In the beginning, there was Amber. Not only is Amber Die With Your Boots On’s creator, she was the sole employee, and the business plan was based on her running a little goth shop and being profitable enough to cover that one paycheck. She began by building a small web presence and online shop for DWYBO while searching for a brick and mortar space in Salem, MA, and running online fulfillment out of her living room plus a tiny storage unit. When she found the Wharf Street space, she knew it was the spot for her. She enlisted her husband, Nick, and a few friends who volunteered to help, in building out the space and getting the shop retail-ready. DWYBO opened on a June weekend in 2018, during the Salem Arts Festival, and our very first customers were folks that had followed us online since day one. After that weekend's crowd of new DWYBO fans had subsided, Amber knew she would need more than just herself to keep up with the excitement and demand. Her life partner soon became her business partner and full-time coworker, followed by a few part-time employees, and before long there was a whole shop crew to keep things running. 

Throughout their first couple of years there was steady growth, and Amber and Nick enjoyed planning small events and partnering with other local businesses to plan live shows and in-store gatherings. The retail setup was not without a few hiccups when everything from store floods to surprise construction threw them curveballs. No strangers to challenge, the team was scrappy, managing to keep up with multiple unexpected floorplan changes and unplanned building projects. The more the universe threw at them, the more creative DWYBO became.

As Covid-19 shut the world down, and the Wharf shop had to close temporarily, online sales grew for DWYBO. And in late summer of 2020, they moved part of their operation into an off-site office and warehouse space shared with Witch City Wicks. Liz, founder and owner of WCW, told Amber, "you'll outgrow this space in a year." Amber laughed at the idea, but then she took on a part-time social media assistant, and multiple warehouse staff to help handle web orders and to keep the brick and mortar shop stocked, and before she knew it, they were bursting at the seams in the warehouse. 

So the hunt was on for an even larger space, this time to house all of DWYBO's operations under one roof. By the summer of 2021, Amber and Nick had found the Church St space, which was huge, with plenty of room to stretch their legs, but it needed more work than the DWYBO team and friends could do alone. They brought on their part-time social media assistant as a full time executive assistant, hired a contractor to renovate Church St, and held summertime business expansion meetings over cocktails in an inflatable pool (desperate times call for desperate measures). They interviewed new staff, searched for new products, and schemed a new synthwave mall goth inspired aesthetic, coining the new shop space “The Mothership.” The shop team at Wharf St valiantly kept the reopened OG DWYBO space buzzing along. By September, the contractors were nearly done, and the race was on to complete decoration and retail-set up by October. In 12+ hour days over the next few weeks, Amber, Nick, and the DWYBO team, plus a few volunteer friends, transformed the space, and by the first weekend of October, The Mothership was open!

Both shops were brimming with Haunted Happenings visitors, and they were working our butts off just keeping stock on the shelves, but already there were new plans in the works for the OG space on the Wharf. Stay tuned for part two: “Introducing The Ossuary.”

April 15, 2022 — Laurie Moran