A Glimpse Into Retail

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“A big business starts small.”
– Richard Branson

 

Gift Shop Owners Share Their Stories

By Kristen Dee | Photography by Rich Smith

Whether you’re looking for a gift for a friend’s birthday, a new seasonal home décor item, or flowers to celebrate a special occasion, there is no shortage of incredible retail spots in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas to meet your needs. Here, eight local retail shop owners share what makes their shops special and keeps customers coming back.

kelly jolley

Genevieve Bond

Kelly Jolley, Owner

With more than 250 active vendors contributing to the product offerings of Genevieve Bond, you’re sure to find the perfect gift within the 21,000+ square-foot gift shop. If you prefer to shop online, the website is conveniently sorted both by brand and price range, letting you easily budget for your finds. There’s no limit to the kinds of products or brands you might find while shopping, with everything from jewelry and Christmas décor to glassware and pillows covering every inch of the store.

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Owner Kelly Jolley believes this is something that contributes to the shopping experience at Genevieve Bond, saying “I focus on finding things that are fresh and unusual. Visitors can literally spend hours in the store and still not see everything! Shoppers will find hidden treasures tucked here and there, which keeps them engaged.”

The diverse range of products, hand gift-wrapping, and personalized service are hallmarks of the store. Despite staffing challenges of recent years, the Genevieve Bond team members (fondly referred to as the “Bond Girls”) include two loyal team members, Katie and Beth, who have been with Genevieve Bond for several years. The Bond Girls make sure that the energy and atmosphere of the store curate a special experience for all shoppers. “Ideally, we want everyone who visits Genevieve Bond to have such a memorable experience that they can’t wait to share the details with friends and family,” Jolley says. “Give us a glimpse of who you’re shopping for and leave the rest to us – we’ll make sure you knock it out of the park!” These unique experiences have created a loyal customer base and meaningful relationships for Jolley and the Bond Girls.

Genevieve Bond opened in 2000 and was named in memory of Jolley’s grandmother, Genevieve Pearl Bond. Founding her business “on the value of true gift-giving,” Jolley stays true to these roots by going back to the basics, sharing that those are the key to success. “Be kind, tell the truth (even when it’s not popular), and always play fair.”

Warehouse Row

sean lawrenson

Good Kinsmen

Sean Lawrenson, Co-Owner

Good Kinsmen, located in Chattanooga’s Northshore, offers curated kitchen goods and tableware, special gifts, wedding registry services, knife fitting and sharpening, and more. They are a kitchen and home goods store – but Good Kinsmen stands out amongst others. “We have a distinct combination of tabletop, kitchenware, and antiques,” says co-owner Sean Lawrenson. “Our focus is on curating what we believe to be the finest home goods available, which is evident in the quality and diversity of our offerings.”

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Browsing Good Kinsmen’s store or website, you can find an incredible variety of high-quality items often sourced from across the world, such as the popular Japanese Santoku knives typically used for chopping, dicing, and mincing, or Finezza tableware items handmade by artisans in Northern Italy. Despite challenges with the global supply chain, the store’s focus on quality goods is intentional for Lawrenson. “We advocate for products like the Rösle Garlic Press because we genuinely believe it’s the best option available based on our knowledge and experience,” he says. “It will be the last garlic press that you ever buy.”

In addition to these quality products, the shop’s charm comes from other elements like their historic building, elegant and creative décor, and the hand-selected 100-year-old French tables. “The allure of our store lies in its visual appeal and the unique narrative it presents about the role that tabletop and kitchenwares play in our lives. We have people who literally spend hours just looking around – which we encourage!” Lawrenson says. In addition to the hours spent in the store, guests often find themselves returning. “Our returning customer rate is at 35% and growing, which is something I’m really proud of,” he shares. Lawrenson believes the repeat customers result from a positive shopping experience and trust in the expertise of the team members, who are “dedicated to being experts in our respective fields.” Good Kinsmen’s unique offerings coupled with their expertise is sure to continue to impress shoppers looking for the perfect kitchen tool or registry item.

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becca coleman & erin leonard, co-owners

Photos by Sarah Unger

Joli Jardin

Becca Coleman & Erin Leonard, Co-Owners

Becca Coleman, owner of Joli Jardin flower and gift shop, recognizes that some people may prefer to shop online rather than at a retail space. “Truthfully, most everyone can find what they need online,” she says. “So coming into our store, picking out your own flowers, and browsing through the carefully curated gifts
is an experience in itself.”

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The effort Coleman makes to curate a thoughtful space is clear, with many customers commenting that the space feels almost European, with its “moody décor” and feel-good vibes. “It’s a very unique spot in Chattanooga. Everyone always comments on how walking into the store makes them feel like they are walking into a shop in England or France,” Coleman says.

Coleman has accomplished a beautiful blend of local and global sources for Joli Jardin’s products. Inside, endless rows of flowers and house plants adorn the shelves, intertwined with hand-picked gifts such as tabletop books and crystals. The gift items are selected from local brands like Cocoa Asante and Brass & Pebble, as well as specialty products from Australia or England. Many of the flowers come directly from Coleman’s own flower farm, which is where the operation started as a flower truck called Blumenwagen. “We are able to offer a unique variety,” she explains. “We have some customers who prioritize shopping from local farms, and we love having an avenue beyond farmers markets for them to access these flowers.”

Joli Jardin’s gorgeous interior and unique offerings speak for themselves, but the shop’s team also provide outstanding customer service and flower knowledge that keeps customers returning. “Quality products and good customer service goes a long way! We focus on hiring people who also love the store and the products we carry,” Coleman shares. “Our team inputs their thoughts on the products we pick, so being engaged and excited about what we are selling makes the process come naturally.”

Coleman also believes in knowing your audience and speaking to them often, sharing that they are very engaged with customers through social media and email to inform them when there’s something new in the shop or a seasonal flower is beginning to bloom. This year, Joli Jardin is looking forward to opening a second location in Chattanooga’s Northshore, where the love of all things floral and gifts will continue.

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ronnie spence, krista long, & dana silvers, co-owners

Raspberry Row

Ronnie Spence, Krista Long, & Dana Silvers, Co-Owners

“We make people feel welcome the moment they come through the door by listening to what they need and helping them to the best of our ability,” says Raspberry Row co-owner Krista Long about the kind of shopping experience she creates at her shop in Dalton, Georgia. The family-owned and operated shop offers gifts, registry services, and home décor items to fit any tastes or budgets. They also continue to offer custom lighting services, which has created a niche for the shop. “When my parents founded Raspberry Row, they offered lamp shades and electrical lamp repair because no one else in Dalton was offering such products or services,” she shares.

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The store has seen two different locations and has evolved since first opening in 1998, but the family’s focus on building relationships has remained the same. “Since day one, there have been two rocking chairs in the shop to visit with customers, many who have become friends. My parents instilled the value of being unique as well as building relationships and friendships,” Long says. These values have continued to allow Raspberry Row to succeed, now in their 26th year of business.

Located in a historic brick building in downtown Dalton, the shop offers a wide variety of selections from popular brands such as Capri Blue fragrance and beauty products, Glory Haus home décor items, and Vietri Italian dinnerware. Long stays on top of trends and intentionally creates a “well-balanced product mix unique to Raspberry Row.” Purchasing from Raspberry Row also means your item will be custom gift-wrapped, a hallmark of their store. “Our goal is to make it easy for our customers and for them to leave happy with a beautifully wrapped gift they are proud to give,” she says.

Long attributes the success to her parents and family who have been along for the journey. “My parents began Raspberry Row in 1998, and I came on about a year and a half later. I followed my mother’s lead, Pat Spence, and we operated Raspberry Row until she passed away from cancer in 2019.” Long’s father Ronnie Spence continues to be involved as a co-owner, in addition to her cousin Dana Silvers. “We are blessed to continue Raspberry Row with family and great friends,” Long says. “Without them and the strong foundation laid by my parents, Raspberry Row would not have grown to what it is today.”

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christine waldrop

Photos by Sarah Unger

Blluum

Christine Waldrop, Owner

Opening her shop in 2020, Blluum owner Christine Waldrop was eager to put her floral and event design experience to practice, while also honoring the women who made her who she is. The Blluum website proudly states: “Blluum’s mission is to cultivate and kindle relationships, like those of Christine and the women who raised her, by harnessing the sentimental.”

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Blluum offers stunning bouquets that exude creativity and color, unique event design services, and a wide variety of gift offerings such as hand-poured candles, healthy soup mixes, local art pieces, and children’s books. Intentionality is at the heart of Waldrop’s business practice. Each of Blluum’s floral designs is custom-made, and the gift offerings are hand-picked from other local small businesses or woman- and veteran-owned shops. “We try to source all of our products locally or regionally. I’ve got cards from Chattanooga and homemade pastas from Nashville. If they aren’t local or regional, they have a story behind them, like our handmade cards that support refugee women,” Waldrop says. 

With a saturated retail market, Blluum still stands out from the crowd. “Finding your niche to answer audience needs is key,” she says. Waldrop has accomplished finding Blluum’s niche by offering beautiful, quality products but also by focusing on outstanding service and shopping experiences. “Blluum focuses on building authentic and intentional relationships,” she shares. “Everyone knows the experience of going into a store and it feels like you’re being ‘sold something.’ We cultivate a relaxing, pleasant environment that can be as hands-on or hands-off as the client needs.”

Blluum is currently celebrating four years in business. Waldrop reflects on the community that has supported her and the special connections she’s gained as a result, saying, “We’re here because of the community; they have been so supportive. Whether it’s welcoming babies, celebrating birthdays, being a part of wedding days, providing comfort through loss and grief, or those just stopping in to say hello, it is an honor to be a part of these stories.”

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todd murphy

Chrysalis

Todd Murphy, Owner

Todd Murphy has owned and operated his home décor and gift shop for 22 years. A fantastic accomplishment for any small business, Murphy’s experience is particularly meaningful in that he has seen decades of families walk through his doors. “I’ve watched as couples form families and have children, then those children graduate and become customers in their own right,” Murphy says. “I have gotten to know most of my customers and can remember milestones we shared over the years. The one constant is the relationship you build with customers.”

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These relationships are the key to the special retail environment at Chrysalis, where Murphy takes a hands-on, passionate approach. “We still hand write sales tickets. We talk with customers. We answer the phone or will return your call. We can assist you or let you browse. We know our merchandise and can help you make the ‘just right’ decision,” he shares.

Making the right decision for a gift might be harder than expected, with so many options to choose from. Chrysalis stocks everything from luxury bath products, colorful home décor, accessories such as headbands and bags, to chocolates, jewelry and more. During the holiday seasons, the shelves overflow with holiday and seasonal items like themed pillows, ornaments, snacks, and decorations.

When asked what he thinks makes his customers continue to come back to Chrysalis, Murphy attributes it to a combination of service, unique products, and personal connections. “Offering personal shopping at its finest is what we hope to provide. I strive to make each and every experience enjoyable,” he says. “We provide top drawer service, curated advice, create a retail therapy oasis, and offer a diverse array of merchandise you won’t see elsewhere.”

Murphy fondly looks back on his 22 years in Southside Chattanooga as he plans to transition to a space in Ooltewah in the coming months, where he is moving the shop. He is looking forward to the change, saying, “The word ‘chrysalis’ is Greek in origin, meaning ‘new beginnings.’ I will miss downtown, but as one door closes, another opens.”

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jamie rehm

Photos by Sarah Unger

Bud Floral + Home

Jamie Rehm, Co-Owner

From custom wedding floral arrangements to holiday flowers or gifts and even floral subscriptions, owner Jamie Rehm and her team at Bud Floral + Home have your flower and gift needs covered. Bud Floral offers a variety of floral arranging services in addition to balloon garland installations, as well as workshops and classes such as holiday wreath making and Galentine’s arrangements. “We strive to offer high-end fresh florals, plants, and orchids, and pair them with affordable add-on gifts,” Rehm says. “We offer unique florals and designs for events and weddings that set us apart from other floral shops.”

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Rehm believes that the shop’s offerings along with the experience of shopping at Bud Floral set her store apart, saying, “When people come into the shop they realize that we offer high-end, fresh flowers daily, and as grab-and-goes, at an affordable price that will get them something different than they see at other flower sources. We have a large range of add-on gifts that enhance the flowers to make the purchase that more special and unique.” In addition to the flowers and gifts available in her shop, she also specializes in weddings and event florals. 

Rehm takes a family-like approach to customer service, inspired by the feelings she got at her grandparents’ dining table. Parties and gatherings meant her grandmother would bring out the finest linens and silver, accompanied by her Grandpa Bud’s “prize-winning flowers,” the inspiration behind Bud Floral and her way of honoring their legacy. This customer service keeps people returning to Bud Floral and is something Rehm emphasizes both in her own approach to the shop and how she trains, and treats, her team. “Your customer is always right. We are all about customer service and making them feel they are part of the family,” she says. “I treat my employees how they would like to be treated; I treat them like family and that carries over to making my customers feel the same way.”

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susan williams

The Pine Needle

Susan Williams, Owner

After needing a gift for their daughters’ swim team coach and driving to Chattanooga to find it, The Pine Needle owner Susan Williams and then business partner Pat Burns recognized the need for a gift shop in Dalton, Georgia. Beginning as a small space in Williams’ backyard for four years, the store has continued to grow and evolve into what it is today. This year, The Pine Needle celebrates 50 years of business.

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The 7,000+ square foot space is filled floor to ceiling with gifts, home décor, and wedding registry selections, boasting more than 23,000 products. With this impressive catalog, The Pine Needle draws in plenty of foot traffic for general shopping, but Williams says the brides are the heart and soul of the business. “We have antiques, decorative accessories, a children’s room, and more,” she shares. “Our taste is traditional with a flair of modern – but we lean toward a traditional shop. We have two china rooms, and we’ve been serving brides all 50 years. That’s why we’re still in business – the brides. And all the brides know other brides!”

It’s clear why engaged couples would want to register at The Pine Needle – the store displays brightly lit, gleaming sets of china and unique home décor items for all tastes. Couples can choose from classic, white china pieces to more colorful sets, shiny silver flatware or modern mattes, and clear or colored wine glasses to adorn their tables.

In addition to the variety of items and selections, customer service is evident at The Pine Needle, from the moment you’re greeted to when you leave with a new home décor item for yourself or a thoughtfully wrapped gift for a friend’s birthday. “With retail, you get to meet people and know your customers. We have good customer service, we’re thoughtful with people,” Williams says. “We offer free gift wrapping and people love the way we wrap.”

As the shop celebrates 50 years and Williams celebrates 83, she is certain about what has helped her remain successful, saying, “God has taken good care of us. He has blessed us over the years with great employees and amazing customers.”

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