Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Martinez.
Brenda, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
They say when one door closes, another door opens. What they don’t say is how difficult it is to open that door while still holding on to the other. Sooner or later your fingers slowly slip and they let go of the place you have been. Behind the door that I closed, I had the sweet hands of 24 students reaching for me as I slowly let go.
I left them at Christmas time, all of us in pajamas, with them holding a bell I had given each one. Attached was the message, “I believe in you!” All the while needing to believe in me. They pulled at my heart and it left an ache within me. A part of me wanted to turn back, but that was not possible as my new door was open and waiting.
Sometime before, I felt the pull and knew things were changing. I found myself searching for what was next. With ongoing health conditions that weren’t going away, I couldn’t stay in the only profession I had known for 26 years. I knew that I needed to be able to have a new career where I was in control of when and how hard I worked.
I also had the impression that I needed to eventually work from home and take care of myself. So when I asked my husband, Lex, to support me and purchase an established clothing store, although it didn’t make a lot of sense, he did! On July 1, 2019, we became the owners of Buds and Blooms and continued business as Edgy Bling.
Prior to the purchase, I was working at the store just a bit to help out after school. It had started as helping at a community event at a vendor booth with my daughter. Then, I agreed to care for the store while the regular employees went on a shopping trip to California. I loved it there and worked here and there. Before long I found myself more and more drawn to the world of business. I had thoughts pouring in about opening my own store, called Buds and Blooms. Buds for the boys and blooms for the girls!
I nearly bought an older building, but the cost to bring it up to code was just too much. I didn’t have the financial backing I needed to build. Edgy Bling had a basement that was used for storage that I thought might be a possibility. When I approached the previous owner about renting with her, she let me know she was ready to sell Edgy Bling and that I should buy it. This was a conversation we had actually had a few times previously. This time it was the right move and things fell into place.
I found myself working twice as much as I learned the ins and outs of being in business and still trying to teach. I opened the downstairs, Buds, and Blooms, which has clothing for infants to young teens. Many of the thoughts I had about how this children’s store would be were set aside as the store naturally developed. I still have those ideas that flowed to me and who knows, maybe they will be the reality going forward.
In December of that year, I had exhausted every part of me and I let go of teaching. I began working the majority of the time, as I needed to make up for lost income. I could organize things how I wanted them, help customers, and shop for hours and hours! It was a relaxed atmosphere, but what I remember most was quiet!
While I reveled in this new opportunity, I had no idea of what was coming.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Along with a new name and new logos, came a new sign in the window. It said, “Due to Covid-19, we are closed. Thanks a lot, COVID!” I was scared for myself, our small town, and the world as a whole. When I don’t know something, I tend to just continue on.
But knowing what was happening now left a continuing uncertainty, should I close, or stay open? When someone came and tried to open the locked door I was frustrated because I really needed customers. I tried to sell things outside in the open and was grateful for a few online sales. What about the employees I had? I had to take everyone off the schedule for a time. The loans I had taken weighed on me. Mask mandates, although never agreed upon, were eventually enforced as I couldn’t afford the looming fine if you were turned in for going without!
I had customers who didn’t stop because of the masks, and I had those that would only shop if they were mandatory. The actual closure was voluntary as the pressure mounted but admittedly was short-lived. I honestly did not know the best course to take. I remember on one of my open days I had a sale for about $10 and an item that was returned. I was in the negative at the end of the day on sales.
The other days weren’t much better! By spring, I was in further debt because in the clothing business, when the seasons change, so does the inventory! I had ordered an incredible amount of stock to come in from a market in Las Vegas and it was showing up! I had a lot of new items, but not a lot of customers.
I made it to summer and the first anniversary of owning the store! But life had thrown a curveball at us. Around the same time as the store purchase, the company my husband worked for sold and he transferred to work a couple of hours away. He came home on his days off and while not ideal, it worked, But this year, exactly 1 year later to the date, he was due to work in Carlsbad, NM. The company had sold yet another location and we were transferred. I had lived in Price for 30 years.
I had raised my family of five children there, I had told my parents that I would take care of them, and so they uprooted their lives and built next door becoming the best neighbors I’ve ever had! My brother and sister-in-law had recently moved to town! I left my sweet aunt, after promising my uncle I would care for her, too, a few months before he, known as Superman to us, flew away.
I had invested so much into the store and after much thought, it remained open. Surely it would sustain itself and hopefully become profitable. Leaving my family, with the exception of one daughter, was the hardest thing I have ever done. My heart broke all over again.
Although uncertainties prevailed when I left home, I have not left the business, exactly the opposite! I finally know for sure why I had to leave teaching and purchase the store. I now work from home… just like I knew I would eventually need to. I also have more time to visit my children and three grandchildren. I take my work where ever I go! I am able to keep the store running with the help of my daughter-in-law who now manages. She takes the weight off my shoulders and does what I can’t!
One thing I am able to do is to check on the store anytime I want through the security cameras. It is commonplace for me to discuss the day-to-day care of the store over the phone while watching the camera to help. They often call me and ask, “Are you on the camera? I need you to help me decide about this display.” I get to see how cute the new stock is when they hold it up to show me! Is this necessary, yes and no! Because I stay involved, I am not just the owner. I can help the employees, who I may have hired virtually, with where to find certain items and support them on what they need. One employee asked if we could just do that every day because her shift flew by!
A little secret I will share is that I am not on nearly as much as they think! I have also stayed on the phone or video chatted for as long as needed and walked them through confusing transactions. They trust me and I trust them, even when we haven’t met in person. They take direction from me, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do! They all work hard, stay positive, and are invested in the success of the store. I have been blessed with the best!
From home, my manager and I solve some problems and manage to create others! We help each other as we order clothing and supplies. We add new stock to the computer which takes a lot of time! We work on the financials and spend hours trying to figure out social media’s business accounts. All of this would be easier, of course, if I was there. I remind myself that it is a miracle we are able to work so well together.
I review hours of video, unfortunately, of those who never learned not to take things that aren’t theirs. I try to improve the website, and I plan for sales and celebrations! I love the store, though I miss being present to talk with the customers, help them find new clothes that remind them they are beautiful… that is what I miss. On one trip home it brought happy tears to my eyes to see this store looking so nice, and to hug my bestie who managed the first year! The sight and familiar smell made it seem as if I hadn’t left.
As far as being a business owner, I am still learning what works and what doesn’t. Remember Covid? It still affects business. I had envisioned having steady customers and a growing business, but I see more and more people take advantage of the convenience of online shopping (which we all learned to rely on)! Amazon and Walmart are in the lead, and I don’t know how to compete with them. Shipping costs a small fortune to just bring items to the store and then again when shipping it out. Taxes and insurance give me the blues.
I have taken out an SBA loan, received a generous grant, and an additional advance to keep the store afloat. Without this help and my faithful customers (including many new customers), I would have closed down for good or had no choice but to sell it. The community can be the best encouragement and also the thing that makes me second guess everything. It is hard to see posts complaining about what our town has to offer, how they will shop Amazon over the local small businesses because it is cheaper, or how it isn’t their job to shop local.
Sometimes I start to agree and wonder if I am crazy to keep trying because perhaps the store would be more profitable if located elsewhere or run by someone else! But, then I suddenly come up with a new idea or I look around and am filled with a renewed sense of working towards what I want. I remember how much was given up to be there, that I have a wonderful store with so much to offer and I can’t be idle or silent.
Owning a business has had challenges that I didn’t see coming, but I don’t give up that easily, so I will continue to give it my all. After all, every day is a beautiful day to shop, even with the snow, rain, sun, and wind of Utah. So, come on in! We have been waiting for you!
As you know, we’re big fans of Buds and Blooms and Edgy Bling. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
It isn’t a brand, but a collection of brands. Some of our most popular are being big names such as American Fighter, Rock Revival, Howitzer, Affliction, Miss Me, Blowfish Malibu, and Kancan. My customers will hear this right here for the first time, but Blowfish is coming out with a boy’s line of footwear for this summer! In addition, I have news for the men…Howitzer has announced men’s footwear that I that I have pre-ordered!
In addition to bigger names, I order tees and hoodies from Silouhette’s and Stitches who are local. I have recently brought on another company with local ties called 1911 Apparel.
As for the rest of my story…it hasn’t been written. I just keep turning the page and hope this chapter is nice and long!
On a side note, to bring a little of what I miss to me, you will now find me selling from a mobile boutique! I plan to continue to welcome customers into Buds and Blooms while I travel around my new community.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
This experience in my life has been fantastic and unforgettable, even when it is hard. I am so glad this door opened and I walked through it. Take chances.
A quote by Henry Ford – When everything seems to be against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.