Store Interviews

Where Community Is Always In Season

Where Community Is Always In Season

Colorful, eclectic, playful, unique, enchanting. These are just a few of the words customers use to describe Winter Sun & Summer Moon, a lifestyle boutique on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, N.Y. Even more telling is how customers describe their shopping experience: warm and friendly customer service, awesome atmosphere, pleasant and helpful staff. It’s no wonder, then, that Winter Sun & Summer Moon has become part of the fabric of community life in Rhinebeck—it’s a store for all seasons that appeals to locals and tourists alike.

Radiating Good

Radiating Good

Forty years ago, Dee Ann Williams and Sheila Marsh shared a vision of creating a place to support wellness through massage and herbs, a place called Radiance. Over the years, while the ownership has changed, the original vision that was embraced and cultivated by their Olympia, Wash., community continues to shine under the guidance of Karin Olsen and Andrea Seabert.

Maggie Feeney: Radiance recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Congratulations!

Karin Olsen: Thank you.

Givers Get

Givers Get

When you hear the phrase “inspired living,” how does it make you feel? Uplifted? Energized? Ready to take on the world? Just imagine the things you could accomplish! Well, if you’re lucky enough to visit Boyne City, a resort town on Michigan’s Lake Charlevoix, you might just get a dose of that inspiration with a visit to Leslie Neilson’s aptly named store, Inspired Living, where energy, expression, and evolution are served up daily.

Finding Peace of Mind

Finding Peace of Mind

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That’s precisely what Gena White, owner of The Peace of Mind Center in Shreveport, La., did 16 years ago when a twist of fate left her searching for a new career. Venturing into the unknown, she built a center for body, mind, and spirit in an area unlikely to embrace metaphysics. Retailing Insight sat down with Gena at the International New Age Trade Show (INATS) in Denver, Co., where she shared the story of her journey to store ownership and her subsequent, long-lasting success.

Coming Up Roses

Coming Up Roses

You can’t be in two places at once, so the saying goes. Fortunately for Pacific Northwest shoppers, Compass Rose doesn’t take stock in that motto. After 14 profitable years in Olympia, Wash., they set their sights on expanding, opening a second store in Tacoma in 2013. Their secret to success? The creative, energetic managers who keep the business on course for store owner Paul Shepherd. Retailing Insight recently sat down with Liz Van Dyke, manager of their blossoming Tacoma store, to learn more about what sets them apart.

Inspired Living

Inspired Living

Along its 363-mile journey from New York City to the Great Lakes, the Erie Canal follows a meandering path through Western New York and the small hamlet of Bushnell’s Basin outside Rochester. There, you’ll find an unassuming shop nestled in a historic building a short walk from the canal. What you’ll find inside is not just another gift shop but, rather, a place where owners Denise Ellis and Laura Allard greet customers by name, helping them find inspiration among the bounty of natural products and unique gifts they offer.

The Right Stuff

How do you sum up a store customers rave about for its creative, quirky, amusing, fresh, unique, irresistible, one-of-a-kind gifts? In a word: STUFF. Hailed as “a jewel in Kansas City’s retail crown,” STUFF is known as much for its helpful and knowledgeable staff as for its amazing array of mostly artist-made goods. At the heart of it all are sisters Sloane and Casey Simmons, the dynamic, entrepreneurial duo who have nurtured the evolution of a store named STUFF.

Standing Tall for Fair Trade

Standing Tall for Fair Trade

In the center of a small island town just off Seattle’s coast, a life-sized, ironwork giraffe towers above the artfully landscaped front yard of a century-old house, inviting a closer look. Cross the garden to the wide front porch and you have arrived at Giraffe, the Fair Trade boutique Priscilla Schleigh opened seven years ago on Puget Sound’s quietly thriving Vashon Island.

Answering Serenity's Call

Answering Serenity's Call

The path to opening an independent shop is often a winding one, with many adventures along the way. Like Dorothy on the yellow-brick road, the way is peppered with frightful moments, unforeseen challenges, inspiring developments, a host of helpers, and finally, a true sense of accomplishment.

Just seven months old, Serenity Calling is a beautiful store in both appearance and intention, and the manifestation of a dream owner Gillian Caine nurtured for years.

Turning Dreams Into Gold

Turning Dreams Into Gold

Nestled in a quiet corner of Richmond, Va., lies Stony Point Fashion Park, an upscale, open-air mall featuring a host of high-end shops. As I strolled the elegant brick pathway past luxury store after luxury store—Coach, Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton, to name a few—I wondered just what I would find when I arrived at my destination: Alchemists. What I discovered was a boutique designed by store owner Jane Hayden to help seekers fulfill their dreams and delight their loved ones with beautiful gifts for body, mind, and spirit.

Where Nature Meets Nurture

Where Nature Meets Nurture

Like the city it calls home, The Treehouse Green Gifts in Berkeley, Calif., may be small, but it has a big reputation. Nestled between a low-key coffee shop and an upscale clothing boutique, The Treehouse has made a name for itself as one of the Bay Area’s top shops for organic, handmade, recycled, and eco-friendly gifts for all ages—no small feat in a city where green is, and always will be, “in.” This is the kind of gift store one could shop in every day and still discover something new and unique!

Living the American Dream

Living the American Dream

For former fashion designer and professional actor Deborah Leydig, opening a 2,200-square-foot retail store carrying strictly American-made goods wasn’t just smart business; it was a leap of faith for a cause she believes in. Now celebrating its sixth year in Barrington, Ill., Norton’s U.S.A. is doing better than ever. The secret to her success? Building community the old-fashioned way. And that can happen anywhere.

Jenny Rose Lara: How would you describe Norton’s U.S.A.? Is it a general store, a gift shop, or something completely different?

One Stop Shopping in Portlandia

One Stop Shopping in Portlandia

When Presents of Mind in Portland, Ore., first opened its doors in 1989, the landscape of Hawthorne Boulevard was decidedly less trendy than it is today. But with only $10,000 and a desire to bring the best of the city’s gift selections to one location, original owner Cinnamon Chaser invested her dollars and foresight in an affordable storefront. Chaser’s daughter, Seasons Koll, operates the family business now and has watched it grow along with the vibrant neighborhood that surrounds it.

Cultivating Retail Success

Cultivating Retail Success

Ask any brick-and-mortar gift store what draws customers in and keeps them coming back and you’ll undoubtedly hear a range of responses: unique products; enticing displays; engaging in-store events; courteous, knowledgeable staff; location, location, location. What sets Twig—an eco-friendly lifestyle shop in Chapel Hill, N.C.—apart from the competition is all of the above!

Retailing Insight contributor Megy Karydes recently sat down with Twig owner Shawn Slome to learn more about how he cultivated and continues to grow his perennially successful store.

Moments in the Sun

Moments in the Sun

This year a beautiful store in sunny Sarasota, Fla., called Elysian Fields Books and Gifts for Conscious Living celebrates two milestones: 20 years in business and being selected as the Retailer of the Year by the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR). Both achievements are the result of an extraordinary partnership between the two owners, Lea Semple and Kim Perkins (yes, the same Kim Perkins of Shop Talk fame).

Beautiful World

When visitors leave Bella & Co., Isabelle Bell doesn’t say goodbye and come back to shop again soon. Instead, the gregarious owner of this two-year-old boutique asks visitors to come back and chat soon. She always has a pot of hot coffee available and loves to get to know her customers.

Bell’s easygoing demeanor sets her apart from shop owners who crave the adrenaline rush they get from running a retail business. “I’m so thankful I get to run a shop like this,” Bell says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Crazy Wisdom

Crazy Wisdom

Fancy a cup of tea and a book? How about a big-ideas discussion in a traditional salon? Need a place for your fairy child to get together with other sprites over refreshments? Looking for some jewelry, yoga supplies, bath and body products? All of that—and more—is in one place: Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The Art of Success

The noise outside Wolfbait & B-Girls in Chicago, Ill., is loud—cars whizzing by, bicyclists trying to avoid getting run over, diners enjoying a meal in the nearby restaurant. Come on a Sunday during the summer and you have the Farmer’s Market shoppers to contend with. But walk inside this small shop and the noise evaporates. In fact, you may hear another type of noise—the steady sound of a sewing machine, since it’s not unusual to find either of the co-owners working on one of their designs.

Purple Heart

On any given day, a person might park at the corner of Ann Street and North Curry Street close to downtown Carson City, Nev., rush into a small shop in a quaint, historic 1863 house, take a deep breath, and say, “I just needed a Purple Avocado moment.”

This happens so often that Sue Jones, co-owner with her husband, Stan, of the shop with the unusual name, knows exactly what the customer means. In response she’ll offer a friendly welcome, a chat, and of course, a unique shopping experience.

Dreaming Big

Some people might not have thought a small New Age store could survive in a relatively conservative town of fewer than 10,000 people, much less through the past three years of a rocky economy. But don’t tell that to Anne DeClue. Six years ago, she was inspired to open a shop in her small town after going through a spiritual transformation of her own. She just had “a feeling,” she says, and acted on it.

Playful Odyssey

Playful Odyssey

Walking into Odyssey Gifts in Williamsport, Md., is like falling into an overstuffed treasure chest. Amber jewelry and other trinkets fill glass cabinets, elaborate puppets dangle from 10-foot-high ceilings, dragons and gargoyles peer between the spindles of the curved staircase in the 150-year-old house. Every corner has a hidden goody.

Earth and Sea

Earth and Sea

Close to the very center of the state of Texas sits a veritable vortex of elemental energy, conjured by a team of women who call their shop Sisters of the Earth and Sea.

“I’m ‘sea,’ ” says Joyce Burns, one of the owners. “Laurie Roach is ‘earth,’ and Amber Signs, our newest sister as of March 2009, is ‘fire.’ And,” Burns adds with a laugh, “we have enough air—sometimes hot air!—among the three of us to cover the fourth element.”

Thinking Globally

Thinking Globally

Sam Carpenter is out to change the world. Each day he hopes to introduce or reinforce how much Fair Trade means to artisans in developing countries as well as our own lives.

Changing With the Times

Changing With the Times

When is a bookstore more than a bookstore? When it sets out to become the heart of a community—and succeeds. Take Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., for instance. When Gayle Shanks, Bob Sommer, and Tom Broderson decided to start their own business more than 35 years ago, their intent was to create a bookstore that would be socially responsible and a place for members of the community to congregate.

Beyond Avalon

Beyond Avalon

Miranda Sophia Solace, owner of Avalon in Orlando, Fla., refers to her shop and everything associated with it as living beings. If she talks about her inventory, she’s more likely to say “The incense lives in this room,” or “This is where the candles live,” than make an offhand reference to stocking the shelves. The glass display cabinets that house the jewelry and where the cash register rests is the “face” of the store, the old fireplace in the 1920s bungalow is its “heart.”

Starting a Revolution

It’s more than 230 years later, crates of tea are not involved, and the “tea party” is on the opposite coast from the original location, but the focus is revolution once again. The difference this time is that the Tea Party Bookshop in Salem, Ore., is advocating a different kind of autonomy—the intellectual sort.

“We want to promote independent thinking,” owner JoAnne Kohler says. “We want our customers to be curious, explore what they need to explore, and connect with people of like mind.”

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