Made in Vienna: The Artful Gift Shop
Made in Vienna is a weekly series about locally-grown businesses. Peggy James left corporate finance to start a shop where local artists can sell their work
When Peggy James walked into The Artful Gift Shop for the first time, she could only think one thing.
“This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
James worked in corporate finance for 20 years before she "just couldn't take it anymore."
"I quit my job and took a couple of years off and just did art-related stuff, but realized I had to work," she said.
Her father was searching for businesses online one day and stumbled upon the shop, which was first opened 12 years ago by Kim Pursche and Debbie Smith-Mezzetta.
"I thought this was the perfect fit—a combination of my business skills and art," she said. "I thought the location was great and as soon as I walked in, I wanted to buy it. So I did.”
On Jan. 1, James celebrated her one-year anniversary at the "hippest art gift store in the area," and she couldn’t be happier about her life-changing decision.
“I just love it. I can’t believe I get to do this. My job is cooler than anyone else I know,” James said. “I get to control my own little world more or less. I love customers and the social aspects and talk to artists all the time and get new stuff in.”
The store is a haven for local artists looking to sell their work. James has cultivated a group of member artists at the store, though some of them have been at the store since its beginning 12 years ago. Of the 100 or so artists currently represented at the store, about 98 are local.
“For the most part, the artists own their own merchandise and get paid when it sells,” James said. “I’ve had pretty good luck and for the most part. The artists roll in off the street. There aren’t a lot of places where you can sell your local art.”
The shop carries a diverse and wide variety of art and handmade items. There’s jewelry, hats, bath and body lotions, glassware, pottery, fine art, photography, mosaic, picture frames, baby gifts, gourmet dog biscuits, candles, clocks and more.
"The store has a realty good vibe to it,” James said. “There are a lot of repeat customers, and we cater to the whole local art niche.”
Bob Holtje is a crafter who does woodturning and has bowls, pens, wine bottle stoppers and other wood items at the shop.
“I have been in the shop for six years. Because it offers a wide variety of handmade crafts, I thought my woodturning would sell well,” he said. “It brings exposure and highlights the artist’s work.”
The Artful Gift Shop also puts on events, such as a dog adoption day, wine and cheese night and an Earth Day event.
Though some questioned whether buying a business was the best move with the economic climate the way it was last year, James was able to put her financial background to good use.
“I busted my butt and sales were up 17 percent from the prior year,” she said. “I am marketing on a shoestring budget, which makes it impossible, but I do a lot of merchandise out front to grab people’s attention as they drive by. We have great word of mouth and the whole art community is very supportive.”
James believes that when you can tell the story of the artist and their journey creating the gift, it goes a long way.
“I try to promote each artist individually and what’s special about each one,” she said. “I try hard to get the artist’s name out there.”