Wednesday, December 29, 2010
We have a few new shipments coming in this week. More freshly made felted soap will be here on December 31st. We're also receiving some new small market style Bolga baskets in the next couple of days. It seems we can never have enough of these versatile African baskets. Last but not least, we're looking forward to more incense, women's shirts, and handbags from Nepal, like this gorgeous monk's bag.
Monday, December 27, 2010
We have some beautiful new Zulu baskets in house. Zulu beer baskets, like the beauty pictured here are among the best known African baskets. They were used in lieu of pottery for storing and transporting beer and other liquids by the Zulu, and are remarkably rigid and sturdy. Called Ukhamba in their native South Africa, they are commonly given as wedding gifts by the Zulu. We're proud to now include Zulu baskets in our selection of African baskets.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
We have great new juniper wood draining soap dishes. They are slightly concave to help keep your soap from slipping out, and have grooves that channel the water toward the drainage holes. They have a nice clean design and neutral color, so we think they will fit well with most types of décor. Our handmade soap, sea salt scrub bars, and felted soap all will last much longer if allowed to dry between uses, so this is a perfect companion for them.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
We received dozens of new Bolga baskets, our most popular African baskets, this week. If you're looking for natural colored rectangle or oval Bolga baskets this is a great time to see a wide selection. We also have lots of new flower Bolga baskets in various sizes, and tapered oval baskets in both natural and dyed.
Bolga baskets are the work horses of African baskets, built for practicality and durability. Zulu baskets are more like show horses. Although they still are used in South Africa for storing and transporting liquids and dry goods, the majority of Zulu baskets produced these days are art pieces. They have a way of looking both deeply traditional and strikingly modern, and fit a wide range of décors. We are gradually growing our selection of Zulu beer baskets. If you come into the store and don't see one you like, ask as we may well have more in the back that you can view.One of our goals for 2011 is to become the premier online retailer of African baskets, so look for us to continue to widen our selection.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
We have a lot of great new inventory coming this week. We have beautiful new soapstone carvings, like this gorgeous elephant bowl. More Zulu baskets are arriving today and will begin going up on the website tomorrow, and they are closely followed by new Bolga baskets that are due in Thursday. We're happy to be getting in more felted wool trivets and other beauties from Nepal tomorrow, as well as some nice simple draining soap dishes made from Juniper wood. Thursday we should receive more water hyacinth handbags and dragon kites. We have dozens of other new items coming as well, and our website is being updated daily. We still have plenty of other holiday favorites, like felted soap and beer soap. I think I hear UPS....
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Our felted soap makes a great stocking stuffer! We also have a great selection of other handmade soaps, sea salt scrub bars, and handmade shampoo bars at prices ranging from $4.99 to $5.99. We particularly love our handmade beer soap, which is a great gift for that person who loves beer in any form, and is also a flat-out great soap. We also have some mini Zulu baskets that are perfect for storing herbs and spices. Check out our selection of felted wool items from Nepal, like these coasters. We have scores of cool handmade jewelry items, like these yak bone wrist malas. We're also fond of our soapstone carvings. Enjoy shopping!
Friday, December 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
We carry two handmade beer soaps, Amber Ale Soap made from Widmer's Drop Top Amber Ale, and IPA Soap, made from Widmer's Broken Halo IPA. The idea of beer soap is off-putting to many people because they don't want to emerge from the shower smelling like they've been knocking back a few. The truth is that most beer soaps have a subdued scent similar to fresh baked bread, and little or no fragrance will linger after rinsing. If you've ever visited a brewpub and smelled the blend of yeast and hops, you have an idea of what most beer soaps will smell like. Our beer soaps are not novelties: beer is a logical ingredient to use in soaps. It has antimicrobial properties, suds well (of course!), and provides an appealing color and fragrance. Our beer soaps qualify as natural soaps as there are no sythetic ingredients. They make cool offbeat gifts, but I also urge anyone who wants a nice handmade soap that lathers exceptionally well to give beer soap a try.
We have dozens of gifts that won't break the bank, ranging from Iwako erasers starting at $.99 to beautiful African baskets at $19.99. Felted soaps make a perfect stocking stuffer and are beautiful, fragrant, and useful. This recycled silk hat is only $17.99, and we have plenty of other great hats from Nepal for the same price. The bamboo clutch pictured here comes in multiple colors and is a steal at $14.95. The list goes on: beautiful chopsticks for $1.99-$2.49, sea salt scrub bars for $5.99, Kenyan ox bone necklaces for $19.99, and much, much more. To find more great deals, choose a category on our website and select an option under Shop by Price on the left side of your screen.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Natural soaps by definition contain no artificial ingredients. Some of our Tango Zulu brand soaps qualify as natural, others don't. Here's what they all have in common: they are handmade with all natural vegetable oils, lye, shea butter, and in some cases a natural colorant. Some contain additional natural ingredients, including sugar, oatmeal, anise powder, dried lavender, and many other items to add fragrance, visual appeal, or texture. What separates our natural soaps from the others is the fragrance. We use synthetic fragrances for some of our soaps because it is simply not possible to get every fragrance in the form of a natural essential oil. A great example is our Plum Spice soap, which is our best selling soap. There is no such thing as plum essential oil, so we use a synthetic fragrance that is non-toxic and accounts for less than 2% of the soap.
We're also very much aware that many people wish to avoid even small amounts of synthetic products in their skin care, and we're proud to carry several varieties of natural soaps. Our beer soaps are fantastic. Beer is naturally antimicrobial, and as you know from watching it foam, it lathers up just fine! Beer soap tends to have a scent similar to fresh baked bread, and the color ranges from golden amber to rich dark red - depending, of course, on the type of beer used. We also carry peppermint natural soap, which is singularly invigorating and refreshing. Our lavender soap is a natural soap as well, and it looks beautiful and smells divine. For an ultra mild, fragrance-free natural soap, try our olive oil soap. We also always include at least one natural sea salt scrub bar in the rotation - currently Ginger Citrus and Peppermint.
Long story short, if we only carried natural soaps we couldn't provide all the fragrances people expect and love. However, even our soaps with synthetic fragrances are far closer to a true natural soap than the vast majority of mass produced soaps.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Felted wool soaps have arrived, freshly made, fragrant, and beautiful! For those who aren't familiar with them, felted wool soaps are simply soaps that have been wrapped in sheep's wool. When the soap gets wet, it lathers up through the felted wool, which exfoliates as it cleans. The wool shrinks as the soap diminishes, and when the soap is all gone you can keep the wool as a scrub cloth, or cut a slit in it and insert a new soap. We think ours rival anyone's in terms of price and quality. The soap is the same great quality handmade soap made by the cold process method as our other Tango Zulu brand soaps. I think a great holiday gift idea is a small flower Bolga basket with a few felted wool soaps in it!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Our African basket collection has grown large enough to warrant its own category on the website, so you will now see an African Baskets section with subcategories by style, such as Market Baskets and Oval Baskets. We still have a catch-all Handwoven Baskets subcategory under home and Garden that encompasses all the African baskets as well as those from other areas, like our Thai water hyacinth baskets and our felted wool baskets from Nepal, seen here.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
While you're here, check out our African baskets. We just got a shipment in this afternoon, so inventory is at its peak. We also have IWAKO erasers and other cool things for the kids. And as always, we have plenty of clothing, handmade soaps and sea salt scrub bars, African jewelry, and much more!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
One of our internet customers purchased two African straw hats from us, and was kind enough to send these pictures of the hat they were replacing. Now that is a well loved hat! It also looks quite a bit like the West African straw hats we carry, which are made in Burkina Faso. I love getting the background story from customers, especially when we're able to help with a hard to find item. I hope the new hats provide as many good years as the old one did.
Monday, October 4, 2010
The maples and elms here in Port Gamble are turning vivid shades of red and gold, and the town is gearing up for a full slate of paranormal-themed events this month. We have a nice assortment of African baskets with orange, rust, and gold hues that make perfect fall accessories. Small Bolga baskets are ideal for either gathering or dispersing Halloween candy (the small market baskets and small and medium flower baskets in particular.) We have Tanzania and Ghana fruit baskets that would look lovely at a Thanksgiving dinner, and plenty of other sizes and shapes in seasonal colors.
Prepare for the cold with our merino wool shawls from India and our hats and gloves from Nepal. We have them in kid's sizes as well as adults.
We're open seven days a week, 10am-5pm, except major holidays. If course, you can shop online anytime, and we offer free shipping for orders over $100 throughout the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.
Happy fall to all!
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Last week was a monster week in terms of new inventory, so we're bursting with African baskets, Nepalese clothing, Indian copper and silver jewelry, and much more. We're getting it up on our website as quickly as we can, but keeping up with processing new inventory is something we haven't fully mastered.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Speaking of African baskets, we just got in two big shipments of Bolga baskets this week, so we're at peak inventory. If you've been thinking about buying one, now is a great time because our selection is so large. And a reminder....we offer free shipping anywhere in the U.S. on orders over $100.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I still believe that. But our own experience with the banks did validate that claim. As individuals, we had a spotless credit history, but as a new business, Tango Zulu Imports had no credit history. Even though I could have purchased an automobile on my personal credit card, the same bank would not issue me a credit card for the business with enough credit to buy a tricycle.
So was it the case that after careless lending that led most banks to the brink of collapse and some over the edge, banks were now overly cautious? Clearly not all of them. Another bank that I have not done any business for several years has a standing offer of a large line of credit at rock bottom rate. Even the bank that made such as fuss about approving a lousy $500 credit card line, when we showed little interest, mysteriously approved a business credit card with credit line 40 times more than we cared for.
There are many hurdles along the path of starting a new business. Dealing with banks and its strange responses was the smallest of them.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Our business, Tango Zulu Imports, had the honor of hosting the monthly Kingston Chamber of Commerce (KCC) after hours event. Around 5pm when traffic around this town usually slows down, local business owners started showing up at Tango Zulu Imports, and their presence brightened up an otherwise gloomy early fall day. Quickly, the rooms filled up, where people drank wine, dined on delicious BBQ generously donated by Mike's Four Star BBQ and enjoyed a fabulous coffee concoction by Gamble Bay Coffee.
Other local businesses such as Best Friends Antiques, the General Store, Olympic Resource Group, The Salon & Spa on Gamble Bay and Tango Zulu Imports all contributed door prizes. Linda Fyfe, the executive director of KCC, picked the first winner of our door prize drawing, then each successive winner picked the next winner. As if by design, the manly prize of cup and saucer went to John, owner of Olympic Outdoor Center, who quickly discovered the proper use of the trophy as a beer cup. The masculine prize of hair care went to Jack Harrington, who, I'm glad to say, did not find immediate application for his winnings.
Everyone had a lot of fun and it is always wonderful to connect with the local community. We are thankful for everyone who came to the event, and all the local businesses who contributed to make this event such a great success!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
We continue to grow our online business. As in our storefront, Bolga baskets have turned into a major attraction on our online store as well. Our e-commerce sales have increased by double digits every month since we've been open. Most of our energy for the past four months has been directed toward the storefront, but now that it's sailing along we're beginning to spend more time on improving our web presence. We're making a concerted effort to get more of our products on the website, improve its aesthetics and performance, and increase our brand name awareness. We also just instituted free shipping for orders over $100, good throughout the U.S., and will be running various specials in the coming months.
We need to reach more local people. We made a decision early on to keep prices at North Kitsap levels, as opposed to tourist levels. This has paid off with both repeat local customers and happy tourists who have sometimes turned into internet customers. It also allows me to continually freshen inventory because it's priced to move quickly. There is still much to be done with marketing. I'm aware that A LOT of locals don't know we're here. Just about every day someone who lives nearby will come in who had no idea we existed until they walked by. I can't wait for the whole county to walk in through the door and discover all the things we have! We've selectively run print and web ads with Sound Publishing (our marketing dollars are scarce), and will hold some special events in the coming months. Word of mouth is helping as well, as is old-fashioned networking on top of the Facebook type, and we're a member of the very active Kingston Chamber of Commerce. The real test of how well we've done with building a local base will come in those cold, dreary months after the holidays.
The summer has been good, but it'll be interesting to see where we are in another four months!
Monday, July 26, 2010
The Fulani people are the largest nomadic group in the world, concentrated predominantly in West Africa. They are largely nomadic cattle herders and traders. The straw hats, known as Fulani hats, are used by these cattle herders to shield themselves from the African sun.
The largest is the Mali Fulani Hat. This hat has a large brim, the diameter of the brim ranges from 14″ to 17″. The brim is trimmed with leather and its end is marked by two black woven stripes where the rise of the crown starts. The conical shaped crown measures 6″ to 8″ tall, and is topped off with a patch of leather and a topknot with tassels. The smallest of our Fulani hats is almost identical to its bigger brother, except it has a narrower brim and several leather patch decorations around the base of the crown. Both of these hats have a long adjustable leather chin strap. Both hats are handmade in Mali.
The third variation is the Fulani Hat from Burkina Faso. Similarly leather-trimmed at the brim, the leather decorative patterns at the crown are more elaborate and the crown is round, unlike the topknot of the Mali Fulani hats.
I own a Mali Fulani hat myself, which I often use when I work in the field or garden. Sometimes, I wear it around town. I know there are many more people who have purchased the hat from Tango Zulu Imports, from both coasts of the country and many more within the state. Maybe one day, I will run into one of them and then I will tip my hat to them!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Prepared as we were, we were somewhat surprised at how demanding running a business is, even a small one. I took some time off from my day job and we spent many 14 to 16 hours days to get the business up and running. For every thing we had considered, there were two more that we did not take into account. Light bulbs, curtains, hangers, printer paper, programming and learning to use the cash register, formulating an inventory tracking system....We finally let out a long held breath when the store opened. A myriad of new tasks came along - display arrangement, product photos, price tagging, signs, shopping bags, shipping boxes...
Since we started this business, Tracy has been spending 9 hours a day, 7 days a week at the shop, and at night, we both get on our second job of preparing all the things that needed to be done for the website and the business in general. We started one business, but we have both been working as if we had two jobs.
The joy of all this is a sense of fulfillment. I can say this without blushing because as much as I would have enjoyed monetary rewards from the business, we are only nine weeks into our adventure and are a ways from becoming a profitable business. When majority of our customers who come into the store show their appreciation of the goods we sell, when so many of them tell us we have reasonable prices, when so many of our local customers return and bring their family and friends, we believe we have done something right. Our stated business mission is to bring unique and quality goods at reasonable prices to our customers. We believe that through our hard work, and treat our customers as we would like to be treated as customers, we will, as many of our customers tell us, do great.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
What are they used for? Let me count the ways... I have a large market basket I use for harvesting vegetables. My customers have used various types for sewing kits, fruit baskets, toy containers, book totes, kindling holders, laundry baskets, shopping bags, and a host of other tasks. One customer even uses a pot basket similar to this one as a lunch box.
If they ever need to be reshaped or cleaned, you can wet them thoroughly with cool water, then shape and clean them as needed without the dye running. In fact, exposure to water will make the already tight weave even tighter and stronger.
With their combination of beauty and function, it's no wonder Bolga baskets are well-loved and well-used by so many people.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
The size of this box makes it an ideal jewelry box.
Bone carving has a long history in Chinese culture. A bone carving of a human face was discovered in 1982 dates back to 6,000 years ago and is believed to be one of the earliest artistic bone carvings. Beijing, Zhejiang, Inner Mongolia, Guangdong and Fujian province are the main producers of modern bone carvings.
We also carry Bone Box with Cricket, Bone Box with Frog,Bone Box with Rabbits and other similarly intricate bone box carvings. Come visit our store if you are near Port Gamble area, or visit our online store any time!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Tango Zulu Imports officially opened for business at 10:15am today, May 8th, 2010. For the first couple of hours, we were still trying to understand how the cash register worked and anxiously, though neither Tracy nor I said anything to each other about it, waiting for our first sale to come through. Couple hours later, we finally had a pair of nice ladies who came in and made a small purchase and started the life of Tango Zulu Imports. Amidst the relief of having made the first sale, we became even more anxious, not knowing what lies ahead. Things took off from there. We had many groups of people who stopped by the store, despite the complete lack of any advertisement. We were happy with both the sales activities and feedback on the first day. The feedback was fantastic, almost everyone loved the store and thought our pricing was pleasingly reasonable, and goods we carry unique and wanted by the area.
It was, after all, a fantastic day for Tango Zulu Imports. Now I just need to get back to get our website going.
Friday, April 30, 2010
We arrived at Omaha and took a quick nap before heading out to the cocktail reception at Borsheims. The scene at Borsheims, which is a Berkshire holding, was not unlike that of a popular concert, except that the audience was comprised of people of all ages and different walks of lives. The credential hanging around our necks served as the secret password into the building, and fighting against the dense crowd, we finally made it into the center of the building and got us couple of drinks. Borhsheims was shoulder to shoulder with drink-toting shareholders ogling the jewelry. As we were admiring a diamond ring for $15,000, someone walked up next to us and asked where the jewelry above one million dollars are sold. What is money after all, hey? We settled for free drinks and lots of meatballs.
We are looking forward to the annual meeting tomorrow, when the Oracle of Omaha will talk about how Berkshire fared last year and impart his wisdom. All in all, it's been a good day.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
We met with a jewelry maker yesterday. She had a great selection of beautifully crafted earrings, rings and necklaces. Her work is also featured in the Seattle Art Museum and we are glad to feature her items in our store.
I am planning to take a week off in two weeks to help the store get ready for the grand opening. Things are looking up, though whenever I start looking at the details, it is difficult to avoid being stressed. I'd never thought starting a business would be such a difficult process. Not in a technical way, but in the millions of little things that seem to spawn out of each other.
However, today is a great day for Tango Zulu Imports.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
This process seemed strangely familiar. It reminds me of the time when we bought our house, probably the biggest investment that we've ever made, yet from the conception of the idea to putting our signatures on the paper took less than six weeks, and we only spent one day looking at houses!
We have been very happy with that adventure, now that we have lived in the same house for more than a decade. Although starting a business is nothing like buying a house, I believe we have prepared for this new adventure as well as we are able.
Besides, the inventory has arrived. We have a lot of work ahead of us to set up the store front. If you are interested, look through our online store and let us know if you want something. We aren't officially open for business yet, but do let us know before my wife decides to keep everything for herself - she's completely in love with the goods we got!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
In early April, 2010, we finally put together a business plan and gathered up enough courage to tread into the unfamiliar territory of starting a retail business. On April 6th, we received our business license and the company was born.