Gift Shops Make Memories
Gift shops make a nice addition to hotels to sell food & beverage-related souvenirs as mementos. In many cases, they help extend the hotel’s brand identity because gift shops are often more accessible to the general public than the property itself.
The Inn Shops, housed in a restored 1740s tavern across the street from the 16-room Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia, contains a suite of five interconnected shops themed around jewelry and accessories; art; cigars and wine accoutrements; china and glassware; and food and clothing.
Rachel Hayden, marketing manager, says chef and owner Patrick O’Connell’s two cookbooks are top sellers at the gift shop. “The recipes in them are really approachable. People come and spend the night or have dinner, then take a cookbook home and recreate some of the things that they enjoyed while they were here.”
Recently, the inn began selling its house-made jams, which guests experience as part of the breakfast service. Diners at the inn, which was just rated the #1 hotel restaurant in the country by Zagat, leave with a tiny “picnic basket” filled with cookies and chocolates. The gift shop sells two items out of that basket—candied grapefruit rind and almonds coated in caramel and chocolate. So even if one can’t afford the inn’s least expensive room ($395 off peak) or least expensive meal ($138 per person, before tax and tip), one can venture into the gift shop, buy a jar of jam or bag of almonds, and dream.
The gift shop also sells oatmeal cookies sprinkled with fleur de sel, O’Connell’s favorite muffins— carrot with a cream cheese center— and a currant rye bread. “The cookies and muffins fly out the door. We bake them twice a day to keep up with demand.”
Not only are the shops frequented by guests, but it is a favorite pit stop for locals, tourists on their way to the nearby Shenandoah National Park, and those who merely want to see what the renowned inn is about.
The idea behind selling so much food started, says Hayden, when guests began asking if they could have things like granola or the bar nuts shipped to them. The nuts are so popular that even though there’s a recipe for them in the cookbook, the gift shop sells the spice mix because many feel they can’t duplicate it.
The gift shop also sells a lot of china. “Patrick has an eclectic collection of tastes,” says Hayden.“When you have dinner here, you have many different patterns that come through. He likes to change things and mix new funky Bernadaud-type styles with classic old Wedgwood patterns.” Hayden says the breakfast china from Bernadaud is a top seller. “It’s beautiful and sweet. People often fall in love with it and buy a setting for six.” Another top seller is the chef gear printed with the inn’s signature Dalmatian print.
SLEEP & SHOP
Anyone who makes it to the town of Fort Davis, population 1,100, located in the southwest part of Texas and 170 miles from a commercial airport, would surely be compelled to stop at the 41-room Hotel Limpia, one of the town’s major points of interest. Next to the hotel is Hotel Limpia Gifts and right across the street is another hotel-owned gift shop, Javelinas and Hollyhocks.
The Limpia shares the same ownership as Hotel Paisano, 22 miles away in the town of Marfa. The Paisano also has its own gift shop, and Diane Moore, buyer and retail manager for all the shops, says the challenge in running three shops is making each one feel distinct as well as selecting items “people won’t see everywhere else.”
Hotel Limpia Gifts, the largest of the shops at around 3,000 square feet, sells lots of cookbooks, especially those featuring Texas cuisine. But the best seller is the hotel’s own cookbook where purchasers can find the recipe for the hotel’s famed honey buttermilk biscuits. The shop sells private label jams, preserves, honeys, and hot sauces. Anything from Texas is a hit, says Moore, such as Aunt Aggie De’s pralines made in Sinton and candies from the Davis Mountain Nut Company.
Javelinas and Hollyhocks is much smaller and is great for children and nature lovers, offering games and hiking accessories. The Paisano gift shop is more high end and sells some home furnishings.
“The gift shops are a great profit center for the hotel,” says Moore and it’s not uncommon for entire busloads of tourists to descend on them. Hotel Limpia Gifts also gets many local shoppers because it’s the go-to place in Fort Davis for bridal registry and baby showers.
About 50 percent of shoppers at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego are day visitors intrigued by its National Historic Landmark status. The hotel has 20 shops, including Babcock and Story Emporium, named after the founders of the hotel. Valerie Willis, retail director, describes Babcock and Story as a “California lifestyle store” that sells home accessories and gourmet foods, mostly from Stonewall Kitchens. Popular items include the dishes, glasses, and silverware used in the restaurant as well as a chocolate bar molded in the shape of the hotel’s “iconic” turret.
Unlike the Inn at Little Washington, the Limpia Hotel, and the “Hotel Del,” the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, is a private compound, and, therefore, its 450-square foot gift shop is strictly for guests, says GM Dan Priano.
The gift shop sells the furnishings, bedding, robes, and spa treatments featured at the inn. A top seller is a cookbook featuring the recipes of Craig von Foerster, chef at the Inn’s restaurant, Sierra Mar. The inn makes its own granola and jams, which, after an expansion, may be added to the gift shop, says Priano.
At the Post Ranch Inn, where the least expensive room starts at $550 a night and tops out at $2,400, most are only able to press their nose against the glass of their car windows and sigh in envy as they drive by. But now, thanks to the Internet, outsiders can press their nose against the glass of their computer screens as they order from the inn’s website (www.postranchmercantile.com), which “offers the opportunity for you to have, or to share with someone special, some of the tangible things our guests enjoy at Post Ranch Inn.Beth Rogers is a frequent contributor to HOTEL F&B.