| Sarah Heinonen
HAMPDEN/WILBRAHAM – The holidays are the busiest time of year for gift shops. After the pandemic drove many to shop online, two local business owners say customers are beginning to come back.
Sandy Polom, owner of The Scented Garden Gift Shoppe in Wilbraham, said “Sales have been wonderful.” The gift shop hosted a well-attended holiday open house in November and had a successful Small Business Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Polom said customers “seem to be happy” to be able to shop in person again. Customer traffic is “very, very positive.”
Acknowledging the challenges, she said, “We’ve had to deal with some shipping delays like the rest of the world,” but the season has run relatively smoothly. The store is open seven days a week through Christmas Eve, to accommodate holiday shopping.
One way Polom has been advertising her business is by posting videos to Facebook. She said people have responded positively to them. “It’s one of many avenues,” to generate business and word of mouth, she said.
One of the other challenges in the shop, which has a small footprint, is making customers feel comfortable to come browse, despite the pandemic. She requires masks to be worn in the shop and has been working with some customers remotely to accommodate those who may not be able to come into the store.
While The Scented Garden Gift Shoppe is an established business in the area, Jillian Knapp opened Rosewood Home.Gift.Fashion just seven months ago.
The business, which has an existing storefront in Westfield, moved into a storefront that has a history of housing boutiques and gift shops.
“I had been looking for a spot on this side of the river,” Knapp told Reminder Publishing. The Hampden location at the crossroads of Allen Street and Wilbraham, Somers and East Longmeadow Roads worked out well.
“It’s been good. We’ve been really busy, and people have been happy to have a shop in the area,” Knapp said.
Looking at long-term shopping trends, she considered, “I do think before [COVID-19] people were really coming back to shop brick-and-mortar. Then, [COVID-19] hit and people went back to shopping online. I think it will be a couple years to get people back into shopping in-person.”
Whether shopping online or in-person, Knapp said there is a family behind every small business, and she encourages people to “shop local.”