Monday, May 6, 2013


1000-2000 words            target publication: ideas?!

“That is gorgeous. It’ll go,” she says, watching a young girl shimmy into a full-length white prom dress. The bodice is shimmery, the bottom pushing out with fluff, the girl grinning.

Amy Baird is the owner of 360°, a consignment shop in Kalamazoo. She wears sparkling earrings, brown hair falling straight just past her shoulders, a nude and white lace shirt over dark cuffed jeans, sitting on a plump chair in the back of her shop.

“We made rent our first month,” she smiles proudly about the store, which opened in 2000. “Not anything more.”

360°, which splits each sale 50/50 between store and seller, dominates much of Kalamazoo’s consignment market, selling to both women and men. Baird is the sole owner, the idea for the store originally pushed hard by Baird’s husband, after only one year of marriage. The store grew quickly at the beginning, and 13 years later has over 14,000 names in the computer, both sellers and buyers. “I am the buyer and I am the merchandiser. I am everything in this job.”

Baird explains quickly that she tried out the corporate path that was prescribed to her, moving west to Denver after studying Apparel, Merchandising and Textiles at the University of Kentucky.

“Well, I had a boss, which I didn’t like. There was no real personal communication with people,” she refers to the corporate world. In contrast, talking about 360°, Baird tells: “The great thing about this place is it is like a family.”

She pauses before explaining that in the corporate world every window had to be designed one way, and that she had her own ideas about how things should be done.
She quickly relates back to her 22-year-old self, remembering her feeling that she had no idea what she wanted to do. Baird reigns from Kalamazoo proper, describes her college-self as a shopaholic. “I did everything everybody else did, I spent a lot of money on clothes,” she admits.

She says she went through the motions after Denver, interviewing to be a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue in Chicago, eventually moving home to Kalamazoo to work at Second Childhood, a young consignment store in the area.

“I was helping her run that small business at the age of 23, I had all the freedom in the world,” Baird explained about the Second Childhood, owned by a girlfriends mom.

She opened the store soon after that, remembering her husband saying: “We have no money, we have nothing. That’s the perfect time to start it, we have nothing to lose.” Since she knew the area, the plaza where 360° is located was her ideal location.  Baird says she knew she wanted to own the store solo, describing her independence and desire for creative control: “I know how I want things done. I was afraid if I did it with somebody else, it would get in the way. I didn’t know what it would do to a friendship.”

“It’s awful, it’s really hard. It’s very stressful to be a woman, who’s a business owner, the breadwinner, and a mother. You wear every hat.” Baird’s kids say “Look Mommy’s famous” when they go out and people recognize her. When the CEO of Yahoo was critiqued for taking two weeks off after pregnancy, she recounts taking one week off, explaining that’s what a single business owner does. Her kids are 10 and 6, her husband works part time at FedEx, mostly for the benefits. Baird laughs at the thought of having hobbies, hoping that when her kids get older she’ll have time to do things for herself again: “I don’t know if I’ll hand this business down to my daughter, because it’s so stressful.”

When the economy dipped, Baird explains: “People were like ‘God your business must be great because it’s used clothing’ and I’m like ‘you know, not really.’ Because if nobody’s buying anything new, I’m not getting anything in, and then I have nothing. It’s a vicious circle.”

The worst came when Plato’s’ Closet opened across town in 2007, forcing a contest in the Kalamazoo consignment scene for the first time in Amy’s ownership of 360°. 

“I had anxiety every single day. I’d been coasting along for 7 years, and all of a sudden I had competition,” Baird recalls. Plato’s Closet, she explained, dominated the tween market, and she shifted to a slightly older focus group, 22-45. 360° got a better selection, carrying slightly upscale brands like Banana Republic and JCrew, and despite the personal attach Baird felt initially upon Plato’s closet, she enjoys this new sector.

The fashion world in Kalamazoo is something that Baird keeps tabs on as well, stopping to pick the right words before describing: “Kalamazoo is a little more conservative. Kalamazoo is cheep. People want a deal,” but she continues to explain her motto about the store, “I’d rather have somebody come in and buy five things at a less expensive price than just one. That way five sellers make profit.”


  1. Laurel,

    I think you do a really great job of making the everyday person interesting to the reader. You take a small business owner and show the different facets of her life that people may not otherwise consider. Perhaps you can place her story in a larger context so that the reader knows exactly why this is pertinent--the economic downturn (which you already touch on), female small business owners in the local area, etc. I think you have done a really great job so far and I am looking forward to talking more in class!

  2. Hey Laurel,

    This piece really says Journalism, and even Narrative Journalism all over it. The tone has an agenda, but it's also very personal to your subject, and these things work together quite nicely. I also really felt the story here. There is conflict, and I felt the stress and pressure of her job as I read the piece. The best part is, its the story of a local trying to make it in a business. It's definitely one work telling. I love how you drop the reader into the scene, and then draw on past details to build the story. It really works.

    I would like to know more about how this business hits home in her passion and field of study if at all. Does she at least feel excited and stimulated/fulfilled? like she is doing what she loves? This might be a good way to close out the piece. Though the ending works, i think it could be better. The part about five seller making a profit kind of brushes a whole new element of her mission and values, maybe that would be worth writing more about for a transition, and then finally how the work feels to her in the context of her personal goals? I'm nit sure, I feel something will come through as you edit. So good, though.


  3. This a good story with a strong female main character and I really liked that as I was reading it. I think that the quotes worked and gave a lot of the character, but some of it might have been developed in the story instead of with the quote. I really liked the set-up to the piece but I kind of wanted to get a visual description of it rather than the number of retailers, etc. I think the theme might be hiding a bit, not sure if it's the story of a small business's growth or the perseverance of a female small business owner, or something else entirely. I'm sure as you revise the theme will become more clear. Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to talk more about it!

  4. Salutations Laurel,

    You have a really well rounded piece here. You really cover a lot of angles as far as Amy's business is concerned and it's fascinating to learn that aspect of Kalamazoo. We talk a lot about "local business" but it's rare to actually get in depth into an actual business in Kalamazoo. Well done.

    That being said, Amy sounds like a really cool lady! I want to know more about her! It was my experience that we are, in a way, at the mercy of the interviewee and that we kind of have to write with the information we are given but it would have been nice to have more detail into the different stages of her life (motherhood, corporate amy, the struggle with big box stores etc.) I know you have the hard skills to write an incredible profile, and this is an excellent profile, but of 360 Kzoo not Amy Baird. I could be the only one that felt this way, and I think that sounded a bit harsher than I wanted it too but I really enjoyed this piece and can't wait to workshop it.

    Thanks, pal.


  5. Mostly I think what this piece needs (it has good quotes, sure research, and great voice) is mostly just a solid structure. Deciding what the central relevance of this profile is, right now, will help with that. OR it's possible I'm being overly journalistic and have no idea what this piece needs. Is the piece about Amy or about 360 Kzoo? That's a thing I'd be interested in discussing with people, since it sounds like others have felt similarly.

    I think the images you convey are working very strongly, and would like more of them, almost.

    I'm also impressed by the flow of this piece—with the exception of a couple of spots I thougth that it was narratively very cohesive.

    Nice work & see ya latah,


  6. Focusing on an independent business owner...but with Kelsey's notes in mind, I would think that more weaving of Amy and her store as a single identity would strengthen your piece overall. They are together in so many ways, and much like a journalist's piece, her store is a reflection of herself.

    Your ending was very abrupt--I'm not sure if you have more, or if you are planning on adding more--but the "eye on the fashion world" didn't really add a lot, or at least didn't as a final note.

  7. it may very well be because i dont shop at consignment shops, and in general i take most of my clothes from other people, but i dont really understand how the shop works. "split 50/50 between buyer and seller" makes me assume that its like ebay with a higher fee... maybe you could expand on this, make it more clear, for those who dont really shop too much?

    "girlfriends mom" is informal and missing an apostrophe. also, like dating girlfriend or friend girlfriend? its unclear. also "cheep" is what birds do, "cheap" i think is what you were looking for. thats a worthless thing to tell you here, but it came up.

    as a whole, i like this piece a lot. i like getting to know Amy, and especially knowing what caused her to do this. i would personally like to have the middle expanded, the "present," because we hear a lot about her past, but only get just as much about the present before it shifts to the future. id like to hear a little bit more about what her husband thinks of the business, what her struggle with plato's closet is like, how busy her days are, how much she works, etc.

    otherwise, this is really well done. i mean it.