Rainy Day has been giving Vineyarders a place to find . . . anything for 45 years. Owner Heather Kochin recently talked to The Times about her last couple decades.
When did Rainy Day first open?
Rainy Day was established in 1973.
Who started the store?
It was started by the Milstein family, and operated for many years by Ann Milstein and her husband Frank Piccione.
How did you get involved, Heather?
The Milsteins ran the business with my help for three years, then sold it to my childhood best friend and me in 2003 when I was 26! From when I first started at Rainy Day, it felt like home. The Milsteins took me in and made me part of the Rainy Day family immediately.
How was the business run back then?
Their business was run as a small family operation, and I admired the variety of things they sold and how organized they kept the entire operation, from display windows to the shipping and receiving area, and catalog drawers for buying. Fifteen years after the Milsteins, and those organizational systems still exist. Even the wood block doorstop from pre-me for the front door still exists!
What’s been your busiest day?
I haven’t had “a” busiest day, but hundreds of insanely busy days due to the growing popularity of my annual events. So I guess it’s fair to say my busiest day was the day after Thanksgiving in 2005, when I offered my second annual early bird sale. I was pleasantly surprised by the line of people on the street waiting to shop early, and then the feeling of sardines we experienced in the shop all day long. I remember looking at the front counter, and my staff needed my help, but I was pinned against the wall by customers. The people coming through the door never stopped that day, and we were so understaffed, with one register at the time, the store looked like a bomb had gone off by lunch time.
Do you have any highlights?
After being part of Rainy Day for 18 years, there are so many incredible highlights. Maybe the best is just being able to keep my sanity and this business going year-round for as many years as I have while raising two boys, and having a very busy daily grind. (There’s no built-in maternity leave when you own your own business, just amazing employees that care about me.) A true highlight is a compliment I received from a seasonal customer, saying it hasn’t been a trip to the Vineyard until they have had their time in Rainy Day!
Have there been any disastrous days?
Disastrous days … when the credit card machine loses connection because of a power outage in town, or Internet issues on a rainy day in August … need I say more!
Or you run out of 5s or 10s on a busy Sunday with a line of people …
Or it’s raining outside and you’re alone, and the UPS man has 80 boxes of freight to deliver …
How do you go about buying?
The buying for the store has almost become a full-time job due to the variety of what I bring into the store. The clothing lines are the toughest, as most have to be ordered seven months prior to the season you’re selling them in. Next month I will be ordering spring 2019 collections.
I’ve been to trade shows all over the country … Vegas, Atlanta, Denver, New York, Portland … I also rely on my sales reps to show me new trends in the marketplace.
Do you do much with novelty products?
Personalizing products with nautical motifs or the shape of the Vineyard has proven to be a bestseller! Adult Socks with fresh sayings on them sell every day. I thought the fidget spinner trend would last longer, and after the schools banned them, I found I had over-ordered, and have a lifelong supply now.
How do you go about finding new lines?
When I am in search of new lines, I find it’s best to find companies that have a story, or give back to a worthy cause or organization. People want to feel good about their purchases, and would be willing to avoid the Amazon fad, knowing their dollars are making a difference.
How many people work at Rainy Day?
We employ 12 year-round, and can have as many as 17 employees during the summer, both full- and part-time.
How do you feel about the role of technology in your business?
For me personally, technology has made my job harder, in that there’s less time on the sales floor and more time needed staring at a computer screen or phone.
How large is your inventory?
The store stocks over 400 lines, and thousands of different SKUs.
Last, what are some of the most popular holiday or special-occasion gifts?
Our favorite Christmas gifts are the Frasier Fir Candles and unique ornaments. Our favorite birthday item is one of our hand-picked birthday cards by Liza Coogan, our amazing card buyer. And our favorite wedding present is our table linens and glass hurricanes.