IVANHOE - She thought it was something that the community needed. And in the month or so since opening her own shop, The Gift, Ashley Conner of Ivanhoe said local shoppers seemed to agree.
"A lot of people said, 'We needed this in Ivanhoe,'" Conner said. "It makes me want to push to do better."
The Gift is a shop selling a variety of gift items from jewelry and home decor to toys and games. It's located in the former USDA office building in Ivanhoe. Conner said the idea to start a business came partly as something to do while her family were at work or school, and partly as an opportunity to offer something the town didn't already have.
Photo by Deb Gau
Ashley Conner stands behind the counter at The Gift, a new store that’s been open about a month in Ivanhoe. Conner said The Gift will focus on gift and home decor items, including some items crafted or consigned by local residents.
The USDA building was an unusual choice for a retail space, Conner said, but it was available.
"The opportunity came, we found the building was open, and we went for it," Conner said.
Conner, her husband Scott, and their family worked to redecorate the old office space starting in August, and The Gift has been open since early December. There wasn't a lot of structural work to do, but the office space needed some new paint, flooring and furniture, Conner said.
If the process of getting The Gift ready to open moved quickly, so did the first month of business. Conner said she was happy to see the level of support that community members gave the store.
"It was so busy," she said of the pre-Christmas shopping. So far, she said, the best part of running The Gift has been the day-to-day interaction with customers.
Conner said she's looked at vendor fairs to help come up with ideas for items to carry in the store. "I look at what I like, and then also I try to see past that," for more variety, she said. She's also kept a local connection with consignors. The Gift carries prints by local artist Erik Gile - "We've sold a lot of those," Conner said - and other items ranging from jewelry to candles and greeting cards that were consigned by area residents.
"I'd like to give local people an outlet to sell those things," Conner said. She's also offering a selection of Ivanhoe shirts, that help raise money for the Ivanhoe Community Club.
"I'm trying to do a lot of community things, to help build the community up," she said.
With the holiday shopping season over, Conner said she's looking ahead toward Valentine's Day and more spring-themed gifts. She's also continuing to work on repainted furniture and some rustic decor pieces that are also for sale at The Gift.
"It's been keeping me busy," she said. "It's been a lot of fun."