One of the nicest things about the holidays – other than having an excuse to get together with family – is having an excuse to reflect on what you are thankful for. And as the holiday rush – with its hordes of customers, non-stop gift wrapping, packing for UPS, restocking the shelves and starting all over again every morning – comes to an end, we have so much to be grateful for.
Here are a few of the things we want to give thanks for:
* For really being able to do it. The idea of Via Umbria has been in our minds for a year or more. To be able to purchase a building, move in, receive inventory from storage, from Italy, from who knows where, to unbox it, add it into inventory, get labels on it, arrange it on shelves and be able to sell it with out any (a slight exaggeration) kinks along the way. Remarkable.
* For getting licensed to open our doors, to allow the public inside, to operate a business. There is a feeling that DC is not a friendly place in which to do business. That has not been our experience. Challenging for sure, but eminently possible if one has a great deal of determination and is transparent and up front with people .
* For the opportunity to host three wonderful Food and Wine Tours in Umbria just a week after opening our doors in Georgetown. Perhaps not the most prudent use of time, but our month in Italy was a great reminder of why we do what we do and why we’re doing it in Georgetown. Our slogan – Discover | Savor | Share – is more than just words to us and returning to Italy often reminds us of just what is worth discovering, savoring and sharing.
* For our team of paid and unpaid staff who share our vision, our love of all things Italian. They are the ones that toiled with the price tags, figured out the balky POS system, who arranged and re-arranged merchandise endlessly, carried boxes from trucks, trudging through the snow. Who set up display after display only to tear it down, move it and begin again.
* For our neighbors in Georgetown who have not only passed through our doors in an endless stream since we opened them at the end of September, but who have told us just how much they appreciate having us in the neighborhood. Not just with words but with monetary support and by spreading the word to their friends and neighbors. Via Umbria is about savoring the connections that common interests can engender and it is clear that we and our neighbors share a lot of common interests.
* For DC ABRA and the ANC and CAG and OGB and CFA all giving us fair hearings and approving our concepts, ideas and validating our existence. And especially for granting us a license to sell the most incredible, undiscovered and under appreciated wines produced in Italy. Be sure to stop by to learn a bit about our selection of hand selected and imported Umbrian wines.
* And for Suzy and me, thanks for our wonderful, supportive children who lined up shoulder to shoulder with us to get this store open, to celebrate its rebirth and to keep it on course during the busy holiday season and who bore with us when we came home late at night and left early in the morning. Merry Christmas to Austin, Lindsey, Davis and Teddy.
There are so many things we are thankful for as Christmas day approaches and we’ll take another stab at completing the Thank You cards before New Year’s. But as you and we turn our attention to family and sharing the joy of the holiday season together we also want to reflect briefly on our ambitions and vision for Via Umbria. It is easy to get wrapped up in the logistics of running a small business (sometimes quite literally in a ream of price tag stickers). But at Christmas, we’d like to look forward and share with you what we really aim for with this store in the coming year.
What we have discovered in Italy and through Italy, the essence that we believe is the crown jewel worth sharing with all of you isn’t a thing at all. What we truly cherish and find over and over again in Italy is a sense of connectivity. Connectivity with place, with people, with time and history. And that connection is inspired by, catalyzed by and engendered by experiences that often take place around objects and food. Our ceramic plates are without doubt works of art. Our olive oils are without equal. Our kitchen appliances provoke the mind. But these things are just things, no matter how beautiful they are. Their iconic status, their spirit comes from knowing who made that bowl, and loving that story.
In Italy, you know the shopkeeper who sells you a kitchen towel, and the man at the bar who serves you your espresso, and the woman who you always check out with at the grocery store. And although we cannot replicate exactly that closeness of an Italian community, we hope that a visit to Via Umbria will mean more than just finding a beautiful object. We want to stop and talk with our customers, explain where we found the objects that we stock and why they are special to us. We hope that Via Umbria will be a place that people come visit because that yearning for connectedness is satisfied here. We think we’re off to a good start.
Because as beautiful and interesting as our merchandise is here at Via Umbria, perhaps we should all take inspiration from one of this season’s own iconic characters – the Grinch. For in our opinion he put his long, gnarled finger right on what makes Via Umbria Via Umbria when he came to his epiphany:
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
Well said, Grinch. Well said. Merry Christmas to all. And to all a good night.
Bill and Suzy