While the pandemic (and pandemic regulations) has been a horrible experience, it forced a lot of business owners to adapt, and some new businesses probably wouldn’t be here without COVID-19.
On Hertel Avenue in Buffalo, the new Stella and Brooke gift shop probably wouldn’t exist without the pandemic and a bit of adaptation from owner Jess Pearl.
Pearl had been running her Buffalo Airbrush Tan business in early 2020 when pandemic lockdowns effectively canceled all weddings, baby showers, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties and other social events. With the airbrush tanning business largely being driven by personal events, Pearl had to shut her shop.
Although some businesses started to reopen in the late spring of 2020, major events were still largely on hold. Pearl had to adapt, or likely lose her business. Having a long-standing interest in retail, she decided to operate a pop-up gift stand at an outdoor market last winter.
“After the market was over,” she told me, “I thought, I’m gonna start carrying a few gift items. Because everyone that would come in my shop was going to a wedding or a party and many needed to buy gifts.
“Even before the pandemic, I was talking to my customers all the time about where they were going and finding out what they were doing afterward. So, I got to know what events people are going to, and I catered my products to what they could take with them; keeping in mind an approachable price point.”
The makeshift market inside Buffalo Airbrush Tan eventually outgrew the space, and Pearl decided to open a separate retail business down the street.
The new gift shop carries hostess gifts, gifts for babies, wedding gifts, birthday gifts and Buffalo-themed gifts for any occasion. There are cross-body bags from Pixie, candles from Voluspa and an Oprah holiday gift pick – Cozychic robes from Barefoot Dreams.
Stella & Brooke carries baby clothes from Mudpie, but Pearl said her store is primarily focused on providing gifts: “I started carrying Mudpie because a lot of people were having babies. I don’t carry the full baby collection. I only carry the ‘just born’ gifts – sizes from 0 to 3. I didn’t want to get too much into bigger sizes because I’m not a baby store. I’m a gift shop.”
That distinction is important because Stella & Brooke is designed to fill a specific niche on Hertel Avenue.
“Most of the other places on Hertel are retail stores,” Pearl said. “The street didn’t really have a gift shop, which is why I wanted to give it one.”
And while it may seem like the store is geared toward feminine gifts, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something for everyone.
“We’re a great place for a guy who doesn’t want to go to a mall,” Pearl said. “They can stop here and get great gifts for their girls.”
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