Whew! As global upheaval sent all of us in new directions in early 2020 and global mask shortages presented immediate health risks, I pivoted from planning a Junket relaunch on University Ave to organizing a coordinated remote mask-making effort using 100% secondhand materials.
PPP funding wasn't available to Junket: we had lost money in 2018 and 2019 after losing our lease to a shady situation at 41st & Minnehaha, and we'd had our most successful quarter in years as we collaborated to sell several thousand records in a single January, 2020 weekend: by the government's eligibility standards, we had not been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
I kept my lone employee working on Junket ops as I pivoted to organizing those interested in sourcing and prepping materials, sewing, & routing goods by geographical area: my goal was to test hyperlocal organizing methodologies for post-consumer materials while plugging into a widespread and urgent need: a supply chain gap with deadly consequences, and one that a colleague had been certain his philanthropic colleagues would jump to support.
When, after I'd engaged 200+ people in mask making efforts, I learned that, in fact, 'Philanthropy' had decided that anyone who was making masks should be able to generate profits to cover their costs, instead, I was disoriented: I had organized people in the spirit of community benefit and volunteer labor. And now, I was supposed to pivot this effort into profits? It felt like a bait and switch, both to me, and, I intuited, to those who had jumped in to meet the need. I was not a mass manufacturer. I had no intentions of racing to the bottom as mask prices dropped ever lower... getting the cheapest labor possible was anathema to my worldview and to our model.
And so, I reached out to invite paid mask-making talents, kept those products and material streams separate from the volunteers' efforts, and began selling masks made by people I insisted on compensating well enough that they were glad to do the work.
Unfamiliar with our premise or just grumpy from quarantine, online trolls bleated about the prices for masks we were now selling – and I continued to feel uneasy with this parallel path of volunteer mask-making AND for-profit maskmaking: it was all too close to avoid appearing as a conflict of interest. And yet, masks were the path I had charted as a means to pivot, yet again, this time as part of a global adaptation effort.
In the mean time, the government had offered supplemental unemployment to those who couldn't work due to the pandemic. This meant that my remaining employee could access the boosted UI program (paying more than she'd made via paychecks), and since I needed to figure out how to remain solvent - and keep Junket solvent - while the social safety net was failing me, I moved into my worst case scenario entrepreneurial fallback plan: I let my employee go and began running Junket from the relative pathogenic safety of my apartment.
Right as this transition was happening, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
In this city.
In this precinct.
As protests began, I reached out to a collaborator: If I printed 'Black Lives Matter' on some of our masks, would they be interested in distributing at the protest? They would – and so, I did.
Meanwhile, I stayed home: I'd just gotten a negative COVID test after two months of in-home isolation due to vague symptoms that may have been long covid, or adrenal fatigue, or the effects of chronic stress, or trauma – likely some combination (and in hindsight, jumping into 16 hour days organizing others while battling exhaustion was probably not the wisest approach to self care).
Three days later, white supremacists burned down the post office as they also torched the third precinct building across the street. Both neighborhood pharmacies were looted, leaving my car-free self unable to access ADHD meds while trying to figure out how this pivot (the one where I figured out how the hell I was going to fulfill orders without a post office) was going to work.
Four days after the post office burned down and on a Sunday morning, packages arrived at my door. Incredible. I remain impressed beyond words by the immensity of the USPS' effort locally to keep things moving despite having lost multiple facilities. [Side note, mid-September 2022: I noticed this morning that a new foundation has been laid for the post office now being built to replace the one we lost - time marches on...]
There was a point during this blur of weeks that someone in one of the mask-making groups concluded that they'd been ghosted when I didn't respond to an email. After spending what little energy I had to compose a response to that human that explained that no, in fact, I hadn't ghosted – I just happened to be within blocks of the protests they were seeing on TV, I withdrew silently from coordinating the masks.
When this person encouraged me to share my response with the group at large, I agreed that would be helpful. And yet, with the National Guard patrolling the streets and caucasian strangers wandering down sidewalks with gas cans in tow, I couldn't even find the focus to do that. Instead, I made a mental note, trusting that I'd eventually have the necessary clarity and perspective to explain all that had led to my sudden absence.
As the next couple of weeks passed, out-of-state plates became scarce on Minnehaha. I remember thinking that those who'd come in hopes of reigniting a civil war couldn't have been all that intelligent -- or committed to anything other than hate and destruction – if they'd only planned their participation for as long as they had PTO.
The next three months were a blur: trying to wrap my head around processes for emergency funding, managing a craze of online orders from people who, often, were angry and combative, and wondering where the hell all of this was heading.
Two full years already into Junket's transition from Minnehaha to (where, again?), I didn't have the energy to try to update all of the web pages and social media sites and email lists that I had been keeping abreast of our efforts to relocate and relaunch. It's hard enough to have to update addresses when you've moved after a while. I'd already changed (or intended to change) them twice, and now, I didn't know what to put. I wasn't exactly fine publishing my home address on the interwebs as though it were retail (as it was, I was still fielding daily calls to the shop line).
It's hard to feel as though one is failing those who expect us to show up when the need is great. I had been that person. But I couldn't continue on fumes: my body had made it clear that it would no longer support what my intuition said I should pursue. Instead, I let it all go to take care of survival-level stuff, and trusted that when the trauma load had lightened and the landscape was more clear, my brain would be better equipped to identify and implement a comprehensive solution for all that was currently in shambles.
It's taken longer than I had expected. There have been other setbacks and unexplained absences. Life is entropic, if nothing else, and rebuilding without a safety net is not for the faint of heart: the complications of illness and injury are exponentially compounded by chronic financial strain, and combined, it takes a toll on one's ability to do more than cope.
That this page exists at all, however, is testament to having known I'd eventually have the energy and perspective to feel able to articulate what that sudden absence - dropping out, in so many words - had been about.
While Junket and I are still recovering from the last several years, I've made peace with the reasons I've struggled to bounce back or manage to the expectations of a five-figure audience, and I've made sense of what led to the journey from retail to unraveling... which makes the re-raveling, if slow and deliberate, a dialectic practice in line with Junket's original premise.
I had had anywhere from 5-20 people supporting store operations during the retail run. I was able to do community + climate work (advocacy, organizing, policy, research, data analytics) because the shop's revenue covered the staffing required to run the shop so I could engage with community more broadly. I couldn't have done what I was able to do without a strong team, and this has become painfully obvious during my time as a solo operator. I miss being able to engage community as I once did – but it took a team.
Our move to a warehouse sublease north of East Lake Street - still on Minnehaha - got off to a rocky start, despite careful negotiations with company brass about how the relationship would be carefully managed for win/win outcomes, when my relationship with the CEO was delegated to his frat buddy/direct report. I've had enough experience with coercive control to know it when I see it (not to mention having just escaped such an experience at the space we'd just left), and between that and the mysterious late-night breaking of product in an unsecure and unheated space (that we had been assured would be neither), and with another layer of management now giving my team the stink-eye as I sought to address the abusive behaviors with the CEO (who, meanwhile, insisted that I must be the problem because his frat buddy had told him that he none of his other female colleagues had problems with him), it made no sense to continue unpacking our wares in another hostile space.
It also made no sense to jump into another commercial space in that moment: I'd been 'encouraged' by the CEO to not speak of the abuse I'd encountered on his watch, and with 30K on Facebook and 6K+ on our email list wanting to know what was going on - and concluding that if we landed in yet another untenable situation, having to explain three strikes - while others offered competing narratives to protect their fiefdoms - would be too much for my psyche to handle.
And so, we moved everything into storage. By now, Junket one employee and one contractor. In order to keep Junket engaged in community, the contractor hauled Junket product to the Midtown Farmers Market every Saturday that summer: I couldn't handle trying to explain what was happening, because I didn't know. And, having landed on Medical Assistance at the end of 2018 (thanks to losing the shop - I consider it a silver lining that made me a RABID PROPONENT OF UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE), I had begun using some of the time I now had to take care of some long-deferred medical issues.
The summer of 2019 was a blur of non-working ADHD meds and unexpected romance: a welcome distraction from the clusterfuck that was a twice-moved hoard of formerly-well-organized inventory that had no place to go.
I started looking at spaces again in the fall, and found an ideal spot for a relaunch - surprisingly, in Saint Paul, but perhaps that was for the best given the damage that had been deliberately inflicted on unknown numbers of my Minneapolis relationships: I didn't know what DARVO was, but I knew that several of my trusted relationships had gone south after I'd introduced them to someone who had purported to be a friend.
We began moving out of storage and into the former U of M Geological Survey building on University Avenue - under new private ownership - in November), while concepting all that might happen there: most of the building was empty, and I had a number of people interested in relaunching something less retail and more community/climate/circular economy in the building. December brought an unexpected opportunity: 16,000 vintage vinyl records, social coverage that reached around the globe, and one January weekend later, we'd cleared 30K (and all the records), and had a plan to launch monthly events beginning in April, 2020.
I continued to pay one staff person to manage our social media and online selling – in order to keep communication steady while I worked out the details for a launch and made a point to get to know folks in our new community, taking on debt that I justified, knowing that my time was better spent launching the new model.
Of course, then came COVID. Which brings us back to the Mask Making effort.
Three months of just-getting-by got a shot in the arm in August of 2020, when HBO Max decided to go back into film production: cast and crew would quarantine for two weeks before coming together on set. I was contacted by a set decorator desperate to track down historically appropriate papers for a film set in 1955. Nothing more recent than 1955 would do. Could I help?
By this point, we'd shoved everything into a storage space in the basement of the University Ave building, so after deciding the inquiry was legit, I moved forward, ultimately supplying hundreds of pounds in not only vintage ephemera (paper layer), but also props of all types: a single prop job covered that year's rental of the basement storage space, but my other costs were mounting.
I grappled with the need to establish a new economic engine while still being nose-deep in the chaos from having had so many systems fall in on each other in 2018: without staff to support answering phones, processing transactions, sorting and sifting, I knew I couldn't do it all, but I didn't know what would give - or could give. And so, I chose to let concepts and channels and future plans sort and sift themselves out while I did the work of organizing inventory in anticipation of returning to a more public space.
In mid-November, I signed a lease on a small studio in a building on 38th St E as it intersects with the bicycle boulevard. We started sales and product pickups there in November. And then, I was taken out by an icy sidewalk in early December – making car-free trips to the studio at SoCo less than manageable. Again, without knowing what was happening and when I'd be able to regroup, I went silent. It's hard to explain what's going on when one has no clue, themselves.
I'd long planned to host monthly events beginning around April, health factors permitting, so when I was challenged to go ahead and do just that, I did. With the help of friends, my gimpy arm and I pulled off a one day event in a church basement. Then, I spent two days in bed: my body wasn't having it.
I got tired of trying to explain what I was planning to do: there have been so many interruptions and small disasters along the way that it made more sense to stop trying to explain these things. Besides, I've long preferred the autonomy of making the thing first, and then sharing it. And so it goes.
By the time you see this content, Junket's 2022 edition online commerce experience is live. Product is available, and there's enough structure to help friends understand where this is going (something that's harder to do with ideas and concepts not supported by active practice). This new engine supports local sales and our ground-shipping-only premise in ways that prior sites have never managed. I have enough process in place to bring others in should that be needed (though with inventory still housed mostly within my bedroom – again, worst case scenario plan in effect – that would be a limited term arrangement en route to something more social. I'll let you know after I've encountered a scenario where my brain is screaming "HOW COULD I NOT?"
Why? Because that's one of the most important lessons I ever learned about entrepreneurship or anything else: don't say 'yes' unless you can get excited about it.
The other most important lesson (or, reminder from the early days)? It's more gratifying to say 'Here: I made this' and to surprise/delight than it is to manage work to others' expectations... which is why, after 3+ years of trying to prognosticate and more than 6 months of just shutting the hell up, it's nice to be popping back out here to share the new web site.
Because I'm proud of it (finally!). And it's working as intended. And with our 100% secondhand everything + 100% ground shipping premise delivering the most sustainable goods possible, I do hope you'll find our offerings - both current and future - useful in your efforts to live within the constraints of our common planet.
Here. I made this: