A Walk Through Jane

May 6, 2024

Earlier this week I learned that a beloved boutique in my small town, called Jane Made, is closing end of the month. The owners are two best friends who opened the store together over a decade ago.

I’m not overly attached to brands (IRONIC) when it comes to retail, but let me tell you, I’m attached to Jane.

When I first moved to this NC town back in 2019, and was scouting out vintage finds for our new home, Jane was one of the first stores I walked into. 

It’s refined, it’s ever-evolving, it’s quirky.

My first visit there, I walked out with 3 big woven tote baskets + a picture frame + some strangely-scalloped-edge catch-all bowl that no one in my home has EVER had use for, but it looks so NICE — 

Thus began my Jane obsession, as ever-evolving as the store’s careful curations.

From candles with uncommon scents to funky notecards, bold vases to artwork, mended blouses to teapots…I’ve always found something there.

When friends and family visited, I took them to Jane.

When freshly painted walls in my home needed artwork, I took myself to Jane.

When the weekend rolled around and Joe + the girls were napping, but I was wide awake with coffee and boredom, I took myself to Jane.

And when my baby sister, Ella, passed away in a sudden and traumatic event last year in January, I came home after her funeral and somehow, soon after, found myself back at Jane.

In the weeks after her death, stumbling around in the fog of grief, I was met with a steady stream of texts and notes of condolence.

One rainy day in late January 2023, I was cross-legged and weeping on the couch — edging open more envelopes containing sympathy cards with a stunned sort of sadness — and decided, that’s it. I’m escaping.

I didn’t plan the destination, but 10 minutes later, I had driven myself to Jane.

The light from the windows looked so clean there. The smell of amber soy wax candles was comforting, and the store’s latest curation of black sweatshirts with irreverent messaging felt like my mantra for the day, so I almost bought one:

“THE WORLD CAN GO TO HELL. I CAN GO TO JANE.”

I did walk out with a pink candle that day; Ella’s favorite color, a way to honor her and mark another day of moving forward.

One of the store owners was manning the checkout. She commented on the color as I swiped my card.

“That’s such a pretty shade of pink.”

I nodded and said, “It was my sister’s favorite,” and I know she heard my voice crack when I said it — really awkwardly so —  but she didn’t say anything more. Just smiled warmly when handing over the pink candle in a brown bag.

This is something I’ve never forgotten. Walking into Jane in absolute anguish and feeling the same when I walked out, but while I was in there, the gentleness of floor-to-wall shelves of beauty and quiet (and a stranger’s smile, and respectful silence in the face of my sadness) was like a tender nudge to make it to the next hour.

That sounds overly dramatic to write. But anyone who has experienced a profound loss knows that in the early days, you manage hour by hour.

The smallest things can crush you, or they can lift you.

Last year I formed or fell into various rituals for myself as a way to cope. Walking through Jane to feed my soul, hot latte in hand, became one of them.

When I read the news this week that the store is closing, for some reason my mind flashed back instantly to that rainy day in late January, and the pink candle for Ella.

So today I walked into Jane to do a final walk-through.

The same kind owner was manning the checkout.

“I’m not sure if you heard yet,” she said, “but we’re closing at the end of the month.”

“I heard,” I said. “Not gonna lie, I’m a little bit devastated. This store is my place.”

“We’re a little bit devastated, too,” she said, and her voice cracked in a way that was so real and sad, I did the weird thing and said, “Don’t worry about crying. I’m a small business owner myself. I’d cry, too.”

She did break down entirely, then. For the next few minutes she cried freely and we talked about the store and why we both love it, how the community has responded to news of its closing.

I pulled out my phone and showed her pictures of the baskets from Jane in my home that now hold my children’s clothes and books. The pottery from Jane on my kitchen counter. The antique gold picture frames from Jane that now display our favorite images from a trip to Paris.

She shared how ultimately, a confluence of tough personal life developments had loomed too large over time. The store could no longer remain a priority.

“It’s just been my JOY for all these years,” she said. “Closing Jane is something we never wanted to do, or imagined ourselves doing. We’re trying to be kind to ourselves in the process.”

“That’s good,” I said. “And if it’s any comfort to hear, your store has been a way for me to be kind to myself and find some pockets of joy, too.”

Today I bought a pair of earrings from Jane.

“Lots of love to you guys,” I said, and smiled as she handed me the brown bag.

It was like a winking little full-circle moment between us, smiles shared at the counter a year apart — of grief noted and held with quiet and kindness, the warm-blooded human compassion of that — even though she didn’t know it.

Loss comes in all forms, big and small. Our lives will change without our permission.

We build businesses with dreams attached to them…sometimes those dreams fail.

The team partnership turns sour.

Or the work slows.

Or the store closes.

Then there are those large, life-altering losses that change who you are at your core, that time may never truly heal.

Not an hour goes by that I do not call my baby sister to mind with love and grief, and make the choice again to lean forward in this new world without her in it.

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant,” Joan Didion wrote in The Year of Magical Thinking, her memoir about the loss of her husband and daughter. “You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”

If you feel like you’re sitting at the table right now, then do something small today that helps show you what you are capable of.

For me, last year, that small win may have been a hot breakfast. A walk through Jane.

Start small, get a tiny bit better every day, and give yourself a break.

Perspective is one of the paradoxical gifts of tragedy. The things that seemed like crises before my sister died snapped into proper focus for me once she was gone.

I’m thankful for every day I get to try again, having learned how easily tomorrow can disappear.

So. Is all of THAT the whole point of today’s email? (Random and personal much, Caroline?!)

Honestly, yes, it is. If you’ve been in our email family for a while now, then you already know that we don’t just write about Real Estate Stuff here.

We’re all humans here, and the human face behind our businesses matters, too.

As I sit here at the table — today’s brown bag from Jane beside my laptop, probably the last one I’ll bring home — I’m thinking not only about the big and small losses that mark our lives, but what we can take away from them.

For me, on the personal side of things, life since January of last year has been about gathering grief’s unraveling and braiding the strands into strings I can tie as little remembrances. Sometimes weaving them into something bigger and more blanket-like, a cocoon for daily messes.

I wish the same for anyone else who may be reading this today, who finds themself at the table.

Whether you are mourning the loss of a precious human, or a professional dream that has died — you are in good company, and this note on loss is for you today.

Be kind to yourself.

Remember that even the small victories or pockets of everyday beauty can remind you to keep going. (Maybe go buy yourself a candle, too.)

.

P.S – What’s BLUEPRINT, again? 

We’re a gaggle of designers, writers, and creatives on a mission to change the branding narrative in real estate.

We offer a signature branding service and the industry’s most elegant and high-converting digital products to help modern, stylish Realtors do three things:

➝ Communicate their worth;

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➝ Tell the right stories to stand out + SELL more.

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