Shopping among the many quaint gift shops in tourist towns such as Newburyport and Portsmouth served as the inspiration for Sara Anderson to one day open her own business.
Only that “one day” came sooner than expected.
“After 15 years I was laid off from my job in human resources. I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world and I had some severance pay to work with, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to give it a try,” Anderson said about starting her own business.
So was born her own unique gift shop on April 3 last year called The Humble Fox in Somers, Conn.
When asked how she came up with the store’s name, Anderson said it is a common question asked by my many of her customers.
“I wanted to incorporate my parents into the title somehow, and we call my dad the ‘Silver Fox.’ My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor which made us think of the word ‘pink.’ But, I wanted to keep the title gender neutral, so after searching for a number of adjectives that might work before the word fox I came upon ‘humble,’ which I thought sounded good,” she said.
Anderson, who lives in East Longmeadow, Mass., is a one-woman show.
“It’s just me,” she said about being manager, salesperson, buyer, merchandiser, bill payer, cleaner and just about anything else you can think of when it comes to running a business.
So, when it came time to search for a location for her shop, Anderson had some definite ideas – chief of which was affordability – and she went out “shopping” to find the perfect storefront.
“Since I grew up in a small town, I knew that I wanted that small town atmosphere for my store. I looked all around, including in East Longmeadow and Wilbraham, but eventually decided on a property in Somers that was the perfect size, whose rent I could afford, and that had recently been painted and needed little work before moving in,” Anderson said.
“It’s a great location at a busy intersection in the center of Somers. We’re across the street from the Copper House Tavern, which a lot of people know as the old Somers Inn which once offered lodging,” she added.
When it came to furnishing the store with displays to hold her merchandise, Anderson had a creative approach that was able to save her some money.
“Most of my displays are repurposed items such as antique furniture from my parents’ basement…..it gives my store a vintage eclectic look. There’s an old hutch, for example, that my father built and that now holds all of our baby items. We also repurposed ladders with shelves to hold some items. And, using the top of an old dining room table, my dad built the counter where our register is located,” she said.
As for stocking her store, the fun part for Anderson, she had some definite ideas in mind. “I wanted the majority of the items I would sell – which is about 75-80 percent of our stock now – to be handmade or come from small businesses, as opposed to more massproduced items. Early on I offered a line of nail polish in the store that people came to love. I still sell them, but now you can find them in Target,” Anderson said.
“Many of the items I sell are made by local folks. We have handmade purses from Birch and Ivory in Hampden. Another woman from South Windsor, who calls her business Payne and Comfort, a play on her last name, makes hot and cold packs that go into the freezer or microwave. I also have a line of coffee cozys made by Gigi and Lala in Enfield, and some hand-crocheted hats and knit scarves for the fall and winter from Night Owl Knots in Longmeadow,” she added.
A small sampling of other items at The Silver Fox includes jewelry, wallets, children’s books, gourmet jams, coffee and tea, beauty products for women such as various lotions and perfumes, soaps and shaving creams for men, candy gummies, and several lines of candles, including some made by Anderson.
“Greeting cards are so expensive today, and we have an affordable assortment that are handmade in smaller batches. In fact, one line is made using an antique letterpress,” Anderson said.
Jewelry is among her best-selling products, especially from one vendor in Easthampton, Mass., called Scout Curated Wears.
“Their earrings are very popular with our customers, and they make a necklace-bracelet combo that you can wear around your neck or wrap around your wrists,” Anderson said.
Also in stock right now are various back-to-school items, including a lunch box with a separate compartment for each food item, water bottles, fun erasers, pencils and notebooks. And, Anderson noted she is preparing for the arrival of items for the Halloween and Christmas seasons.
While the majority of the store’s clientele are women, she noted that it is not unusual for a man to step foot in her shop.
“They definitely do come in to buy things. We see a lot of men around Mother’s Day who bring their kids with them to buy a gift for the holiday. Of course, men also come in to buy their wives gifts for other occasions and we help them if they are looking for ideas,” Anderson said.
While a self-proclaimed “onewoman show,” she doesn’t always go it alone.
“My dog Easton is always with me at the store. He is the shop dog who greets customers at the door. Easton is so loved that when a regular customer comes in and doesn’t see him, they want to know where he is,” Anderson said.
The gift shop owner also realized when the holiday buying season arrived in November, that she was going to need some extra help at times.
“The Saturday after Thanksgiving is Small Business Saturday, and I was extremely busy from then right through Christmas. So, my mom and my cousin’s girlfriend quickly became my go-to persons when I needed some extra help,” Anderson said.
With just over a year under her belt since opening The Silver Fox, Anderson said she has “learned a few things.”
“I’ve learned that business is so unpredictable. Any one day to the next can be completely different and you have to be able to roll with it. But, what I’ve really taken away from the experience so far is the people I’ve met. That’s the best thing about owning a small business. I have a lot of regular customers. I know their kids, where they are going on vacation, or their dog’s name, and I love that connection,” Anderson said.
The Humble Fox is located in a strip mall on 11 South Road. It is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and closed on Sunday and Monday.
For more information, call 860-951-1834.
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