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Visitors may recognize the location, even the new owner’s face behind the counter, but lifelong Newtown resident Martine Shanchuk guarantees that any visitor to The Gift Box on the corner of Queen Street at 14 Church Hill Road will experience complete immersion into a brand-new world of cool, enticing, and exciting gifts, fashions, cards, and decorative accents.
Ms Shanchuk spent months preparing the cozy shop for its grand opening, which occurred over the weekend of September 8. Ahead of that, she meticulously selected each item on display from a variety of regional and national suppliers, including some great fashion accessories, jewelry, and men’s specialty gifts that she discovered during a recent junket to the NY NOW home, lifestyle, and gift show at New York’s Javits Center in mid-August.
The local business owner said The Gift Box provides her with an opportunity to interact with customers, helping them find the perfect card, gift, or household item, while putting years of retail management experience, along with floor planning and window design skills, to work in her own home town. She previously worked as an associate who quickly advanced to become a store co-manager for Eddie Bauer, and also spent time working in the previous business that occupied her current location.
“I already had familiarity with the space, but I really set out to start from scratch building The Gift Box so it had its own identity,” Ms Shanchuk told The Newtown Bee during a recent visit. “I worked really hard on the basic store design, coordinating colors to remake the space in an appealing way before I ever started considering the floor plan and layout of our merchandise.”
Ms Shanchuk is a Class of ‘97 Newtown High School grad and was a leader in the marching band. She went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in music, and has since played clarinet in community bands, and with the Connecticut Pops ensemble.
“But then a career in retail kind of took over,” she said.
Having worked in the fast-paced and high traffic environment at the Danbury Fair mall, Ms Shanchuk and her associates can certainly handle a crush of customers at The Gift Box. But she would much rather spend quality time with patrons ensuring they can see or model any of the hundreds of items she offers to find the perfect selection.
In the weeks before her store’s opening, Ms Shanchuk was excited to visit one of the largest gift and home shows in the country so she could complete her fall/winter line of offerings with some of the newest and hottest items available in the marketplace.
“I went to discover new products, but I specifically had my eye out for men’s gift items, as well as anything that struck me as being particularly appealing to my local patrons,” she said. “There was a lot of jewelry, so I had to look really hard to find just the right lines.”
One of the lines she saw at the New York gift show was a line she was already familiar with, and eager to add to The Gift Box — Spartina 449 — which originates from Savannah, Ga.
“I love the packaging and that it is really durable 18-karat gold plate,” Ms Shanchuk said. “Some of the pieces come with inspiring messaging, and I think it is very reasonably priced.”
She also selected a limited line of Shihreen ponchos and cardigans, along with some sharp Katie Q brand purses and wallets.
“I liked the Katie Q brand for its nice fall colors, styles, and durable materials — there’s really something here for every taste,” Ms Shanchuk said.
For those looking to pick up a home accent that represents their own home town, Ms Shanchuk has a line of Newtown and Sandy Hook accessories, including some locally designed and branded pieces by Melissa Sorrentino.
And she has received a huge response over her unique selection of witty and colorful gift and greeting cards.
Ms Shanchuk said that in the coming weeks she will be completing her fall/winter product line with late arrivals from both the gift show and other sources, and then she will begin planning new displays and windows for the upcoming holiday season.
Foregoing a website, anyone interested in learning more about The Gift Box can check it on Facebook.
One Facebook visitor commented: “I was surprised to see everything from clothes to tea sets to lotions! I especially love how your store is set up and how your beautiful displays make it easy to shop. I was drawn right to a style necklace that I don’t already own (gift to self!!) The staff was lovely and helpful too. I’ll be back!”
Patrons are also welcome to call 203-426-5235. The Gift Box is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm.