The Buyer
Marissa signature

Madison, WI

BA Art History: University of Wisconsin, Madison

WAM Shop Buyer/Manager

Years at WAM:

Favorite WAM memory:
That’s a hard one, but probably the shop re-opening after the museum expansion (2011).

What are your responsibilities as the WAM Shop Manager & Buyer?
Sourcing and purchasing of shop inventory, planning and overseeing shop operations/systems/financials/supplies, hiring and supervising shop staff, planning and managing merchandising (displays and store aesthetics), building and maintaining vendor/product representative and artist relationships, student mentorship/education.

How do you decide what to carry in the shop? What does the buying process look like?
I have a general checklist I use for buying. [Here are some of the] criteria:

  • Fits with overall vision and aesthetic of shop. Working with the look and feel of the shop and Gehry’s design, there are visual elements of a modern, natural aesthetic.
  • Offers a price point and margin that meet shop objectives. I look for items that are priced to attract our target market and help us hit our sales goals.
  • Fits with the WAM brand and supports our exhibitions and programs. 
  • Has a story or artist’s hand behind it.

What is on your wish list right now? What would you buy from the shop? What would you buy for the shop?
I’d like to purchase Alex Soth’s Songbook [for myself]. I love his work and publications. Ashley Barlow is a local artist that’s been on my radar for a long time and [she] was recently hired by Target for a collaboration. I’d love to carry some of her small prints and other work.

What is your favorite room (gallery or behind the scenes) in the museum?
[I] don’t think I can say just one room. I love so much about the interior of this building - the light, the wood, the angles and beams, the uniqueness of each gallery space - I feel so blessed to come to work in this amazing building. As a collector of ceramics, the addition of a dedicated gallery was super exciting to me.

What is a typical day (at work and at home) like for you?
Well, as a working mom of two active girls (and a husband, Jeff, who does a fair amount of traveling), it’s a bit nuts.

Today for example:

Jeff is out of town. I had to drop my daughters (Sofia, 13 and Juliana, 10) off at a friend’s house, so I could get to a 7:15 meeting at Juliana’s school, where I serve on the Board and was presenting.

Oh yeah, before that the dog (Olive, 1) woke me up at 5:30 to go outside and get breakfast.

It’s holiday time in retail, so my desk is covered with paper that needs to be dealt with and there are boxes of merchandise piled up to receive, price and display. I’m meeting a friend I don’t see enough for a quick lunch and rushing back to meet with a jewelry vendor.

After work, I have at least three events I REALLY want to go to, [but I’ll] ultimately decide it’s more important to get to the grocery store and make a decent dinner for my family.

Juliana has soccer practice, so at some point, I need to confirm a ride for her (oops - forgot about that until now).

I can promise a bottle of wine or cocktail will come into play. Can you blame me? After dinner the girls and I will probably snuggle on the couch and watch an episode of Gilmore Girls. If all goes smoothly, I’ll have some time to myself and end the night with a book or maybe an episode of House of Cards, and the puppy near my face.

How do you practice mindfulness at work or at home?
This is a work in progress. I do take time most days to exercise and clear my head - whether it’s an early morning at the gym, yoga, a run or bike ride. I also try to force myself out of the building during the work day. Sometimes it’s just a quick walk, but I think it’s important to step away from everything and just focus on breathing for a bit. I love being engaged in my community, work and home life, so as with many of us, it’s hard to know just how to slow down and when to say “no”.

What is the most important thing you have learned during your time at WAM?
The importance of positive team collaboration. We’ve been through a lot of transitions here and I’m always trying to do my best to work with my colleagues to stay positive, move forward and support each other. It’s not just good for store business, but it’s rewarding on a personal level, and I think we all do better when we feel like we’re contributing to the success of an organization we’re proud of and committed to.