you might have been around with us ten years ago...
you might have come along somewhere between then and now.
or, perhaps, this is the first time you’ve happened upon us.
no matter where you joined us in the timeline, here we are together.
this letter is to each of you.
10 years ago, we opened the doors of imogene + willie in an old service station in nashville, tn.
as we have been reflecting on the last decade, i personally have gone through so many exercises trying to pinpoint the most special moments. it finally hit me that the true beauty of i+w has been the very intricate weave of thousands of moments. many of these moments we have directly been a part of, but there are so many more that we don’t even know about, ones that took place in your lives.
i’ve come to the old service station a couple of times this week after close, and here i am back this morning before we open. i just wanted to sit here on the couch alone, to try to figure out what brought this all together--what brought us all together. i think i might have just figured it out.
the first several years we didn’t even have a sign, and we caught a lot of flack for it. i’ll never forget this sweet group of women that came in one day--mad as hell! they had come from somewhere in georgia to see the shop. they came in scolding us, they had been driving around for an hour trying to find us. we apologized and had a group hug. however, after they left, there were some high fives. that’s exactly why we chose to not have a sign. we truly wanted you to just happen upon us.
i could write a book full of all the stories that happened because of there being no sign. just to help you get in my current state of mind, i’d love to share a few with you.
about 6 months after the shop opened, matt and i were in new york for work. we were sardined in the entrance of an italian restaurant, waiting with a handful of strangers. i looked down, and the guy i was standing by had on a pair of jeans with an orange “+” sign on the side. i complimented him on his jeans and asked him where he got them. he told me that he had been wearing them every day for 6 months, and that he got them at a special place that no one really knew about. he told us it was a place meant to be kept a secret. we both were shocked, and for sure humbled. we didn’t tell him that we also were in on the secret.
another time matt and i were road tripping to do personal fittings on the west coast. we rolled into oklahoma city late on the first night. we went to grab a bite to eat at the hotel bar, where it was us and about three other people. one of the three had on a “+” sign cap. i had to ask himf where he got it. he went on to explain to us not only where he got his hat, but why he got it and what it meant to him. that led to another hour of talking and hearing his story. we ended up on the floor together, laughing and crying.
by the next night we made it to santa fe.
with never having been there, we decided to stick around the following morning to soak in the town. after a quick exploration, we found a little cafe to grab some lunch. i needed to go to the restroom before we got back on the road. matt said, “hurry, we need to get moving.”
ha! when i walked into the restroom, there were two women washing their hands. i honed in on one of them, as her jeans looked really good. i saw the “+” sign. but then, i almost lost my mind! i noticed one of the back pockets was sewn on a bit crooked. i went on about my business, but at last minute (from the stall), i asked the gals to not leave. i popped my head out and asked the one wearing the jeans, “your jeans look really great, but can i see your back pockets? where did you get them?.”
she told me her story, and i was so moved that i shared mine with her.
she took me by the hand and dragged me out into the courtyard of the restaurant. in tears she introduced me to her husband, who also had on his i+w jeans. i hollered to matt and abi for them to join us. we shared some time together and heard their stories, which brought us to our knees. then, we parted and got back on the road--knowing that we all shared a secret.
maybe these stories, along with the thousands more that could be told, would have transpired even if we had a sign up in those early days. but i’m going to stick to believing that the intricate weave of experiences, your stories that have been passed from one to another over the years are all because someone happened upon this precious little gas station with no sign. and after they left, they passed on their secret. then the web started being woven, connecting us all together.
this morning, as i’m sitting alone in that gas station, i have found my solace. this place, this thing: imogene + willie. it belonged to just matt and me for a only split second. that second was the specific moment that we dreamed up the idea. from that moment on, imogene + willie was not just ours. every single team member--both past and present--and every single one of you that have walked through the doors or who have followed along but haven’t made it here yet... it is yours. all together. that’s how it happened, and that is why we are still here.
in full transparency, i’ve written a version of this letter to you in my head several times in the past. but on those sleepless nights when i was writing it, the ending was different. as in all of our lives, everything was not always pretty. on some nights, i would be writing in my head the letter to let you know that we weren’t going to make it, that the journey had come to its end. but when morning came, we would always get our strength back. why? because of the army of support and belief that has always surrounded.
with deep humility and tremendous pride, we celebrate 10 years. we are here to stay, as long as we are all in this together.
with our gratitude and all of our love,