By BRENDAN SORRELL, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — The Gilford Gift Outlet is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but at the end of the summer will be closing for good. Unlike some gift shops in the area, the Gilford Gift Outlet is going out on its own terms, finishing off another successful year. After 30 years in the location at Patrick's Place that allowed owner Eric Young to open two other gift stores in New Hampshire, it's now time to scale back and look towards retirement.
Young was studying marine science and planning on working on research vessels when failing a vision test kept him from gaining a Coast Guard certification. He transferred schools and went into the family card and gift business. After 10 years of working for the family, it was time for him to branch out on his own, and he knew the perfect spot. His father, Robert, had built the building that is now home to Patrick's Pub and a New Hampshire Liquor Store, along with the Gilford Gift Outlet. When Eric Young moved into the location in his father's building, he said, "It was a very quiet corner."
"What put the plaza on the map," Young said, "was Walter Kelleher opening up Patrick's." The addition of Patrick's added greatly to the amount of traffic the Gift Outlet received. More people were noticing the Gilford Gift Outlet as they came to the plaza, and people waiting to get into Patrick's would stop in and peruse. Many small gift stores have had great locations and been unable to stay in business as larger chains that sell greeting cards and gifts centered on life on the lake have prospered at the smaller businesses' expense.
Given the seasonal nature of sales of such items in the area and the many economic swings we have seen over the last 30 years, it might come as a surprise to many that the Gilford Gift Outlet has been open full time, seven days a week, year-round since its inception. Young explains that he does this so that his employees can have consistent pay year-round, and it is obvious that his employees appreciate his support. One employee, Laureen, even goes as far as to say "I don't think I could ever work for anyone else."
As for the business the gift shop does, Young said his T-shirt and sweatshirt business is phenomenal, making up 25 percent of sales. Yankee Candle has been a huge boost in recent years as well. Some smaller sales phenomena that have occurred over the years are certainly more apparent to people in Young's trade. During an economic downturn the business was making do but incurring some debts when the Beanie Baby craze hit. Young said "Beanie Babies kept a lot of stores like mine going." The sales of these specialized stuffed animals was so great that his store immediately increased its profits by a substantial margin and went on to have a great sales year.
These days, when people come into the store and see the store's closing sale in progress, they often say "I'm so sorry you're leaving" and wonder where they're going to go next summer. This sentiment is greatly appreciated on the part of Young, and while it is bittersweet in a certain sense he believes it is the right decision. The store will be open through Sept. 20, with large mark-downs, as they sell to the bare walls.
The Gilford Gift Outlet will close Sept. 21 after 30 years in its location next to Patrick's Pub. (Brendan Sorrell/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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