We feel this article, written by Freelance writer Dani Altieri Marinucci for the January 2006 issue of "Country Business" Magazine, is a great overview of our Treasured Gifts Store.

Update 09/02/15; Treasure Gifts has a new owner:

Brittany Wheeler.

This page will be updated to reflect information about Brittany
as soon as time permits, sometime between, after Labor Day
and before the snow flies :)

Elegant Country Charm

Treasured Gifts in Linesville, Pennsylvania, wraps customers
in old-fashioned service and entertains them with fun-filled events.

patti country business magazine photoAt Treasured Gifts in Linesville, Pennsylvania, delighting shoppers begins at the sidewalk entrance, where seasonal decorations framing double French doors hint at the engaging displays inside. Whether it's hand painted and gently distressed Santa's or dusters of chickens perched on bales of hay, the scene-setting vignettes are creative, inviting and always entertaining.

"Everything we do has to be fun," says owner Patti Ryckman. "This is Small Town, USA. People are not in a rush here. My customers don't run in and grab; they like to linger and relax. Even the ones that come in tense, as they walk through the store, the stress just fades from their bodies."

Ryckman's well-appointed yet restful store; thoughtful customer-service amenities such as layaway, decorating assistance and gift wrap; and creative events, including in-store party plans, helped Treasured Gifts garner one of our Retailer of the Year runner-up awards.

From Road to Storefront

Ryckman began as a crafter selling appliqued clothing. Twelve years traveling the craft-show circuit had started to take its toll when a rundown building in the middle of Linesville caught her attention . "I lived a mile and a half from here, and I'd drive by this poor, sad little building;' she says.

The owner wanted too much for the water-damaged shop, but Ryckman couldn't shake the thought that this would get her off the road. "I prayed a lot over this, and one year later I went back," she says. After negotiating a purchase price, "It was time for me to put my money where my mouth is," Ryckman explains.

Vacant for four years, the 125-year-old structure had water streaming from roof to cellar, windows painted black and pigeons roosting in the eaves. Ryckman gutted the building and launched a one-year renovation project.

With help from a carpenter and her two sons, Ryckman transformed the building into a cozy and inviting shop that includes original hardwood floors, a new tongue-and-groove cathedral ceiling with exposed rough-hewn hemlock beams, and recycled beadboard cabinets and shelves. In addition to the street-level storefront, the building includes a basement and two second-floor apartments, one of which is Ryckman's new home.

Navigating Obstacles with Creative Marketing

gift store display paDoing business in a small town is both a blessing and an obstacle. Ryckman glows talking about the town of Linesville and its 1,115 residents. She can't say enough about her fellow merchants, who watch out for each other and regularly pop in to say hello.

"The town is extremely supportive," she says. "We have folks that float from store to store assisting the sales staff with gift wrapping or helping serve refreshments during special events." Ryckman shares her merchandising and display talents by dressing windows and storefronts for banks, jewelry stores and neighboring shops.

Linesville store owners depend on the summer tourist season to stay in business. Home to five privately owned campgrounds, the town is heavily populated in June and July. Knowing that the campgrounds were a prime source of customers, Ryckman met with the campground owners and gave each a present of cookies or fudge,. Now, in return, the campground owners point seasonal visitors to her shop.

Campers and summer-cottage owners are not abundant enough to float the business year-round, so Ryckman puts her imagination and fun-loving personality to use planning special marketing events that attract shopper from as far away as Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Ladies from regional Red Hat Society chapters attend Ryckman's fun-filled "fashion shows," Three or four times a month, Treasured Gifts employees, decked out in full costume, strut, shimmy and stroll down a purple carpet lined with ruby red bonnets. A Paris Hilton look alike glides seductively across the floor to the tune of "Wild Thing" while embracing the newest Boyd's Bear or Bearington Bear. The heiress is followed by little Jach-be-Nimble jumping over candles from McCall's Country Canning, Root, Bridgewater and Keepers of the Light, Ryckman secures lunch reservations at a local restaurant for the chapter member so the ladies can enjoy a full day of entertainment and shopping with ease.

For customers who have the January or February winter blues, Ryckman prescribes the perfect pick-me-up; a private hostess party. Customers reserve an after-hours evening at the store, invite a dozen friends, and enjoy personalized shopping, special sales and discounts, and comp0lementary beverages, the enterprising hostess receives 10 percent of the evening's sales receipts in a store gift certificate.

Environment, Product and Service
The Winning Trio

Ryckman attributes Treasured Gifts' success to being able to deliver a comfortable and memorable shopping experience.

"I am very active in the business," says Ryckman. "Once I get to know the customer, it's as if they are buying from their sister." Ryckman strives to remember every shopper's name and small tidbits about her family or decor taste. Indeed, Treasured Gifts' customers are very loyal, something Ryckman pins on the 60-70 hours a week she spends at the store.

After Ryckman draws in customers, the store's imaginative mix of merchandise keeps the shopper's attention. The selection is plentiful. Texas Leather handbags and Periwinkle jewelry share shelf space with jewel-topped cologne bottles. Customers cut their own SunFeather handmade soap in luscious scents such as orange-blossom ginger or cucumber lime. Other shoppers sample hot spiced cider or chunks of homemade fudge.

Instrumental music plays softly as a steady steams of customers strolls in. Ryckman says the merchandise, which she labels 'elegant country," reflects her customers,"Women that shop here are very elegant, yet warm and friendly. They are stylish and have good taste. I've found that women feel comfortable here, and they want their home to feel comfortable too.

Building captivating displays is Ryckman's natural talent. She organizes products by theme and makes changes regularly. A mix of antique and new but distressed cabinets and hutches can be easily moved about the store for a fresh look.

"Something in the store store is always different," says Ryckman. "We have the Tuesday girls who come in every week. I'll move things to another spot and they think it's new. I want shoppers to be drawn to a display, and when they turn their back, another attention-grabbing item pulls them on."

Quarterly buying trips to trade shows in Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania allow Ryckman to scoop up the latest in home accessories and get to know artisans/ " I like to meet the artists personally, see their one-of-a-kind products and establish a relationship with them," she says. "Right now I have a glass painter, furniture maker, soap maker and a potter."

For Ryckman, superb customer service means thinking of a customer's every need, including a restroom stop, "Every store should have a bathroom that shoppers can use," Ryckman says emphatically. The Treasured Gifts restroom is so deftly merchandised that new customer often think it's a display niche. The room is decorated in a masculine golf theme, and no surface is left untouched. "We sell so much out of that bathroom," Ryckman says."I mean they are a captive audience."

Freelance writer Dani Altieri Marinucci lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and covers home style and decor for various publications.

Facts at a Glance

Business name: Treasured Gifts
Owner: Patti Ryckman
Address: 138 Erie Street, Linesville, Pennsylvania 16424
Phone: 814-683-2205
Year opened: 2002. A second, 500-square-foot store opened in November
2005 in Meadville, Pennsylvania. It's designed to give shoppers a "taste of
Treasured Gifts" and attract them to the Linesville store. "it's a small place
that leaves them wanting more," says Ryckman.
Square footage: 1,575 (linesville store)
Number of employees: 2 part time, 3 volunteers
Hottest-selling item: linens, curtains and home decor accessories
Best promotions: Red Hat Society fashions shows and hostess after-hours
shopping parties are just two creative promotional events that generate
double and triple sales figures.
Business philosophy: "From that first step inside the shop, our customers
become part of the Treasured Gifts family and are subject to pampered
treatment, attentive sales staff and beautiful product displays offering
suggested in-home use."