From March of 1985 until August of 1998 I worked at a gallery here at the Jersey shore that sold the most beautiful things in the world. We called it a gallery, but it was not paintings or “art” per se, it was all American handcrafted wonderfulness; handblown glass, hand thrown decorative vessels and functional pottery, exquisite fine jewelry, inlaid wood boxes, woven scarves and throws, wrought iron lamps and sculptures, all funky and fabulous and frankly, divine. Nothing mass produced or imported schlock, no, we sold things hand made by American artisans and took great pride in the quality of the items we loved and sold. When I moved back to New Jersey from Maryland a year later, I started working there again part-time, not as much to supplement my income but rather to fill my soul…I know it might sound funny, but I believe retail is either in you or it’s not. You either love the constant interaction with customers and are very good at selling them beautiful things or you are not.
I loved my customers and I was very good at my job. I helped the owner with the buying and let me tell you, THAT is SO MUCH fun, shopping for a shop! I did not like mean and snobby people and while there were always many in August, our “regulars” were a joy…We had people who did all of their holiday shopping with us, bought every wedding gift they ever gave from us, bought all of their jewelry from us, and any kind of decorative object they adored for their own homes from us. I continued to work there part time on and off for years, until my boss decided to downsize and sold her big shore store and just kept her small one here on the mainland. I worked there too, many Sundays and Mondays and on an as needed basis until just a year or so ago.
My home, this dream of mine and labor of love that I built from the ground up is filled with “needless things” as my dear friend used to call them…one-of-a-kind wonderfulness…vases, lamps, platters, sculpture, handblown glass of all sorts of shapes and sizes, and just about every piece of jewelry I own that I love and is breathtakingly beautiful, is from this store.
My boss was very much in many ways like a second mother to me. She and I spent more time together, day in and day out, night after night in the summer during our busiest season, than I ever spent with my Mom. She opened my eyes to so many ideas, liberal-artsy-forward thinking ideas, that I never got from my ultra conservative family. When I decided to start college, when my daughter was a year old, she worked my schedule around my classes so I could go to school and never minded on slow days that I did my homework at the counter. She didn’t mind on her day off if I took the entire store apart and cleaned every shelf and rearranged every display. She helped me grow in many ways both as a single woman making her way in the world and as an employee. When my daughter was sick she let me bring her to work so I didn’t have to lose a day’s pay. She was a very good boss. Tomorrow I am helping them move. They are closing their second shop now too. I am happy, so very happy to help, and sad, so very sad to see the end. My friend could never remember the name of the store so he called it “Needless Things” but I can tell you I needed, very much, all of what I got from that wonderful place.
Sad and sweet is what comes to mind… that store held many memories for me as well…it became a place of learning new things and broadened horizions for a girl in a small town. I found myself endlessly inspired by design and color as I was surrounded with the various mediums and works from the many artists..Its the place that sparked my creativity and helped me realize that the thing that made me most happy, was striving to create the art that I had inside me. The owner is a mentor and my coworkers are friends to this day, I am forever thankful for having the opportunity to work, learn, and grow.
I will always wax nostalgically when I look at my own collection of “needless things”, that grew over the passing years. Material things may be needless for “life” it’s self, but, they can still nourish the soul.
LE…the only job I ever had other than being a physician. I learned so much there, how to be independant and think separate from my very controlling parents, how to change a scotch tape dispenser, how to trust my eye for color and taste for beautiful things, how to wrap gorgeous presents, how the days go by fast when there is new merchandise to admire, how to look strangers in the eye and ask them how can I help you, how to spend a paycheck, how to earn a reward, how to be proud of a day’s work, how to relish a day off…so bittersweet to think of the Jersey shore without Lorraine’s beautful things…my house is filled with many such Needless things…that I treasure. Please give them my love…