Store Next Door: National Mustard Museum Store
Lessons from indepedent retailers outside the party industry...
A lot of retailers look at building a website the same way they look at building a house. Once it’s built, it’s built, and hopefully there won’t be any major problems until it’s time to replace the shingles.
Not so. A website — not to mention social media — takes paying it continual attention to keep it fresh and useful. That’s the message of Barry Levenson, head of the National Mustard Museum and accompanying museum store in Middleton, Wisconsin. (The museum itself is a nonprofit organization, while the store is a separate for-profit business, so Levenson deals with both worlds.)
MustardMuseum.com features a rotating gallery of stories, plus blogs from Barry and his wife, Mrs. Mustard, the “Insane Deal of the Week,” recipes, ways to visit the museum and, of course, ways to purchase mustard and other merchandise online. The website is colorful, attractive and offers a lot of information, yet is still easy to navigate and find information.
“Being so close to it, I always look at it with a critical eye and see hundreds of ways it can be improved,” Levenson said. “Internet marketing is a dynamic process and every retailer, museum, organization, whatever, has to look at its website as a continuing work in progress. As soon as you optimize it, it’s last week’s technology.”
When asked to offer advice, Levenson said most people need help with their website, so don’t be afraid to seek it.
“Unless you are an internet wizard, get an expert to help you,” he said. “Be proud of what you have but never be satisfied with it. Continually update your site to keep it fresh.”
The content relays a playful and fun tone, as there are pictures of Levenson making funny faces and wearing unusual clothes throughout the website, making one wonder if he used to be a standup comic or game show host before he somehow found his way to running a mustard museum.
“I love to see people laughing with us, enjoying themselves in an improbable museum that doesn't take itself too seriously,” he said. “We are a real museum and people do learn about mustard but they have a good time doing so.”
Actually, Levenson’s former career didn’t lend itself to much playfulness at all. He was in charge of the Criminal Appeals Division of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office. He left in 1991 to start the museum, which was originally called Mount Horeb Mustard Museum.
“I learned that you don't want to mess around on the edges of the law, especially now that the only lawyer there with a sense of humor left 25 years ago,” he quipped.
— Zeke Jennings, managing editor