Small town gift shop delivers the goods

Personal service | Business owners cater to decorating trends and budgets

ROSETOWN, Sask. — A steady stream of female customers stroll into the gift and decor boutique on Rosetown’s wide Main Street this snowy winter’s day.

Shelley Cutler gathers up prizes for staff activities on Valentine’s Day while Reta Markham searches for a get well card for a relative.

Wild Oats offers a little bit of everything for shoppers, they agree.

“I don’t just go in for the cards. I love the store,” said Markham, who prefers shopping here in her own town.

Cutler, the support services co-ordinator at the Rosetown Health Centre hospital, bought boxes of tea, heart earrings and a wine tumbler.

“I go in there all the time,” she said.

“They’ve got unique things if you’re looking for something different.”

Providing a bit of everything is the goal of boutique owners Pam Copeland and Lisa Jagow. Both are farm wives and mothers from Elrose, Sask., who were looking for new challenges when they bought the building three years ago.

“If there’d been two other gift stores in town, it wouldn’t have been smart to do it,” said Copeland.

Their efforts were rewarded when the readers of Prairies North magazine voted it the best gift shop in Sask-atchewan last year.

Admittedly, their personal and professional lives are sometimes a delicate balancing act.

Harvest time is Copeland’s biggest challenge, while tax season is most stressful for Jagow, whose husband is an accountant. They get help from three part-time staff to run the store.

The partners face the challenges of doing business just an hour’s drive from Saskatoon by offering an eclectic array of goods, changing store displays regularly and keeping aisles wide enough for strollers.

“We have to try and keep people interested,” said Jagow.

The building, which dates back to 1912 and has housed everything from appliances to food, sports a tin ceiling and features items grouped together by category and colour to keep customers from becoming overwhelmed.

Waning trends and poor sellers move out at discounted prices.

“Stuff doesn’t hang around long,” said Copeland.

They bring in trendy items, such as products with mustaches, foxes and owls, and try to appeal to their customers’ budgets.

“We’re not afraid to try,” said Copeland. “We have tried to hit a lot of different price points for everybody.”

They say they’ve had steady growth since they opened more than two years ago, with Christmas 2012 being a high point.

“Costco brings out Christmas in August so if we don’t have it out by October, people are buying elsewhere,” said Copeland.

They draw on each other’s strengths: Jagow’s in design and Copeland’s in organization.

“I’m the creative, she’s the brilliant,” said Jagow.

The partners travel to trade shows each year to buy goods at wholesale prices. They also buy advertising with the local radio station and newspaper.

Most of their customers are women, aged 30 and up, and come from the Rosetown district.

Their policy is to greet each customer within 15 seconds of entering the shop and offer gift wrapping services for a coin collection that is given to community charities.

They enjoy seeing customers gathering in the store while shopping.

“On long weekends, we get groups of people visiting, enjoying themselves,” said Copeland.

Markham said rural markets are more personal, welcoming and comfortable, while big city stores are largely self-serve.

“If you walk in and people just ignore you, you don’t feel comfortable about coming back,” she said.

“(Wild Oats) know it’s crucial to their business to be able to help people and be there.… It’s a small town thing. Everybody is there to help each other out.”

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