Karen Cavin of The 5 Senses offers gift-giving advice ahead of Valentine’s Day
So, how is Valentine’s Day for retailers in West Chester? I like Valentine’s Day. It’s a nice holiday in the middle of the winter; it picks things up for a couple weeks. It’s good for me now, because I am the card store now. My whole back room is pretty much cards. I saw the need when Pages closed, then Penwick closed, and there was no place to buy cards except the Rite Aid, and that is unacceptable.
Why is Rite Aid unacceptable? You just get stock kinda cards there. Mine are mostly all printed in the US, and I brought in many of the lines they used to have at Pages. So, I have all occasion cards: goofy cards, pretty cards, glittery cards. I even have The New Yorker line, which definitely has its particular market. I’ve tried to get a balance of everything.
Do you think it means more when someone buys a unique card? I do. And, despite having a much more original selection here, we charge the same price you’ll pay at Rite Aid, and sometimes even cheaper than Hallmark.
You mentioned stores closing. What do you think could be done to boost local retail? The town needs more retail. I feel like every time a store closes, an eatery opens. A vital downtown needs a good mix to bring people to town and keep them here. I’ve seen good things coming in from the new Chestnut Square Apartments, and that’s helping. The demographics are here, but we need more retail. We need more art galleries, we need more people selling gifts.
Speaking of gifts, what’re some good gift ideas? I have my Houston Lou spirit tiles. They’re always good gifts. Each one is handmade of melted, powdered glass, then they bake it on reclaimed copper. They all have a saying, and who said it. People always come in and touch them
and stand there and look at them—they’ve always seemed special.
That’s a cool idea, but I think my goto is jewelry. We have some local jewelers, like Serena Kojimoto, who makes this beautiful, delicate, gemstone jewelry that’s been very popular. She doesn’t even have a website, so if you want to see it, you need to come into the store—you can’t buy it online.
What do you think you can offer that online retailers can’t? You can’t smell a candle online. You can’t smell soaps. You can’t hear the sound of a wind chime or feel the texture of those Houston Lou tiles. You can’t really appreciate art.
You seem a little… disappointed. Well, I sometimes have people come in who’ll explore, pick up a few things, then look up similar ideas online. The issue is that, if local retailers just become the showroom for the internet, these places will no longer exist, and you won’t have the opportunity to use your senses when making a purchase.
Photo: Sabina Sister
Interview: Dan Mathers