Swank Gifts opens DowntownWritten by Betsy Woodruff | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Hartten started businesses that sold martini glasses and huge stuffed animals before she got the idea of opening a gift shop in Downtown Toledo. When she saw an available storefront space at the corner of South Saint Clair Street and Lafayette Street next to Downtown Latte, she decided to meld her two ventures, Swank Martini and Giant Stuffed Animals.
The result is Swank Gifts, a shop that carries a huge variety of items, including purses, wallets, hand-painted scarves, jewelry, stationery, fresh flowers, toys, chocolates, and, of course, a variety of martini glasses and a giant giraffe stuffed animal.
“It’s bright, cheerful, fun stuff,” said Therese King, an employee.
She added that the store also carries hand puppets and marionettes.
“They sell, too,” King said.
Hartten said all of the pieces would otherwise be hard to find in the area. Her top priority is keeping the merchandise affordable; nothing in the store costs more than $50, and most items cost less than $20. Hartten pointed out, for instance, that a customer could find a pair of sterling silver earrings made by a local artist for $10.
“You can get something for yourself, and a gift for somebody else,” she said.
Hartten said one of the shop’s strengths is its convenient location. Customers can step in, find a gift, get it gift wrapped, and be out the door without ever leaving Downtown. The store carries a variety of pieces made by local artisans, including stained glass and soap.
“I really think it’s contributing to the community,” King said.
Opening a retail store was a change for Hartten. Her two previous businesses were online, and she was used to doing customer service over the phone and by e-mail.
“Talk about a 360!” she said of the change.
Her interaction with customers is face-to-face, and she has gotten to know many of them.
“It’s been so wonderful to meet so many interesting people Downtown,” Hartten said.
“Everyone’s got a story, and I think we’re a really fun shop,” she added. “Everybody starts opening up and telling their story.”
King said she has also enjoyed getting to know customers at the store: “It’s a win-win for me by working here,” she said, adding that the store attracts creative and energetic people.
Swank Gifts is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.