Retailing Insight October/November 2016 | Gifts Issue : Page 42

by Maggie Feeney M The Crystal Garden sparkles with creativity and tools for conscious living. argaret Ann Lembo is the creator of an award-winning aromatherapy line, a sought-after speaker, and the best-selling author of Chakra Awakening , Color Your Life With Crystals , The Essential Guide to Crystals, Minerals, and Stones , and The Essential Guide to Aromatherapy and Vibrational Healing . Oh, and by the way, she also owns The Crystal Garden, which recently celebrated 28 years in business! The fact that she does it all with energy to spare is a testament to her belief in the power of positive thought and her faith in her team of dedicated employees, who contribute so much to her creative endeavors and vibrant store. 42 October/November 2016 |

Where Inspiration Blooms

Maggie Feeney

The Crystal Garden sparkles with creativity and tools for conscious living

Margaret Ann Lembo is the creator of an award-winning aromatherapy line, a sought-after speaker, and the bestselling author of Chakra Awakening, Color Your Life With Crystals, The Essential Guide to Crystals, Minerals, and Stones, and The Essential Guide to Aromatherapy and Vibrational Healing. Oh, and by the way, she also owns The Crystal Garden, which recently celebrated 28 years in business! The fact that she does it all with energy to spare is a testament to her belief in the power of positive thought and her faith in her team of dedicated employees, who contribute so much to her creative endeavors and vibrant store.

Maggie Feeney: Congratulations on your recent anniversary! To what do you attribute your success these past 28 years?

Margaret Ann Lembo: A number of things, but one of the biggest is not believing an economic-cycle downturn is going to take down the business, not believing something like an Amazon is going to affect my business—just staying focused on what I do and providing the service I really want to give to my community and to the world. The focus on what I am doing versus what other people are doing helped me create a long-term reality instead of falling apart. I really, firmly, authentically believe whatever we focus our attention on, whatever we put our awareness to, whatever we work toward, that’s what becomes a reality.

Feeney: How do you describe The Crystal Garden?

Lembo: I call it “mainstream metaphysical.” It’s a gift store, bookstore, and spiritual center. I like to say we’re serving the conscious community.

Feeney: What originally inspired you to go into business for yourself?

Lembo: In the 1980s I was a successful mortgage banker—I was a senior VP and managed a whole region with multiple divisions. When the stock market crashed in 1987, I was no longer needed. After a nice roll in the mud of disappointment and sadness and trying to figure out who the heck I am, I decided that “in the meantime” and “until I found my new corporate job,” I would open a little store like I had always wanted to—one with unique gifts from around the world that would make people feel good when they came in.

Feeney: How has it evolved over the years?

Lembo: I didn’t grow exponentially overnight. I started very meagerly. I didn’t get fancy displays; I didn’t get loans. For the longest time, if I had the money, I bought new merchandise; if I didn’t, I didn’t. As time went on, I really saw the value of putting money into the business using lines of credit and such, but I didn’t do that right away. Plus, I had never been a retailer—I was a mortgage banker—so I had to learn to be a retailer.

Feeney: How did you get yourself up to speed?

Lembo: Along the way, a fellow shop owner, David Cronin, brought me up to snuff on what I needed to know to have a successful retail business. He owned Changing Times Books and Gifts in West Palm Beach. That was nice because we were only 20 minutes away from each other, but we were like brother/sister stores. We always had the awareness that there are plenty of people with plenty of money who want the goods and services both of us offer—there is plenty to go around and we were not in competition. He introduced me to Kim Perkins, who co-owned Elysian Fields, also in Florida, and she gave me more insights. Also, I’m an author, so when I went on national book tours, I observed. I learned so much on the road traveling as an author.

Feeney: What is the story behind your store name?

Lembo: I based it on the book The Secret Garden, because I wanted a place where people could step into a sacred space and feel safe, become empowered, and leave the walls of this “garden” feeling so much better than when they came in. You would think it would have to do with having lots of sales, but you know what? The sales take care of themselves. We give love and they buy. I don’t have to push anything; none of us do.

Feeney: That is reflected in the reviews of your store. Customers talk about energy inside the store—the staff is so helpful, it’s peaceful, it’s happy—and then they mention the items they buy. But, they lead with how positive the energy is in your store.

Lembo: I am so glad, because that is so my intention. Being welcoming to customers is one of the most important parts of the training for my employees. When someone walks into my store, they are greeted with, “Hi, welcome, have you ever been here before?” People think our store is a little house, even though it’s a large commercial building. They’ll even say, “It’s such a cute little store.” But that’s good—I want them to feel like they’re coming into a home.

Feeney: What is your square footage?

Lembo: Upstairs is storage, but the first floor is around 2,500 to 2,800 square feet. We have a bunch of little rooms—one is reserved for shipping and receiving and one is for the classroom and wholesale. So the store itself, the actual merchandising, is probably close to 2,000. We use every square inch of everything; we really have it packed.

Feeney: Which is so fun! I love going into a place where I’m always discovering new things. What point-of-sale system do you use to manage all this inventory?

Lembo: I use Booklog, and I have for many years. Their point-of-sale system is very good. I also use QuickBooks for my wholesale division and for bookkeeping in general.

Feeney: You mentioned training your employees.How big is your staff?

Lembo: I currently have seven people on staff plus myself and my husband Vincent. My store manager Pam has been with me 14 years. My assistant manager Caitlin has been with me five and a half years; I consider her my personal assistant as well. I still do a lot—I manage, I’m the buyer, I pay all the bills—but, because Pam and Caitlin are so good themselves, they train new staff. Pam really has it down from a vibrational standpoint, the energy we want to give, and Caitlin is very good with logistics and making sure things are understood. They work great as a team.

Feeney: It’s nice that they address both sides of creating a positive retail experience. Employees need the nuts and bolts, but they also need to understand the energy you want to project. And, speaking of the experience, could you take us on a virtual stroll through your store?

Lembo: I would love to!You walk in the front door and the doorbells jingle, and the first thing you experience is the aroma. Most people take a deep breath and we hear this big sigh of relief, “Ahhh!” They love the way the store smells because of our aromatherapy, which we make—we’re an aromatherapy wholesaler. They also may get a “Hello” from my bird Sha Nay. She’s a blue-and-gold macaw. She’s on the left in her own little office space that doubles as a third cash register area.

Feeney: What a nice surprise!

Lembo: On the right-hand side is the front showroom where the jewelry, the cash register, the front desk, lots of spinner racks with bracelets, and all our essential oils and sprays are. And also lots of crystals—but that’s just the beginning of the crystals. If you’re standing right there, you’re also facing an amazing, five-foot-tall citrine cathedral specimen.

If you go through and down that hall, on the right side you’ll see our book room. In the book room, besides books we have personalcare products and all our oracle decks. The book room breaks out into another, smaller room, our incense and candles room, where we also have our sage and all the sidelines that go with incense and sage products, as well as many spinner racks with Leanin’ Tree greeting cards. Some people come here just to get the greeting cards. Once in a while they’ll buy other stuff, too, but some come in just to stock up on greeting cards.

Feeney: Interesting!

Lembo: Yes, Leanin’ Tree has been a great product for us. As far as the candles, we carry Crystal Journey Candles pretty exclusively—those candles sell the best for us—and some products from Benjamin International. If you go back out into the hallway and across the hall, that’s the crystal room filled with displays of crystals, crystals, and more crystals!Also crystal singing bowls. I usually have a very nice selection of both the colored and the frosted crystal singing bowls We have some clothing in there, too, and a lot of angel produc ts from Angelstar. We also have wind chimes on spinner racks. We’re a Woodstock elite dealer, and we sell a lot of their wind chimes and their pretty little prismatic sun catchers, too.

Going back down the hallway, you’ll see more books on displays against the hallway walls. You’ll also see all our Cds in the hallway—spoken audio as well as music.

On the other side of the hall are decorative banners—chakra banners and positive-thought banners with nice sayings. Those are displayed all the way down the hall to the back of the building. Off the hall toward the back of the building is the wholesale room and the administrative office. That has a bank of three networked computers and our cameras.

Feeney: Mounted cameras?

Lembo: Yes, we have cameras to see every part of the store. That works out great because if we’re back here working on shipping or whatever we’re doing, we can see if we need to be on the showroom floor helping customers.

Feeney: I can imagine those must be useful given all the different rooms you have.

Lembo: My husband insisted on putting cameras up. I really fought him on it, but we probably have a lot less people putting stuff in their pockets.

Feeney: Do you host classes or events?

Lembo: Yes, across the hall from our administrative room is the Angel Room, where we host events. We have all kinds of events: chakra awakening, crystal healing, self-empowerment, teaching people how to communicate with the angelic realm. Aromatherapy is a big one—I have been teaching about it for many, many years. Also, on a regular basis for over 25 years now I’ve been doing a drumming circle at the full moon and a crystal singing bowl meditation at the new moon. And, every Monday night I do a guided meditation by donation. It’s very well received by the community. I also have an online academy called the

Feeney: Are you recording your classes and posting them to your online academy, or do you create special videos specifically for the academy?

Lembo: I do a dedicated video once a month specifically for the online academy. There are close to 50 videos now, because I’ve been doing it once a month for four years. I also recently started a Chakra Awakening online book club through Facebook using Facebook Live.

Feeney: What a fun idea, and a great use of new technology. How does it work?

Lembo: I have a contraption you can put on your cell phone, one of those bendy stands, and I attach it to the wall unit that’s part of my desk at home. I go live from my home office, where I write. They’re typing in comments and questions, and I answer them. It’s so much fun!

Feeney: Do you use any other social media besides Facebook?

Lembo: Yes, I do. I have a team, literally a team, for social media. Certain staff members do Instagram, not so much with Snapchat, but a little bit. Facebook definitely. I have a lot of Facebook pages—way too many.

Feeney: How many?

Lembo: One for me personally, one for Margaret Ann Lembo the author, one for the store, one for every one of my books and decks. It adds up.

Feeney: Wow, I can see why you divide up the social media work among your staff!

Lembo: Yes, we divide it up. Carmen takes care of LinkedIn, Google+, Yelp, and Foursquare. Caitlin takes care of Twitter, and she makes all the memes.

Feeney: How does she make the memes?

Lembo: We buy graphics or get them for free, depending on where we get them, and then she takes excerpts out of my books and matches them up beautifully with the background. They’re amazing. Carmen makes some graphics, too—she does infographics. Angelina does Instagram and Facebook. We use to manage it all.

Feeney: How do you specifically promote your store with social media? Do you find one marketing platform works better than others?

Lembo: Well, I do all the emails, so that’s one way. Because I have such a platform as an author and as a store, the mailing list is huge. Right now I’m using Constant Contac t, although I may switch to MailChimp. Our open rate is around 14 percent, which is pretty good. We also blast it out on every single one of those social media platforms. We even create commercials.

Feeney: Commercials?

Lembo: Yes, we sometimes transform the Angel Room into a recording studio. Caitlin and Carmen produce the videos. I just say, “Tell me what I need to buy,” and then they make it happen. They set it up, and then I’m the talent (laughs).

Feeney: Are you demonstrating products?

Lembo: All kinds of things. Sometimes I’m talking about my aromatherapy sprays. Sometimes it’s educational about how to use essential oils. We have a “how to” series and a “tools for” series. So I have How to Smudge, How to Clear Crystals, Tools for Prosperity, Tools for Happiness, Tools for Self-confidence. We also do a Card of the Day using decks I’ve created. Sometimes we’ll do an infomercial about my Awakening Consciousness Retreat or what to expect in a drumming circle. The videos are based on questions customers repetitively ask. They’re usually five to seven minutes long at the most—we try to keep them short because of attention spans these days.

Feeney: How do you come up with all the material to answer your customers’ questions?

Lembo : It’s a combined effort. Everybody comes up with different ideas. We can’t even remember who thought of what when!

Feeney: With all the collaboration and creativity, your place sounds like a fun place to be!

Lembo: I think it is, and I think the people who work here do, too. We work toward encouraging whatever talents people have. If someone is an amazing sales-floor person and really good with customers, like my employees Marcie and Katrina, then that’s where most of their efforts go. Whatever the situation, everybody has their own forte, and we play off that.

Feeney: The videos you’re making, I could see that working for any store as another way to get customers excited about coming in.

Lembo: They do get customers excited. They get the idea, “I could do that,” or “That’s a great gift.” You can include the video link in an email. You can use it on all the social media platforms, too.

Feeney: Speaking of customers, who is your typical customer?

Lembo: Our typical customer could be from anywhere. The majority live here year-round, and some are snowbirds. A lot of people have parents who are retired here, so they visit no matter what time of year. And, now that we’re going on 29 years, we also have the children of longtime customers who come in and say, “When I was little my parents used to take me here. I love the store.” And, now those grown children are coming in with their children!

Feeney: What are some of your favorite ways to display products?

Lembo: I like to keep all the like things together, so the same type of crystal together or all of a certain type of book together. I like to keep our tumbled stones color coordinated by chakra color. There may be a pretty accent statue here and there, but, overall, most of our produc ts are rocks. We sell a lot of crystals. We have crystal aficionados who flock here from all over because we have such a nice collec tion.

Feeney: I bet! It’s The Crystal Garden after all!

Lembo: Another thing I find makes a difference is using risers and different ways of creating dimension within a display to create interest. We also totally rearrange from time to time. Rearranging is powerful. We have to mix it up because we have regulars who start to not see things anymore if they are kept in the same place. The minute we rearrange something, we hear, “When did you get this in?”

Feeney: What is the most challenging aspect of owning your own business?

Lembo: Being able to get everything done that needs to be done with ease and grace. The challenge is being able to stay focused and organized. We are very blessed because we’re successful now, and we don’t want the magnitude of all our blessings to overwhelm us and keep us from getting everything done in a timely manner.

I’m an affirmation junkie, so my favorite for this challenge is, “There is plenty of time to do what I want to do and what I need to do. ” Feeney: What is most rewarding?

Lembo: When a customer comes in and says, “Thank God you’re here. You don’t know how much you changed my life.” Customers will tell us they’re so grateful for The Crystal Garden. That’s probably my most rewarding experience owning this business.

Feeney: Thank you, Margaret Ann, and here’s to 28 more years of inspiring customers at The Crystal Garden!

■ MAGGIE FEENEY is Editor in Chief of Retailing Insight.

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