I specifically remember where I was I decided to open up Re-Enhabit.
I had just been laid off from my job. I had met my friend Marisa for coffee – we were wandering around town. It was March and still cold. She was listening to me vent about being recently laid off. The economy had taken a nose dive, I was thrown into it head on. I was going on and on to Marisa about what I *really* wanted to do with my life. I had been formulating a plan for a couple of years, I had even written the outline of a business. I had talked about it a lot. Now, here I was – standing in the middle of one of those moments. Marisa and I wandered on to State Street in Portsmouth,NH I looked in the window of one of the shops that had a for rent sign in the window -and said – “This is it! I want this spot!”
There was a new gallery ELLO was next door, it was just the right neighbor for me. I wrote down the number and called the landlord. Before I knew it- I had signed a lease and was gearing up to open a shop!
Picking the name for a shop is one of those things that is either really easy or really hard. I was struggling and brought up my dilemma to a friend who has absolutely no retail experience whatsoever. He is a touring musician – he knows mostly about 2 things- guitars and hotel rooms. I ran the names I was thinking by him. He didn’t like any of them and was not afraid to tell me. He said “look, if you want people to remember the name of the store, make it something that will irritate them- just slightly.” I thought, ‘that is the dumbest thing I have ever heard, why would someone shop with me if I piss them off?’ He went on to say – “It is the stuff that makes us uncomfortable that we remember.”
Hmmmm. Maybe there was something to this, maybe he does know more than just chords and where the ice machine is!? So I moved away from the cute and the hip names I was flirting with and landed on Re-Enhabit.
I deliberately spelled it different – added an E instead of an I just so that people would ask me about it. That first year I had to explain the name to everyone who came in. I made up a stories about it to entertain myself. I started telling people that it was the French spelling – then it became the French Canadian spelling… it was from the latin at one point. The truth is – it embodied what I wanted to do – I wanted to go back and breath life into great, fun stuff that was abandoned. I wanted to remember things that were forgotten.
It’s true, Re-Enhabit is a green story, but really – it is a sentimental story. It is about going back and revisiting our childhood, holding in our hands stories from our families. It’s about finding the pieces of furniture that exists only in those black & white faded photos. It is about being able to pour milk for my kids out of a pitcher just like the one my mother had – or wear a dress that maybe my aunt wore- before she was my aunt.
Every day people share with us memories and how these things make them feel. They respond to the colors, styles, textures of fabrics- to the weight of the glass in their hands – to the feel of a typewriter pressing under their fingers. They show their kids how to use a rotary phone. Or they share the way they felt when they snapped closed their mothers purse when she sent them to get her hankie – they remember the color of her lipstick, the feeling of double knit. I have heard about 7th grade dances – when LP’s were played. Or sitting in a bedroom – listening to music on the portable record player -knowing where every hiss and skip sat on the record, the smell of the tubes that glowed in the hi-fi. Reading the liner notes and memorizing them.
Re-Enhabit has become a place of community. A place of belonging- for not only abandoned objects but for a mixture of the most interesting and wonderful people in the world. Conversations erupt between strangers, so many unlikely pairings happen. It is a gift to witness.
I am a lucky woman. This little shop has made this lovely impact – not only on me, but on so many other people. Every day I am grateful for the opportunity to be braided into this wonderful community – and share my little dream with all of you.
Today I feel like shouting – I’M FOUR! I’M FOUR! Just like a four year old would – holding up 4 fingers and jumping up and down- because I am so just so excited to celebrate being 4!