People often ask... "Hippo? How did you get that name?" and my answer is always a shortened version trying to explain the path to get to the name. Here's the long story.
When I started selling printed t-shirts and paintings at art and craft markets in New Bedford, the markets were called NB Open Market and they were organized by Elissa Paquette of Calico (the awesome women's clothing boutique in downtown New Bedford!). I started helping her out as the vendor coordinator and the name changed to CRAFT-O-RAMA. We would run outdoor markets once or twice a year and some indoor craft sales. In 2010 I got a call from Elissa and she said "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we set up like a shop? We'd have people drop off their stuff and we'd sell it and they don't have to be there?" She called a property manager that had an empty storefront (now the home of Finest Hour Athletics and Purchase Street Records) and they said we could use the space. We borrowed some tables and set it up in one night. We did a four day sale in December and it was great! The next year we wanted to do it again. We hit up Jeremiah Hernandez at UGLYgallery and asked if we could partner with him and set up our CRAFT-O-RAMA pop-up shop there in the gallery for a few weeks in December. The next few years, the sale got longer and better each time but Elissa was like "girl, just go for it" because her business was keeping her busy. After having this temporary holiday pop-up at UGLYgallery for 3 years I moved to 741 Purchase Street and then 98 William Street the following 2 years. Customers started to know that CRAFT-O-RAMA would have locally handmade unique gift items but where we'd be? Who knows! Luckily the name spread and they found us.
When I had the pop-up at 741 Purchase Street things changed. It was my first time really running the shop without the help of Jeremiah or Elissa. I hired help (thanks Devon!) and had to just make it work. And luckily it did! I didn't want to leave the space. I spoke with the property manager about renting year round and he was open to it but my work schedule didn't allow me to really give up any time. All of my money was going into a house I was about to buy, and I had no one to run the shop. The property company and I spent a few years playing tag trying to make something work.
Sarah Furtado started selling her ceramics at the shop in 2014 and after having a discussion about how she wanted to someday run a store like this, it just made sense for me to hire her to help the following year. We worked together to bring a weekly outdoor art market to Custom House Square during the summer and it was a great chance for us to learn our work habits and shared vision. After running the summer market with Sarah and having multiple people telling me to JUST DO IT! we decided to go for it. I signed a lease in the summer of 2016 and we started painting and finding vendors to not just open a holiday shop but a year round store.
In August of 2016, Elissa (from Calico), Sarah and I took a ride to the New York Now Gift Show so we could find some awesome greeting cards for the shop. As soon as we hit the Connecticut border, Elissa said "so.... what are you going to do about the name?" Sarah and I both grumbled. We had both done so much over the summer and spent a lot of money building up the CRAFT-O-RAMA social media for the art market, changing the name now seemed like the worst timing but I always knew if I opened a year round store I'd want the name to be different. Elissa said "well, what names have you at least thought about?" I quickly blurted.... "oh, something with the word hippo in it. Like Hippo Hippo or like 100 Hippos" They both were confused "why hippo?"
And now I get to the point of this blog... I told you it would be a long story....
When I was in high school, a friend of mine would sing me a song when I was in a bad mood. It went like this "Oh what (clap, clap) can make (clap, clap) a hippopotamus smile? They ooze in the gooze without any shoes, they wade in the water til their lips turn blue. Oh what (clap, clap) can make (clap, clap) a hippopotamus smile?" Over the years I would collect little trinkets of hippos because they made me smile. When I was in college and set up an email for the first time (yeah, that shows my age) I remember trying to come up with a password and someone saying "well think of something that will make you smile" and hippo was the first word that came to mind.
So, we kept driving to New York and saying different names. I honestly don't remember the other candidates but we listed a lot! At one point I said "When people walk into the store I don't want it to look like a gallery. I want them to walk in and they just feel like they're in a hip gift store" and Elissa said "Hip? Like Hippo?" And at that moment we started putting it in sentences "Hey, did you see what's new at Hippo?" or "Hey I'm just going to run to Hippo before Calico."
But damn, I was still scared to change the name! It was 6 years of having the CRAFT-O-RAMA pop-up! We had actual customers! We had just about 3,000 FB followers. I had just paid for an LLC named CRAFT-O-RAMA, got a new email, got business cards. Starting from scratch seemed horrible. Besides coming up with a new name, I spent a lot of time on the car ride venting that a lot of people that would apply to the shop were really a lot craftier than I wanted it to be. After all, our vision was a hip gift store. This is when Elissa said "Have you ever thought that changing the name would help that? Like maybe the name CRAFT-O-RAMA is what is making people think what you sell is the same as a church craft fair?" That really hit me. Now don't get me wrong, I love church craft fairs too! But again, just a different vision for the store.
We got to the gift show and I asked a few awesome makers and sales people there. "What do you think of the name CRAFT-O-RAMA?" Their responses were pretty monotone and mostly just explained it was cool and sounds crafty. Then I'd say "What do you think of the name Hippo?" And they'd smile. They'd brighten up. I loved the smile we'd see when they heard that name.
We spent some time on the ride home texting friends for advice (not while I was driving, sis) and saying Hippo as well as other names in sentences but a few days later we confirmed.... Hippo would be the name of our new year round gift shop. This way people wouldn't think it was temporary. They'd know it was different. We kept the name CRAFT-O-RAMA around for pop-up events and art markets we still run from time to time.
But when people ask "Why did you name it Hippo?" The easiest answer is, it's just a word that makes me smile.