An Interview with Mari Shorter
Did you have retail experience before running Shorter’s?
Yes, I was the oldest of seven children and we were all expected to work. Mom made sure we did and said, “out of the house, not underfoot”. I was a clerk in a bakery, Stuckey’s Rexall drug store, and a dress shop (this was when I did my first window displays). Before my retail experience, I was a carhop at Powells Drive-In, the first girl paperboy in my hometown, and did plenty of babysitting. All summer jobs began at age 12. No summer sleepover camps for us unless it was a paid position!
What aspect of running the business did you enjoy the most?
Market trips, seeing and finding new merchandise that would excite our customers. I would always become excited when something new flew off the shelves and we had to re-order. The family dinners contained a lot of bragging rights over which family members found that new hot item. Stiff competition. Market trips were also rejuvenating to the retail weary with new ideas, new merchandise, and the ability to have uninterrupted conversations with my retail partner-Bill.
They were also exhausting and, to the past employees who thought we were on vacation, I would relate the experience to being a chaperone for a Washington D.C. trip with high schoolers. Hours on your feet in museums with thousands of others trying to see everything in a short amount of time and endless lines at the restrooms and the temporary restaurants. Do this for seven straight days, 10 to 12 hours per day.
You are gifted with designing beautiful window displays. Did you have a favorite one? How did you learn merchandising?
I did my first window displays for a dress shop as a teenager. I learned from doing the displays and also observing professional displays at the Market. Retail windows can be a challenge. You are always working backward, start in the front (nearest the glass), and just keep backing up. Not like the dioramas we all did in school