What started from a simple plunge and a struggle to explain their name has now become a beloved store delighting adults with an eclectic range of objects and knick-knacks. Joie de Vivre is nestled in the colorful college town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it has served the community for over 30 years with a unique selection of items from postcards and puzzles to kaleidoscopes and American crafts that appeal to almost any budget. A MOVA Globe retailer since 2008, Joie de Vivre owner Linda Given took some time out of her day to talk with us about how she started her business, how she first encountered MOVA Globes, and how she selected her fancy name.
Tell us a little bit about how Joie de Vivre began.
Joie de Vivre was started a bit out of desperation. I had dropped out of college, and spent the next ten years doing things as assorted as waitressing, making rolling pins and cutting boards in Vermont, working in a bookstore, working in a gallery. In my early thirties, I felt that I had to try to find a better way to support myself. It was important to me that I do something I felt good about, and as I had always enjoyed my retail jobs, decided to try opening a store.
Why makes you a proud independent retailer?
I am proud to be an independent retailer because I think small owner-run businesses wind up being unique in a way that larger businesses cannot be. And I’m a “big” believer in “small is good” – I think smaller businesses are more personal and friendly on the whole.
What makes your store unique? Why do your customers love shopping there?
I think Joie de Vivre is unique in the way all small owner run businesses are – it is a reflection of one person’s taste – something that really can’t be duplicated. Joie is also unique in that we offer things for sale that range in price from 25 cents to over $500 – and we treat all items – and customers – with equal respect. I think our customers love shopping here because they know they will find unusual items, and because they know we will try to help them with whatever their needs happen to be, whether buying a baby present or a retirement gift, something just plain silly like a yodeling pickle , or something beautiful – like a kaleidoscope or a piece of jewelry – or something fascinating – like for example – a MOVA Globe!
How are you impacting the community?
I think – or rather, I hope – that we impact our community just by our presence. That sounds grandiose, but I mean it more in the sense that we are a very small and very friendly store, and have become friends with many of our customers. We also try to keep the spirit of the store friendly to all – won’t sell anything crude or mean, and so are completely child friendly. We like to talk to people and get to know them. We know their children, and as we have been in business 31 years now, we have seen kids who were 8 or 9 when we opened, come in and bring their own young children.
What makes the city of Cambridge interesting and why should people visit the area?
Cambridge is an interesting city. We get lots of foreign visitors, and many are there because they want to visit Harvard University. But the city is filled with interesting little shops, great restaurants, wonderful museums, and a great variety of different people who really care about trying to make the world a better place.
When did you first discover MOVA Globes?
I first saw a MOVA Globe years ago when an inventor friend (Rufus Seder) brought Shaw Lin to my store – along with a large MOVA Globe. It was very large – and very expensive and at that point, just seemed out of reach price wise – I can’t even remember if wholesale was even an option at that point, but I was instantly mesmerized. And I was thrilled when I several years later saw the smaller globes offered at the New York Gift Show.
What are has the general response to the MOVA Globes?
Our customers are completely fascinated by MOVA Globes. We often keep one in our front window and people come inside in a kind of trance and walk up to it trying to figure out how it works – we then direct them to the ones we keep right at our front desk – the easier to talk about and also to monitor. (at one point we displayed one farther away from desk and someone didn’t realize it wasn’t attached to the base, tried to pick it up, dropped it and broke it along with a few things on the shelf underneath. But – I have yet to encounter anyone who was not entranced – it is a truly magical object, and even though I’ve been looking at them for three or four years – the magic lasts. The brain cannot quite figure out what it is seeing, even when explained.
Which model is your favorite
I can’t say I have a true “favorite” model – we sell the 4.5 inch globes in about 6 styles. If forced to choose, I guess I would have to say I like the antique beige and the cobalt blue with silver best. Though I suspect I’m going to really like the seafoam green Cassini Terrestrial when we get it!
One last question – why the name Joie de Vivre? Any memorable interactions with customers about it?
I spent an evening with a few friends and a bottle of wine, choosing a name for my store, and finally, settled on Joie de Vivre a French expression that is somewhat inexactly translated as the Joy of life. Joie de Vivre seemed to sum up the feeling I wanted – a store where everything sold would be something that would bring a little joy to my customers, be it a twenty-five cent plastic goldfish or a hundred dollar kaleidoscope. For our twentieth anniversary a few years back, we made up a bunch of buttons. Some featured our name and logo but the most popular was the small blue one with the phonetic spelling: “zhwah duh VEEV-ruh.” It’s fun to have something to give away to shoppers from out of town, or anyone who professes great affection for the store. Just a few months ago a man came in looking distracted. “What exactly is this place called?”, he asked. “Joie de Vivre!”, I replied. “Really?”, he said, looking quite amazed. “And…what does it mean?”. I explained. It was a lazy afternoon so I gave him the long explanation. “That’s crazy”, he said. “I had no idea what it meant, or that it was here. I was walking by on my way to the Square. I just had an argument with my wife. She said I had absolutely no joie de vivre.” I gave him a few buttons. “Now you do” I said. There is a little something in a name.