Marketing Intentions of Georgi & Willow Boutique Questioned

San Anselmo boutique owner says the new Goodwill nonprofit shop is confusing shoppers with its female archetypes.


Does San Anselmo’s newest boutique, , have too many secrets?

At the July 10 San Anselmo Town Council meeting, Jennifer Hansen, the owner of said the new boutique’s marketing is misleading as many of her customers don’t realize Georgi and Willow are fictional. “Georgi and Willow is not genuine. A lot of my customers don’t understand that these two women aren’t real and that’s alarming to me.”

In June Patch, the first-of-its-kind nonprofit full of trendy clothing and other items curated from Bay Area Goodwill stores. The boutique’s title combines the names of two fictional Marin County women. (See Georgi and Willow Brand Director Tim Murray describe the two archetypes of Georgi and Willow in the video at the right.)

Organizers have developed an elaborate Georgi and Willow backstory, with details including how the two characters met - they became friends at a young age and went to Sir Francis Drake High School.

An article that recently appeared in the Marin Independent Journal said the boutique is blurring the line between fact and fiction:

At first glance, Georgi & Willow's website certainly seems candid; it provides intimate details about Georgi and Willow and their evolution as businesswomen.

The “about” section on the shop’s website begins:

Imagine if you will…

The first store Willow and Georgi planned to open together was going to sell clothes for their My Little Pony collection, beaded bracelets they’d strung themselves, and candy, but only Nerds and Skittles, no licorice (blech!). Their moms said no, so they set up a lemonade stand and raised $5 for the Humane Society until a mean cop shut it down for causing a traffic hazard on Sir Francis Drake.

The elaborate story continues on the site. 

The Marin Independent Journal also noted that the site features quotes from both Willow and Georgi commenting on their partner's personality.

Hansen told the IJ that the Georgi and Willow personas also surface on all the shop’sFacebook page:

"They're trying to make people identify with these women like they're one of us."

Alaina Yoakum, who manages Georgi & Willow's ongoing social media, said that the “About” section of Georgi & Willow's Facebook page explains that the two women are archetypes.

In an e-mail to Patch, Yoakum said the characters only "live" on the Georgi & Willow website and Facebook page. "They don't exist on Georgi & Willow's Twitter, Pinterest or Google+ because those are social media sites that don't lend themselves to conversations," she said. 

Murray told the IJ they want to make the real story behind Georgi and Willow a special secret.

"We thought in an era of social media that it would be fun to position it as an open secret and to have people discover it for themselves, because there is a kind of wonderful sensation when you hear a secret for the first time. We thought it might make people more interested in sharing the knowledge with their friends."


What do you think? Is the boutique being misleading, or just doing smart marketing? 

Bryant July 25, 2012 at 04:48 AM
PS. Another reason I am not using my real name, is because it is honestly frightening how much power a borderline criminal organization like this can have. You think that CEO making 2.3 million a year hasn't tried to shut a few people up??? Sounds crazy right? Well, wait until they come knocking on your door when you try to expose the corruption. They don't like someone rocking the boat on their gravy train.
Jennifer Moore Hansen July 25, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I would like to point out that in no article nor in the CBS interview have I ever attacked the work that Goodwill does, I only take issue with the advertising for the Georgi & Willow store. I do not agree with ANY corporation advertising themselves as a small business. In contrast Ms. Biggs, speaking for G&W, has attacked me personally, I don't appreciate it. PS. Adrienne, I'm the one who told you I live in Petaluma. I support small business wherever I go.
Jennifer Moore Hansen July 25, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Cindy, I'm sorry you have been struggling the last 6 years and I in no way meant for you to feel judged by going to chain stores, my mother also loves KFC. My only point is that we should be able to tell which stores are corporate and which are independently owned so that way we maintain the choice.
Bryant July 25, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Still no word on how much the Nor Cal CEO of Goodwill is making??? This whole thing makes me sick to my stomach. I am thinking about protesting this business myself, just based on principal. This marketing campaign is just inline with Goodwill Industries total lack of transparency. It is just horrible, and the average person would not get away with these business practices. http://www.amazonsellercommunity.com/forums/message.jspa?messageID=2141303
C Ross July 25, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Jennifer, I do appreciate your acknowledgement of my "struggle", but this thread is starting to get a bit out there! I don't feel "judged" for shopping at corporate stores, but it's starting to get to me that there are judgements and condescension on several sides of this issue, as well as hypocrisy. Sometimes I just want to go into a store and shop, and not necessarily analyze or investigate every little detail. Again, I'm not necessarily defending "corporate", but come on. Don't you ever have a cup of coffee at Peet's? (Do you expect Mr. Peet to serve you personally?) Do you only get your medicine at Jack's? I don't believe there is a Jack's in Petaluma. Maybe I'll ask Lydia, now that she's moved to your neck of the woods. I guess she just, oh never mind, that's Fairfax. Speaking of which, I don't live in SA, so I really don't know all the factors involved, say in both independent store owners (E.g., Easy Street and Red Hill Pet) and corporate chains (Round Table Pizza and Longs Drugs) being forced out so other businesses stay (including Safeway, which I do shop at). But I imagine both the SA Council and Chamber of Commerce have more to do with that than the average resident, who will probably shop wherever it is most convenient, affordable, or whomever carries the product or service they need. PS I doubt that those shopping at GW care as much about the mission of Goodwill as they do the cute clothing. Besides, all the controversy is making even more want to check it out!
C Ross July 25, 2012 at 11:56 PM
BTW, yes I do realize that I'm going off on a bit of a tangent. But as a resident of Fairfax, who has been puzzled by some of the recent goings on (e.g., Independently owned China Village being forced out to be replaced by a chain, for example, at the same time we became US Cittaslow Town #2), I think that people need to be more aware, and more careful about the terms they throw out, as well as how and why they are actually used. While I'm paraphrasing a bit, a corporation is a legal term whereby a group of people can not only function as one "body", but they can avoid individual liability. And I have to admit for a local girl (OK, I admit it. I was born in Brooklyn!), who really does want to just have fun (no, SHE spells it Cyndi) it does get confusing when everyone is shouting, "local", "sustainable", "independent", but yet there's FairBuck (and the bag charge at GE) funding Sustainable Fairfax, CittaSlow (started in Italy) telling us what we can and can't do in Mayberry West, and Avatar and Avatar's aren't related, but Good Earth and LGE Capital are...Say what?
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Most of you seem to missing the point. I believe the point Ms Hansen is trying to make, if I may, is not so much a Goodwill shop opening on the corner in so much as the "open secret" they have hidden under layers and layers of a lie. It appears they have banked on the fact there would be little question to whom Georgie & Willow actually are. Its one thing to open a store, such as the 'Goodwill Boutiques" ( oh S.A doesn't want THAT on their street *gasp*) in SF it is quite another to capitalize on shopping local & those of us who care to shop local and spend money within our communities and yes, give to LOCAL merchants & their families. People like Ms Biggs can rationalize these action until the proverbial cows come home its in my experience validating, and rationalizing is the clearest sign of denial. And this so called "donation" to the town commerce Ms Biggs likes to throw around, lets call it exactly what it was and quit insulting your customers - it was a buy in. Nothing more. The POINT is not weather Goodwill is a corporation or not, the POINT is to what end will you people allow them, corporations, to exploit you, and our communities with "truths" you need to dig up. Is it not enough you have to investigate where your food comes from, how its grown, whats INSIDE it, where your socks are made but now, is the "local" guy or gal who sells you something really independent or isn't he. Allowing this business practice is a HUGE mistake & disservice to your own communities.
Warren July 26, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Makes me want to puke. Looking into a move to panama or Nicaragua, this country is toast. Born and raised in San anselmo. Saw many good people struggle with small businesses in town, tried one of my own and lost my shirt. Now I see this and it just makes me sick. I feel like really giving this Adrienne Biggs a peice of my mind, but I'm in anger management. Furious at this country and what it has become.
Warren July 26, 2012 at 03:23 AM
I say boycott this business. Picket them and force them to tell the truth. This is not a level playing field. I have looked into Goodwill industries. It is a pretty corrupt and deceptive business that has found some loopholes to avoid taxes, avoid paying decent salaries, and really just exploits disabled people. It really chaps my hide. It represents a total erosion of our economy and country. I am pissed!
C Ross July 26, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Dawn, I think it's you missing a few points. 1) i can't just walk into a city or town and say, "I want to open up a store" and then "Voila" it's open. There was quite a bit of planning that went into G W, and even I knew that it was a Goodwill Store before it even opened. If I understand Ms. Hansen correctly, she was not one of the merchants who objected to Goodwill opening in SA, but apparently some were. That means that there were meetings and discussions about it that merchants, and I'm assuming (or hope) that residents attended to voice their opinions. However, the store was approved, I'm assuming by the Town Council. According to Ms. Briggs, GW contributed 10K to the Chamber. I don't even live in SA. I can't "allow" or disallow this business. I suppose I could not shop there. But why not? I mostly shop second hand, they have quality stuff for much cheaper than I can find elsewhere and the staff is nice to boot. (I don't think anyone is being forced to work there, but if the store shuts down, I would think that would be a disservice to them, regardless of what YOU think of Goodwill or its CEOs. 2) If you are a SA resident and still have a problem, complain to your town officials. But I don't think they understand "local" the same way you do. GW is contributing to the "local" chamber, which is what the Town is concerned about...
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Cindy - did you read my post or are you just here to argue? First off, Jennifer does NOT object to Goodwill being in the neighborhood which Im sure she says above, she OBJECTS to them pretending to be "two local girls" and banking on YOU thinking its "just two local Drake" girls. do you get it? And no you will probably never be able to open a store once corporate america gets their greedy little hands on our local store fronts, why? Because if they, Goodwill can "donate" 10k to the town commerce, why won't others offer the same "donation" *ahem* pay off? And yes, I did live in SA and I DO shop there still and proudly in many of the locally INDEPENDENTLY owned businesses. Im sorry Cindy, seems you are arguing a mute point, or you don't get the plight... SA basically sold themselves out. To a lie at that...
Warren July 26, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Yah great, the marketing people did their jobs. Haliburton did a good job at deceiving the American people also.
C Ross July 26, 2012 at 03:41 AM
...I don't mean to pick on Ms. Hansen, and I'm sure she pays taxes (I don't want to get into a debate about who pays what taxes) and into the Chamber as well. However, as she lives in another county, shopping at Sax isn't only about shopping locally, because it's supporting an individual in another community. so I'm not exactly sure what you are getting at with the "local" angle. SA officials only care about the revenue generated to support "local" SA, which probably is more from G W than by Sax. (I do understand that this might be upsetting to Ms. Hansen, but I believe this has less to do with "deception" -- in this particular instance -- on the part of Goodwill than it does making an affordable thrift store fit in more with the image of San Anselmo. ;)
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 03:45 AM
and also Cindy, while living in SA i came to realize one simple fact, a number of San Anselmians or whatever they're called, probably aren't out vocalizing their concerns at the town meetings. If anything I can bet they weren't aware of a Goodwill store opening in their community, well maybe as long as it wasn't a big blue and white sign. This isn't even about the residents really. Its about big business exploiting and capitalizing on a time where a small but growing number of people ARE concerned with keeping their monies close to home... They got in there, due to this so called "donation" and the name or marketing was most likely due to the fact that san anselmo said no way to the big blue and white sign. In turn, selling its citizens down the river. Don't you see?
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Warren - Yes! if I could "like" your comment - I would. Exploitive. Thats what this is. No other way around it.
Warren July 26, 2012 at 03:56 AM
I owned a small business and forgot to pay some payroll taxes properly, I was investigated by the Marin county DA and threatened with committing a crime. I was then audited and forced to close my business because the taxes, accounting fees and other fees associated with running a small business wore me down. Goodwill bypasses all of this, it is totally f**ked.
C Ross July 26, 2012 at 04:08 AM
But Dawn, I've known all along that this is a freakin Goodwill store. I'm really not the idiot you seem to think I am, so who are you protecting? Ironically, the first day I bought anything at GW, I also went into Sax (which I hadn't shopped at in a very long time) and bought a pair of shoes. (No offense Jen, but I did feel more welcome at G W). So, no Dawn...You're missing the point. People (like me) who rarely shop in SA (mostly, plain and simple, because it's too danged expensive) come to see the new "controversial" store and may even end up shopping at other stores. (BTW, Did you know that Loloco's is no longer owned by a Lococo? Or that her name isn't Gioia? So, lighten up please. (Why pray tell did you move away from SA? Why didn't you stay and protect it? And if you really want to fight the corporate world, why not go after the Red Hill Shopping Center? PS Warren, please don't get mad at me, but I have a cat named Coco too...and she's rather fat. We probably have a lot more in common than you think, and I'm not so sure that Panama is really the answer. PPS Time really does fly when you're having fun, but it's getting to be my bedtime, so Natti Natti my friends, local, virtual, multiple-personalitied and whatever.
nakiesha July 26, 2012 at 04:22 AM
a) China Village was not pushed out by a chain, but replaced after closing by a successful local family restaurant [http://www.enjoyavatars.com/]. The Avatar family has recently expanded to offer their unique menu in Larkspur, Petaluma, and Fairfax. For many many years I have enjoyed their Sausalito and Mill Valley locations and even their tradition of serving a free Thanksgiving-eve meal to the community (the gall!) [http://marinscope.com/articles/2011/11/16/sausalito_marin_scope/news/doc4ec4292b6086d401950154.txt] b) Have you ever gotten an email from a friend that said "Hey! It was so great to see you. Check out the pictures:" (or something akin) only to find the link and message originated by a spam bot? Suddenly your inbox full of garbage and now "you" are sending a similar spammy message to your contact list. Not everyone is going to bite. Some will already know about the bug. Some will say "What the hell is she talking about? I haven't seen her in years!". But others will be too curious and click and the cycle will continue. My concern with this particular clever and potentially too-effective marketing is that those who are not hip to the hushhush
nakiesha July 26, 2012 at 04:30 AM
[cont..] may choose to shop at GW specifically to support "Georgi" and/or "Willow". If this trend continues, as we see Starbucks picking up on and other corporates being attracted to, there is a real danger in the real dream of a real girl at a real high school not being able to realize her real dream because conglomerates with different priorities and tax benefits have put that dream so far out of reach. As a local shopper and a lover of second-hand and a believer in functional community, I respectfully request more transparency so that I can make intelligent decisions and not feel like a buffoon for relating to a well-written bot.
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 04:46 AM
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Cindy - I don't go after Red Hill because Safeway & CVS aren't pretending to be anything else. Have you even read my comments? Its about using the "two local girls" ruse to get people like myself, who CHOOSES to spend my money in local independent small businesses more often than not in small communities. Its about counting on the fact that I will BELIEVE these girls are real. Lolocos IS an independently run business, Gioia, she actually IS a real girl, pronounced JOYA. As for Peet's, There really was a man, from Berkeley, who really does/did exist and remained at his company, Peets until 1987 with a real story about coffee... see where I'm going with this... Im not anti corporations Im anti lying. Deceiving. Exploiting. Taking advantage of a consumer by creating "two local girls" hoping the consumer will be misled. Maybe you haven't read their Facebook pages? If Jennifer had not spoken out about this - these faux local marin girls how many people who try and be consistent in keeping their money local would have been taken advantage being led to believe these "girls" went to Drake? How are you not getting this?
C Ross July 26, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Nakiesha, I never said that Avatar's pushed China Village out. That was done by the group that owns the Fair/Anselm turned Fairfax Plaza. CV didn't just "close". They were told they didn't fit "the plan", and since they couldn't afford to remodel, were forced to close the family business that they had operated for many years. As to the Ubhi Family, I don't have anything against them and I wish them well. I was merely commenting that they are practically next door to Avatar, no relation. And as to free Thanksgiving dinners, I believe Cafe Lotus in Fairfax does that as well, as does Java Hut (well coffee, that is). And as to the not hip, I don't even think they know that Georgi and Willow (or Georgi or Willow) even exist. So what?
Adrienne Biggs July 26, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Dawn: Actually, if you read the G&W website, about the fictional namesake characters, it clearly states at the very beginning "Imagine if you will...". No false advertising there. Also, FYI in spite if their backstory Peet's was just purchased by Starbucks (I love their Major Dickason's Blend but I prefer my Roastery beans as they're local and more affordable): http://marketday.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/23/12909413-peets-coffee-acquired-in-billion-dollar-deal?lite And no, I don't persinally know what our local CEO earns but I do know the jobs offered to able-bodied people and those with disabilities pay above minimum wage (and certainly not .50c/hour as stated by another Commenter).
C Ross July 26, 2012 at 06:26 AM
Adrienne, Peet's was not purchased by Starbucks, but by a German company for a billion dollars (!) "Joh. A. Benckiser, the investment vehicle for the Reimann family of Germany, owns stakes in companies such as household products maker Reckitt Benckiser Plc and fragrance and cosmetics company Coty Inc."
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 06:37 AM
"Imagine if you will..." is quite a disclaimer is all and super easy to get lost in all the hype and other smoke screen thrown up. Without those 4 little words, i can bet Goodwill might be in a boat load of trouble actually so thats its right at the beginning is no surprise or mistake - I'm pretty sure is the point. Peets btw, was actually not bought by Starbacks, http://napa.patch.com/articles/peets-coffee-tea-sold-for-1-billion-eff3cc14 I had an instructor that said, "always know what your talking about in a debate makes you a lot more believable, be prepared" Don't spread rumors - regardless though point is, There was a Peet. Not the "story" of a "Peet" who started a roastery in Berkeley in order to get Berkeley folks to shop there. A man who actually worked there, 40 years actually. Besides its not about the sale of Peets, Ill still go there. Like I go to Safeway and Target. I think we both, know what I'm taking about anyway.
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 06:56 AM
( cont.) Like I would still go to Goodwill if i knew i wasn't be bamboozled, or baited and switched or taken advantage of. Just sayin.
Adrienne Biggs July 26, 2012 at 06:58 AM
"Purchased by Starbucks" is what came up first, when I Googled it. Butni, im not going to label Google deceptive lol. Starbucks or a foreign entity, I think you get my point. Things evolve and change, and so must we, if we are to survive. Vote with your dollar. In the end, that's all we have.
Dawn July 26, 2012 at 07:07 AM
No. I actually don't get how Peets being bought by a foreign entity is the same as deception? Evolving and changing doesn't mean lying or exploiting : http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exploiting. How is this sale of Peet's or the Safeway brand the same? Peet's will always be a real person and Safeway doesn't hide its corporate status in factious characters.
C Ross July 29, 2012 at 08:26 PM
This was posted to my FB page(and no, it won't be re-posted here after all the nasty comments: Did you know that Georgi is really a boy and I'm his mother? Sorry the picture is so blurry, It was taken by Lucifer (though He did try to convince us he was Jesus). I guess he just didn't want anybody to see how good I really look in that cute, little stretchy top thing. Love, Willow PS If you know I'm not telling the truth, is it still a lie?
C Ross July 31, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Adrienne, It looks like you might be right after all! http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Peet-s-may-tempt-Starbucks-to-top-bid-3748024.php


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