Opening Day ...

I suspect there are rather more than a few 'A Story A Week' readers who are waiting for this week's episode with a bit more eagerness than they might usually have. These will be people who follow one of our blogs, or the Facebook page, and who thus know that yesterday was a pretty big day for me ... the opening of our new shop in Asakusa.

I nearly wrote "the opening - finally! - of our new shop," because it certainly seems as though this has been long time coming. And I suppose it has; it was just over a half-year ago that I made a visit to a craftsman friend in Tokyo to put the idea of a collaborative workshop on the table for discussion. The collaboration didn't happen, but one thing led to another, with yesterday's opening being just one outcome of the discussions during that meeting.

One reason that it has taken such a long time to reach this stage is that I am recently finding it quite difficult to maintain forward motion on more than one project at a time. In this era of 'multi-tasking' it seems that we are all expected to be able to keep many balls in the air at the same time, and of course I now live that way, as does most everybody these days. But it's not multi-tasking per se that I am having trouble with, it's 'project planning'.

For example, readers of this series know that for the past couple of months, I have been heavily involved with the physical construction work of the new shop - building shelves, running wiring, etc. and etc. And what I should have been doing concurrently with that work, was preparing for what came next - running the actual shop. We had a kind of 'pre-open' the other day, with a group of people in for a pre-arranged Print Party event, and when they tried to also buy some prints, it was chaos. We had no bags ready, the barcode on one of the items they wanted turned out not to be in the database, none of the staff present had any idea how to run the POS system, and the visitors (who had a great time in their Print Party) nearly ended up leaving empty-handed in spite of having a clear desire to purchase a few of the prints.

And the list of things that I should have been doing over the past couple of months doesn't end there. Promoting our new business to travel websites and magazines? I haven't started yet. Preparing pamphlets in multi-languages for distribution at hotels all over Tokyo? Umm ... not yet. Visiting the tourist bureaus to bring their staff up-to-date on what we are doing? Maybe one day ...

If I had actually done my job properly and got those things started, we would have hit the ground running yesterday. As it was, with none of that important work yet done, we had a very quiet day. And as it poured with rain from early morning until nearly closing time, the streets - which on a long weekend like this are typically packed with strolling sightseers - were nearly deserted.

Shop manager Ishikawa-san and I made good use of our 'free time' time though. I worked with her until she understood how to run the credit card processing system, and she will now begin to prepare a manual for use in training the rest of the staff.

So actually, when you think about it, things are probably in balance. We're clearly not ready for a lot of people coming through, but as it's going to take time to make that happen, we still have a chance before they arrive to learn how to handle them properly.

But this kind of thing never ends ... what will be suddenly upon us a couple of months from now that will make me realize, "Perhaps I should have seen this coming ..."

Oh. Right ...


Comments on this story ...

Posted by: Dave

Reading back over this story now, while getting it ready for publication, I see that it might be read as a bit of a 'negative' experience. No customers ... we're in trouble!

But it was the experience the previous day - the pre-open Print Party that I mentioned - that should perhaps be a more accurate indicator. It was a group of three people who had made a reservation through our on-line system even before arriving in Japan. They had been looking forward to the event, and indeed, the four of us had a great time making prints in the new Party room, chatting about the work, and trying out the new coffee machine.

After they left, I sent an email apologizing for the confusion about buying prints, and he replied, "It is I who should be thanking you for a wonderful time. I think it will be the highlight of my wife's trip. The woodblock printing was great in itself, but the [print design] was the icing on the cake. This will definitely be the #2 highlight on my trip - which will closely be edged out by the Japan vs NZ Maori rugby match I am going to see this afternoon in Kobe."

Well, I'm not going to compete with rugby ... but to hear that they found our Print Party to be such an enjoyable experience does tell me that we're on the right track. Perhaps I should have saved this week's episode - telling everybody about our Opening Day When Nobody Came - for a year from now, when they are lined up outside every morning! :-)

Posted by: Anonymous


Posted by: Dave

Yes, as pointed out, we haven't even sent notices to our long-time supporters yet. We really want to get our sea legs first; if we can get the thing working basically smoothly over the next few days, we're then going to pick a date a week or so down the line, call it 'Mokuhankan Open House', prepare a food/drink table, and then send invitations out to everybody we think would be interested.

We can't make it a set time for a little ceremony, because there simply isn't space for everybody to be here together, but the 'Open House … drop in if you can' should be OK, we think.

We'll let you know soon!

Posted by: Jakub Makalowski

Oops, if I had known it had actually opened this weekend I would have stopped by. Are you planning to set up a schedule of the hours at anytime on the site?

It seems also that perhaps some funds for a temporary PR member should have been set aside with the kickstarter campaign.

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