Small Business Saturday 2012

Hello, lovely friends!

It’s that time of year again — SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY. That day in which you can put your money where your mouth is and support those small, local folks who are busting their rump to make a living against the Giant Chain Stores that sponsor Black Friday.

I started my Saturday early yesterday, and shopped at some lovely independent stores here in Newport News. I encourage you to do the same today.

What’s that? You’re still stuffed from Turkey and can’t move? You’re too tired from standing in line at Best Buy all night?

Well, then, you’re in luck. Here are some links to a few FABULOUS folks online whose items would make GREAT presents for those hard-to-buy-for members of your family.


Dixie Dunbar Studio — fine, handcrafted, original jewelry designed by my one-and-only fantastic little sister, Soteria Kontis. Don’t see something in your price/taste range? Give her a call at (843) 722-0006 and tell her what you’re in the market for. She’ll make something to suit your needs.

J.K. Lee Art & Sundries — Every year, Janet uploads a new line of limited edition Christmas ornaments in addition to her art prints and giclees. Have you seen this year’s yet? I’m a big fan of Sneaky Santa and the Art Nouveau set!

Water Closet Soap — Handmade soaps by local Loudoun County mom (and avid book reader) Kristen Kane. (You may remember Kristin as mother of the Infamous Lorelei.) Kristin is on vacation until November 27th, but do sign up for the email notification of her return. You won’t want to miss these really fun and fragrant designs.

One More Page Books — This super independent bookstore in Alexandria, VA has graciously offered to order in your favorite books by Alethea Kontis so that I can personalize and sign them just for you! Give them a call at 703-300-9746 or to place your order.

Carol Berning Fine Art — This year’s 2012 Happy Holidays CD was illustrated by Murfreesboro, TN artist (and all-around wonderful person) Carol Berning. You can order prints–and even greeting cards–of some of her most popular works from her website. If you love Winking Santa, you can own him today!


Do you have any favorite online small businesses? I encourage you to post their links below.

Thank you — and Happy Holidays to you all! xox


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Mission: Accomplished (for now)

If you patronize a small business, know someone who owns one, or own one yourself, you were also in a tizzy a few days ago scrambling for votes on the website.

in a nutshell, Chase and Living Social are giving away $3 million in the form of 12 $250,000 grants for small businesses. I found the link through Pat Rothfuss and immediately passed it on to my sister, who has been struggling to keep her beautiful jewelry shop, Dixie Dunbar Studio, alive since Charleston spruced up King Street and the economy immediately went to the dogs.

Soteria had to fill out an extensive application that included an essay portion (no, I did not help her with it aside from toss a few ideas her way–she’s a fabulous writer all on her own). In addition, as part of the application process, businesses had to acquire 250 votes on the Mission: Small Business website.

I bugged you all for two days solid, and I won’t apologize. I would do anything for my little sister, including pester the crap out of your for 48 hours. And you know what? IT WORKED.


During this process, Soteria decided that her friends & fans needed some incentive to click a button, so she announced that if she got to 250, she would be posting a video of herself singing Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” and posting it on Facebook for the world to see.

As the day went along she got two back-up singers (one is her fabulous husband, who just passed his Nursing Boards) and she started planning set design, costumes, and choreography.

I know you guys are all wondering when you will be able to feast your eyes on my awesome rendition of “Baby Got Back”. Just an update, one of my backup dancers is out of town till the 8th, which gives me time to relearn all the words and try to come up with costumes/set design. Then we must recruit people to help film/edit the video, and then it’s all yours. I promise you won’t have to wait long for “Miss Stir-A-Bit” to rock your world. –Soteria

What…you thought she was just going to set up her webcam and karaoke for a bit?? Silly, you. SHE IS A KONTIS SISTER. If we raise the bar for anyone, it is ourselves. (And then each other.)

I will be posting/embedding the video the moment Miss Stir-a-Bit goes live — so if you don’t catch it on the Dixie Dunbar FB Fan Page, you will catch it here. I don’t know about you, but I CAN’T WAIT.

It will be worth it, though. YOU are worth it. You deserve all the smiles in the world for helping accomplish this, and once again, we thank you.

Now that the votes are literally in, the thousands of applications are reviewed by a panel including:

  • Steve Case, entrepreneur and founder of AOL
  • Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes
  • Jason Calacanis, co-founder of Weblogs, Inc.
  • David Chavern, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Richard Quigley, president, Business Card, Chase
  • Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO and co-founder of LivingSocial

We will keep you posted on that as well.

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The “Sunday” Necklace

Launching the Dixie Dunbar Studio Fairy Tale line of jewelry is the “Sunday” necklace, inspired by the novel Enchanted.

The necklace is made of simple chain, as befits a Woodcutter’s daughter, but the asymmetrical design is pure elegance.

Like Sunday Woodcutter’s magical dress of silver and gold the third night of the prince’s ball, the Sunday necklace is comprised of silver- and gold-brass chains that sweep around the neck and culminate in a graceful central waterfall.

The Sunday necklace is affordably priced at only $90~

Click here to order your today!

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Win This Necklace!

[Edited again to add: Now that Paypal is fixed, Chip In seems to be broken, and the widget with the button for donating money has vanished.

You can always contribute to the fund straight to me through PayPal. My address is my email: akontis at gmail dot com.

You may also try the alternate Chip In page I have just set up here.]


Yesterday morning, on the way home from the gym, my sister called to tell me she had emailed me the picture of the necklace she will be donating on behalf of Dixie Dunbar’s Studio for the “Chip In for Gas on Alethea’s Summer Book Tour” raffle.

By the time I got home to check my mail there was another email, informing me that Paypal had “temporarily restricted” my account pending a series of verifications, password changes, and proofs of ID.

I’ve heard horror stories about this sort of thing in the past. I won’t lie: I was worried. I asked that no one contribute any more to the fund for the time being, and told Soteria that I would postpone posting the picture of the necklace until the issue was resolved.

Happily, late yesterday afternoon, the issue was resolved. We will speak no more of this.

We will, however, speak of this absolutely gorgeous necklace.

You can win this fabulous, unique, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted, purple necklace for as little as $1. That’s right, any amount, no matter how small, will get you entered to win this fantastic piece of artwork.

All you have to do is pop on by and Chip In a buck or two for gas money for my book tour through the Southern US this summer. That’s it! It’s just that easy!

Again, I thank you all so much in advance for whatever you are able to contribute. Believe me–right now I am possibly more aware than I ever have been before of just how much every little bit helps.


[Edited to add: If the winner of this raffle is a gentleman who would prefer a necklace for himself instead of a wife/girlfriend/etc, Soteria is willing to swap out this item for a man’s necklace. No other substitutions or exchanges are applicable.]

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The Spirograph Obsession

My fellow Coedxian, author Elaine Isaak, sent me a tweet yesterday asking about my “recent obsession with Spirograph.” I thought perhaps this deserved a better-than-140-character explanation.

It was Memere who had the Spirograph at her house — we might have owned one, but I don’t ever remember playing with it at home. Only ever at Memere’s house.

There were a few activites particular to Memere’s: Strawberry picking and making fresh daiquiris from the fruits of our labor (virgin daiquiris, of course–it wasn’t en vogue to call them “smoothies” back then). Eating Bugles with ranch dip and watching the Miss America Pageant. Sneaking into the blue room and thieving candies out of the pretty dishes there and not getting caught. Sledding down the mountainside backyard. And walking to the Morse Farm Sugar Shack, of course.

Memere (or “Gram,” as we often call her) eventually had a pool installed in the back yard, but by then we were too old to summer in Vermont anymore. No, what Soteria and I loved as girls was the large bureau in the guest bedroom whose drawers were full of games and toys and pens and paper. One of those “games” was Spirograph.

Soteria and I, both artisically-minded young girls (as most young girls are, though ours never wore off) would spend HOURS bent over circles and cams with pens of all colors, desperately attempting to recreate the gorgeous designs in the booklet. As with most art projects, Spirograph took a steady and careful hand, and huge amounts of patience. Eventually that patience would wear thin, or it would be time for dinner, and the projects would be packed up in the box and filed away in th drawer to be met again on another vacation.

I wonder what happened to all those games and things when Memere sold her house and moved to the condo. I hope whatever child got it treasured the magic in those ovoid bits of plastic (if not out myriad attempts at achieving perfection).

Every so often, a conversation  about the Spirograph pops up between Soteria and me–especially now that Memere is in hospice with Alzheimers and we try to remember older, better, more lucid times. Inevitably, Soteria’s in the shop and I’m at work, and the idea never gets scribbled down on paper as a quirky Christmas gift item. And so it goes, for months and years.

So yesterday, when I saw someone post a picture of the Spirograph on Fecebook, it was a simple enough thing to repost. And then, as happens with social networking, it exploded. Everyone shared links and memories. My friend Mandi even shared some Spirographing she’d done with her niece!

I thought it would be a fun game to give swag away to anyone who comes to me at a signing or  convention appearance and gives me a spirograph cam or circle. I’d love to have a huge collection I can bring back to the Afterschool program next year!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I hope all of my sweetheart friends are having a lovely day today! Did you receive a treat from someone you loved today? Have you treated yourself? Well…for goodness sakes, why not?

Stop over at Dixie Dunbar Studio right now and get yourself something special. For one week only the rest of the month (thank you, Soteria!), use coupon code XOXO to receive 20% off your purchase!

And if you happen to be in Charleston, SC this week, do stop by 192 King Street on Thursday night for a glass of wine to celebrate Soteria and Anne’s post-Valentine’s Day bash!

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On the Importance of Turkeys

Thanksgiving weekend’s not over yet! And before it is, I have a quick message I would like to say to my beloved little sister, in front of the whole world.

My next video should be about the story behind this, or why we called Soteria “Sami” all those years…but for now, I’m just sort of hoping this prompts a response. *evil grin*

Remember — Buy a Pair of Earrings Today & Save a Small Business!

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Small Business Saturday

Those of you who already know what I’m going to say can just click this link. *grin*

For the rest of you who stood in line at the Big Chain Stores yesterday to get the Big Deals of the Season…today’s your day to shop from the heart. Yes, it’s SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY… here’s how you can take part! (And not just by “Liking” the page on Facebook.)

As you know, my beloved little sister owns a fabulous jewelry studio in Charleston, SC where she designs amazing unique jewelry: Dixie Dunbar Studio.

When the guys at Best Buy have a decent Black Friday weekend, they get to buy a new yacht. When my sister has a decent Black Friday weekend, she can pay her rent for a few more months. If she has a *really* good weekend, she can even afford to have someone else watch the storefront so she can design & build her inventory and her husband can work on studying for his nursing degree.

If all of my friends stopped by the Dixie Dunbar website and just bought only one pair of earrings, Soteria would have a really good weekend. Please help me help her do this by clicking on the earrings pictured here.

Don’t think you can afford her style? The stinky thing about unique designs is that there’s a limit to what Soteria can put on her website, because she has to squirrel that jewelry away and not sell it in her store. If you’re interested at in any of these designs, I urge you to give her a call (843-722-0006) or send her an email and let her know 1.) what style you’re interested in and 2.) what you’re willing to spend on a piece. Soteria is happy to custom make something just for you! She really is just that talented.

(She has also been asked to design some jewelry for a certain television show being filmed in Charleston…but you didn’t hear that from me. Fingers crossed!)

I implore you all to please support Small Business Saturday. Keep local artists in business. Please buy a pair of earrings for your mom, your sister, your wife, and/or yourself. Here’s that handy-dandy link again for you. And totally tell her The Princess sent you…because that would be HILARIOUS.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Happiest of holidays to you and yours! xox


[PS – Yes, Soteria also makes jewelry for men. In fact, she really enjoys the challenge and has some great materials to work with. Call her up and ask her anything!]

[PPS – Tell her the Princess sent you and receive an extra 10% off your order!]

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TODAY ONLY – 50% of DDS Jewelry

TODAY ONLY — which means click on this link now — Living Social is featuring Dixie Dunbar Studio as their Deal of the Day.

I still have yet to learn about how Living Social works, but I think if you get the deal, and then share the deal, and then three of your friends get the deal you’ve shared, you get it for free.

I’ll tell you right now, I’m not sharing the deal for my own personal profit (because my sister is the proprietor), BUT YOU SHOULD! Please do! Go forth and multiply!

Also, in the fine print, it *does* say “in store only”. But why on earth would you let that stop you? Pop on over to the website right now and treat yourself to some really nice & affordable earrings. You deserve them. And they make great gifts (which also justifies you buying a pair for yourself)!

Support the arts! Support independent shop owners! Support people who share my DNA!

(And, if you click on the link, you will also find out what really awesome film star will be sporting DDS jewelry to promote her new movie…)

I would say have a lovely Monday, but Mondays typically suck. Make your Monday suck less. Go get yourself something shiny, share a great deal, and make the world a better place. *hugs*

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The Jewelry Designer Diva

Just because it’s not May anymore doesn’t mean I won’t be hosting interviews on my blog anymore. They just don’t always have to be about writers…like this one!

I talk about my sister Soteria and her spectacular jewelry all the time–heck, I’ve handed out her business cards to people who have complimented me on the New York subway–but how well do you really know her? Here’s your chance to find out!

I asked her these questions a while ago — she took her time answering, and I took my time posting them. I say this because in one of the questions I reference “this holiday season,” and I actually have NO IDEA WHAT FREAKING HOLIDAY I’M TALKING ABOUT. Just so we’re clear. Enjoy!

And when you’re done, pop on over to the Dixie Dunbar Studio website and check out the pretty shiny stuff!


Alethea Kontis: When did you start making jewelry?

Soteria Kontis: I started making jewelry when I was a kid…of course I moved up the bead ladder from making friendship bracelets and daisy chains to knotting pearls, soldering and working with semi-precious stones. I always considered myself the jack of all trades until one day it occurred to me that I am actually really good at making jewelry. It’s nice to have one thing in your life you feel you’re really good at, whether it’s parallel parking or doing your taxes…it doesn’t matter what it is, just having something that makes you feel more confident about yourself is an awesome thing.

AK: Where did the name Dixie Dunbar come from?

SK: There is a Dixie Dunbar who was a famous actress in the 1930’s, but the one my store is named after is the Dixie Dunbar I helped to open this shop with 10 years ago. We worked together as best friends for years until she decided to retire two years ago. She is the coolest. I have never seen her “unadorned”, she wears jewelry when she gardens or even when she goes out for a jog. She taught me so much, her style is so unique and unmatched. People always said that Dixie could pull off so many things that they never could, and after being around her all day I finally realized why Dixie COULD in fact pull off her outlandish style…because she DOES. She doesn’t let insecurity get in the way of being who she is, and that’s her secret perfume. I aspire to be more like her. I kept the name because she lives on in the hearts of people who dare to try something new and different for themselves.

AK: How did you manage to get that famous red door?

SK: You have to offer up your first born in this town to get anything you want. I hope my husband doesn’t find out that our future son will be adopted by the city of Charleston. No, kidding. But you do have to make about 16 phone calls to city appointed members and then create a porfolio of pictures and color samples and show up in person to the Charleston Historical Society and beg and plead your case. FOR A DOOR. It’s the city’s policy, they want to keep people from “tackying” up Charleston, I suppose. I just wanted our shop to be noticed on king st. The city almost made me hire a “city approved Contractor” to paint our door FOR us, but luckily I talked them out of it.

AK: How often do you change the decorations in your shop window? How labor intensive is that?

SK: I have the most wonderful woman who helps out on occasion in the shop, and she calls me to remind me of upcoming events and holidays in which we need to decorate.  She has FABULOUS ideas, for valentines day we had huge blow up lips in the window and fuchsia pink busts with giant purple hearts behind them.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for the Spoleto arts festival we have in May.

AK: Who are your favorite customers?

SK: Men make the best customers. They are always content with everything. They never want anything in the shop that you DON’T have, unless their wife/girlfriend sent them on a mission for something. They are so easy to please, I swear sometimes I think I should have opened a cigar shop.

AK: Can you tell us some “worst customer” stories

SK: OH no, do I have to?!?!?  Okay, okay, well without naming any names I had (or currently have) this woman who saw a necklace in our shop window that she couldn’t live without.  Over the course of the next three months she proceeded to call us 8 to 10 times a day just to “talk” about the piece and sent us payments for it in small increments of money orders and by western union.  It got to the point where even though she was considered a customer, I felt I was being harassed.  8 to 10 times a day was a little much, and she would get angry if no one answered the phone. I tried to explain that we had a very small store and only one person in here at a time and that if we were currently helping customers there would be no one available to take her call.  She ignored my pleas and continued to call anyway.  After the three months it took to pay off the necklace we shipped it off and thought we were done with her, but she recently called back to “see what else we might have that she would like.”  I tried to direct her to the website but she didn’t seem interested.  I don’t want to jinx it, but we haven’t heard from her in a couple weeks.

AK: What are some of your favorite local independent shops?

SK: There’s a really cute shop called Willy Jay’s on middle King with some of the most adorable clothing and they are really affordable!  I also love the little local businesses that have opened up on my block, Lucinda Eden has beautiful dresses and housewares and LIly has cute little Charleston keepsakes. We are really making quite the little “locals corner” on lower King st!

AK: What would you like to tell everyone this holiday season?

SK: As a struggling owner of a local shop I must say I’d love to try to talk people into supporting local business more.  I promise we’re not that intimidating, I really don’t mind at all when people come in and let me know what they were thinking of spending…that way I can either help them find something in the shop that’s in their price range or even make them something special to give as a present.  Not only can you give a sentimental gift but you can help support the little man, I’d hate to think that one day this whole world will be one giant wal-mart.

AK: Where can people find your jewelry that don’t actually LIVE in Charleston?

SK: We do have a website,, and I now have pieces in a couple of stores around the US besides South Carolina…

Teri Anns, 290 Front St. Marietta Ohio, 45750

Artemisia, 101 S. Third Street Geneva, IL 60134

AK: If you could have one superpower (or be one superhero), who/what would it/you be?

SK: I always thought it would be cool to be able to go to any country and automatically be fluent in the language, but is that necessarily a superpower?  Or maybe I could just be Temp-Girl, who’s superpower is perpetually being 72 degrees with a light breeze.

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