking space. This was from the comfort of Beth's living room. Beth explained the process to me, adding in facts about the company and how it started, how the founders made a fortune on Wall Street and decided they wanted to start something on their own. They loved custom shirts and set out to offer high quality shirts to even non-Wall Street guys. She was clearly knowledgable about the materials, the styles. After all, she's had to sell them to her own husband.

More traditional patterns and colors, probably more suited to the person I'd be buying for, are always available. There are four labels, offering a hierarchy of quality ranging from $79- 149.

More cuff styles than I was aware existed, plus the option for short sleeves.

One of Beth's husband's shirts. All shirts have the owner's initials in the collar.

I enjoyed the variety of fabrics and the options to build a shirt from the ground up. I also enjoyed Beth's easy demeanor and noticeable absence of "sales pitch." I liked how Beth suggested to only start with one shirt and make sure it works. I found that to be very different from the "I brought you 7 different colors even though you said 'white'" approach of the mall.

J. Hillburn also has a selection of sweaters and dress pants. I did take exception to the fact that they have a "Houston sweater" but use the New York pronunciation: house-ton. Shameful for a Texas based business (but beautiful sweaters, nonetheless).

Will my husband love this idea? I don't know. I just ruined the surprise since he reads this blog (after all, he is my biggest fan), but it's something different, personal and still practical. If it works for him, this is the kind of gift that will be useful for years, unlike that $5 all purpose tool from Target that will break by the third purpose.

Meet (a very pregnant in this picture) Beth.
She may no longer work negotiating construction contracts, but she did explain the finer points of pant construction to me.

And I had a nice time investigating this gift. I learned some things about men's fashion and the myriad ways you can put together a man's shirt. I was reminded that small businesses aren't always brick and mortar; there are a lot of people like Beth supporting their families from their own homes- or from yours since Beth will come to you. Trust me, having Beth stop by for a visit will be a lot more pleasant than the mall in December. Or drinking rusty nails.

Beth Heitmann - 713.503.8456

I would also like to add some CONGRATULATIONS to Beth on the birth of her baby, another boy. Life with two sons is hectic but so much fun!

1 comment:

  1. v, it continues to amaze me what a small "town" the heights (and even Houston) can be. Beth is a long time family friend of mine. Small world!