I worked at the Depuy Canal House for 2 1/2 years, finally deciding there was no room for growth or promotion. I did so love that job, it had become a home to me and all of the people that I worked with had become my family. But slowly, one by one, life started taking them in different directions and as the office manager/bookkeeper the struggle to help keep the business alive and well was starting to take its toll on me personally. I began looking in the papers and online for a new job, feeling like my time and experience would gain me credibility for a new position. I was hired to be an office manager for a company called Digital Variant. It was hard giving my notice at the Depuy Canal House, but I was ready to move on and I needed a more substantial salary with benefits. This new job was located in Poughkeepsie, NY... boy, did I sure miss getting ready in the morning and just walking next-door to go to work! My job duties consisted of accounts payable and receivable, sending in payroll information every other week, and answering the phone. The phone rarely rang, the bookkeeping didn’t take any time at all, and neither did the payroll. I found myself with a lot of nothing to do on a daily basis; there’s nothing that makes time go more slowly than sitting and watching a clock. After a couple of months of this I sat down with my boss and shared my state of “ennui” (a word I’m sure I didn’t even know existed until Ellowyne Wilde came into my life). I suggested going part-time but he was having none of that; instead he dove me into the digital world with the rest of the employees (to this day I’m still uncertain how to explain what services this company actually offered). Managing the back-end of a teen and preteen social media website was added to my list of duties (THIS account I actually understood and could exlain!). Every day I would go in and update things like the horoscope, trending celebrity news, and fashion tips. I was also the person who answered all of the teen girl’s questions about love, life, and the pursuit of happiness. This certainly helped make the time go by faster but being an efficient worker I still had a little too much time on my hands; I got lots of online shopping done for the holidays and discovered an unknown love for solitaire. A month or two later we ended up losing the “Popteen” account; my boss agreed to let me go part-time. My 40-hour a week salaried job turned into a 6-8 hour day once every other week. Back to the job market drawing board I went.
I often get asked how I keep all of my inventory straight; lucky for me one of my strong suits is organization. I hope I don’t jinx myself by saying this but I have not once misplaced one of my client’s items or got it confused with another client. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t gotten confused a couple of times and shipped the wrong item to a buyer… and if you are reading this and you are one of those people, God Bless you and thank you for working with me to get that situation straightened out! I keep everything in very systematized groupings; I try to keep 3–4 weeks ahead with my listings, paying the extra fee to pre-schedule is worth that overall feeling of being “ahead of the game”. I have selections of inventory neatly stacked with post-it notes that tell me the date each grouping of inventory will be ending. I most often have more than one client that I am working with at a time and there is a specific section of my office that is dedicated for each of their stuff on a rotating basis. Speaking of offices… My office is actually located in my bedroom; my bedroom is located in the living room. It hasn’t always been this way, when I first started doing all this I didn’t need much space and my bedroom was the largest room in my apartment at that time so I combined sleeping and working quarters. I eventually upgraded and rented a small, two-bedroom house; I used the smaller bedroom as my office but there were times when I had so much inventory that it spilled out into the living room. When I decided to move to Rhinebeck I found myself, once again, in a one-bedroom; it too was spacious so I installed a cable all the way across one section of the room and hung sheer curtain panels to create a hidden storage area for my inventory, my actual office and workspace was in the eat-in kitchen dining area. My current apartment, which is a co-op that I am working on owning, is another one-bedroom; I looked at the two bedrooms but they were just slightly out of my price range. I have moved my furniture around in this apartment more times than I can count trying to figure out how to separate my work life from my non-work life. I think I finally have it all worked out and I am very happy with my current set up; sheer curtain panels now divide and separate my living space from my sleeping space… I guess you could say I reside in a studio apartment with an attached office. Henry is my faithful companion and helper; no matter what room I am in he is usually relaxing somewhere close by.
A lot sure has changed from back when I first started selling dolls, and doll clothes and accessories on eBay. Of course, back then I didn’t look at it as a business, it was just a side hustle, a way to make a few extra bucks. I would buy almost all of my supplies at the Dollar Tree; several trips a month to stock up on tissue paper for wrapping up items, Ziploc bags to place outfits and other loose items in, and I believe I even purchased shipping tape there as well. At some point along the juncture, I upgraded to shopping for most of my supplies at Wal-Mart (insert crazy, laughing, smiley face), whatever funky color of foam board they had in stock is what I would use when that needed replaced; I’ve gone from blue to golden to the now infamous pink. I would make trips down to my local post office and get free priority mailing boxes, whatever they had in stock I would gladly take. I didn’t offer first class shipping back then, outfits and other small items would ship in a small Priority flat rate box and dolls that did not have their original boxes which ship in the larger shirt size Priority boxes. I do not recall how much time passed before realizing I could order these USPS supplies online, but that was one of my first real game changers. Eventually I started ordering other shipping supplies in bulk from online wholesalers; large sheets of packing paper, bubble envelopes to ship outfits in, shipping tape, and jumbo poly bags for larger, combined items. And there are no more trips to the post office, well very rarely anyways. I now schedule my pick-ups and my mail carrier, currently a lovely young lady named Amanda, keeps me stocked in giant, indestructible mailbags and picks up all of my outgoing mail whenever needed. As I’m sure you can imagine, Mondays present a heavy load; usually three or four of these very large mailbags filled to the brim. Tuesday’s can sometimes fill one mailbag full and then the rest of the week I usually have just a handful of stragglers. I am very grateful to all of my buyers who pay right away, It’s nice having one long day of shipping so that I can use the rest of the week to sort, photograph, and do another round of listings. And what does that look like, you may ask… I pull out my bright pink foam board that has become a known visual for my items (and is often copied) and the dolly photo shoot begins. I have a notebook that I keep all of my records in (yes, I am still old school that way); client’s name and auction ending date go at the top of the page followed by a list of all the items that I am selling for them in consecutive order as I take the photos of each item. This keeps everything in a systematic order for when I sit down to do my listings. After photographing, items get placed in large plastic storage containers and items that are in their original boxes are placed on top. Sort, photograph, list, ship… Rinse and repeat.
A typical Monday at the "brodam" home office!
As the dolls came to me to be sold the temptation was often great to offer to buy one out-right to keep for my own. There were so many that caught my eye and many of the fashions very much inspired me and made me start thinking about my own wardrobe and how I could put pieces together to mimic some of the character’s outfits. To have a collection of these chic and opulent dolls lined up on a shelf to look at all of the time would be great inspiration; but each time I resisted, telling myself that I needed the extra money more so that I could get myself home for the holidays, or Mother’s Day, or any other moment when I was missing my family. My mom and my sister, along with her two children, still lived in West Virginia, in the house that I grew up in. My dad had passed away from lung cancer; he was diagnosed in the early part of December 1998 and died on Valentine’s Day 1999. They first diagnosed him with pneumonia but I had a strong gut feeling that it was much more serious and upon arriving at the hospital from my home in Ohio, the second time my mom took him to the emergency room, I demanded that they run certain tests. Within 24–48 hours we were delivered the news, devastating to my mom and my sister but not as shocking for me, somehow I had already prepared myself for the C word. My dad was a mailman; I sometimes wonder what he would have to say about all of the packages that I ship on a weekly basis. And so, after a few months of the inner battle with buying a doll for myself or selling it to have the extra money to do the extra things in life, I came to the conclusion that there was a way to have my cake and eat it too… I DO have a doll collection; it is a continuous and constant rotating collection, each week I get to marvel and soak in the beauty of a whole different array of dolls and doll clothes from a variety of eras and makers. There are still times when I desire to have one in my possession for a bit longer but I let it go, sending it off with a thank you for the time that it influenced and/or brought joy to my life in some small way.