Blue / A Goodwill Boutique
335 S. Main St., Akron
To say that what is old is new again couldn’t be truer—especially with a visit to blue / A Goodwill Boutique in downtown Akron. This twist on the traditional thrift shopping experience provides shoppers with a more focused experience. “The Blue Boutique is like having a personal shopper who’s made selections of merchandise to be offered up for sale at this location,” says Janet Morrison, the Vice President, Contract Services and Logistics at Goodwill.
Instead of spending large chunks of time sifting through the voluminous selections at the traditional Goodwill location, searching for that favorite brand name item, patrons of the new boutique spend their time selecting the perfect purchase. These items are gathered from the donations that Goodwill receives. “When they’re going through the wonderful treasures that are donated to us, they’re looking for clothing items and other items that might be more desirable,” Morrison says. “This could be because of the particular label, designer, or it could be that it’s just on point to the trend that’s happening.”
Items like colorful Vera Bradley purses, Express and Loft clothing and even Coach shoes and wallets, are displayed throughout the store. The boutique also features a men’s section and children’s section, with brands reflecting a wide range of ages.
The origin story of this shopping destination stems from a basic desire to keep people in downtown. “Historically, Goodwill was opened locally in 1927 in downtown Akron. We moved out of downtown in 2000, when we came to our office on Waterloo Road,” says Morrison.
The Blue Boutique stemmed from a collaborative project with The University of Akron. Students were asked to find possible ways that Goodwill could get back into downtown. Their solutions painted several different pictures of a new Goodwill location. Some suggested a coffee shop, a record store, or a boutique. This last idea is not unique for Goodwill, but it is a successful one. “The boutique concept for Goodwill has probably been around for eight years or so. It started popping up in different Goodwills across the U.S. and it’s really expanded since.” Morrison says that there are approximately 60 boutiques nationally.
Each boutique can select their own name, but Blue is a popular choice. “We have an agreement with the Goodwill in the Finger Lakes, in Rochester, to use that name—they created the name—and then there are other Goodwills who have used that name as well.”
The downtown Akron Blue Boutique is the second one in the Greater Akron Area. The first one opened in downtown Kent, while they waited for the perfect location to open up in downtown Akron. The Main Street location opened up this summer, allowing the boutique to move into a very visible home. “We think that it’s an amazing location for us and it’s great visibility,” says Morrison.
Just in case shoppers needed another reason to frequent Blue this holiday season, there is also the charitable side of the business. “All of our revenue that we generate—in our retail stores, in our workforce development, in our contracts area where we do industrial sewing and light assembly—goes to support our program services,” says Morrison. By purchasing something at the Blue Boutique, patrons are supporting those that benefit from Goodwill.
“Goodwill’s mission is to help individuals prepare for, find and retain employment, so we have a tagline: donate stuff, create jobs,” says Morrison. As individuals experience success in the workforce, they then donate, creating a cycle of donation.
Shoppers in downtown Akron this holiday season can contribute to this good cause by perusing the boutique and picking up their favorite brands. It is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. “We’re trying to help bring retail back to downtown Akron and by having [a lot of] hours and making that investment, we’re hoping that people that work downtown will come back on the weekends. Maybe get some lunch and come shop.”
Taylor Made Jewelry
2492 Wedgewood Dr., Akron
Purchasing jewelry can be a very intimidating task, especially when it is for a special someone, for a special reason. However, Jim Taylor, owner and jeweler at Taylor Made Jewelry, strives to make the experience as painless as possible. No matter what reason brought you through the door of his store, Taylor and his staff pride themselves on making the experience as relaxing as possible.
“It’s a non-confrontational, very non-threatening, comfortable environment—like you’re walking into someone’s family room.” The goal is not to fulfill a sales quota for the day, but to listen to the customer and help them find what they want to buy. Removing the stress of making a purchase at that moment from the equation, Taylor listens to his customers. “We want them to come in and be relaxed.” Customers are guided through their options, and informed that if they don’t see what they want, it can be ordered for them.
Taylor Made Jewelry features a large inventory of watches—one of the largest in the area according to Taylor—as well as their biggest seller, engagement rings. “I think that’s probably the most intimidating time or purchase a man will make in his life,” says Taylor. “We just make it a very comfortable experience for them.”
Not every wish can be fulfilled by browsing a jewelry case however, and this is where Taylor Made Jewelry excels. “We can do custom design right on the spot,” says Taylor. Whether it is a unique engagement ring or a meaningful design, pieces can be customized to suit the shopper’s needs.
One trend Taylor has seen lately when working on custom designs with his customers embodies a memory. “When people have a spouse that passes away, we’ll take their wedding set—keeping them as intact as possible—and we’ll redesign them to make something to be worn as a memory.” By repurposing a cherished piece of jewelry, the loved one is kept close. “Those are the things that are really neat—where you can create something that captures somebody’s life in a piece of jewelry,” says Taylor.
Don Drumm Studios & Gallery
437 Crouse St., Akron
If you are looking for a shopping experience akin to visiting an art exhibit, look no farther than Don Drumm Studios and Gallery. With walls covered in unique and intriguing works of art, a visit to this local shopping destination will feel as enriching as a visit to a museum. Take it all in as you walk through the spaces, glistening with metallic beauty.
This Akron treasure is not the kind of place you go for a quick gift. “It’s not a store that you run in and run out of,” says Toni Billick, the Aluminum Manager and Gallery Co-Manager at Don Drumm Studios. “It takes a little bit to get the items and to check them out—that’s when we offer free giftwrapping—and then shoppers leave happy campers.”
Located on Crouse Street, near The University of Akron’s campus, the collection of buildings house art from over 500 artists around the United States and Canada, according to Billick. Patrons can wander the main gallery, or outdoor courtyards full of whimsical pieces to adorn a home’s exterior and then browse the Different Drummer for other unique gifts. “At the main gallery, we have Don’s aluminum and pewter. We also carry ceramics, glass and we have over 60 jewelry cases,” says Billick. “In the Different Drummer, they carry wood, leather and fiber art, as well as imports.”
On November 14, an open house will celebrate the beginning of winter. At that time, Christmas trees will be up and decked out for the season. A new ornament, by Leandra Drumm, will be available. “That’s when everybody starts coming in for the holiday season,” says Billick.
Whether you are searching for an ornament, piece of pottery or one of Don Drumm’s signature metallic works of art, this location will definitely provide an unforgettable gift. “We have a little bit of everything and we are in the top ten of the best craft galleries in the United States,” says Billick. “We’re kind of a hidden jewel of the Akron area.”
1600 W. Mill St., Peninsula; 1565 W. Boston Mills Rd., Peninsula
Though many of our adventures in the great outdoors may be over for the year, the memories made while out and about do not need to fade away. This holiday season, give a gift that reminds the recipient of a wonderful day on a sunny trail or trekking to a waterfall with a visit to Trail Mix in Peninsula.
Featuring locally made items, this destination brings memories back to the foreground. “Our whole philosophy is that when you come into the store, we want you to take home a piece of your experience,” says Pamela Ghinnici-Good, the Director of Retail. “We think of ourselves as extending that park experience—whether it’s a necklace that has an owl on it, or a piece of photography of something you might have seen—that’s the base we go on.”
High-quality items, created from craftsmen and artisans in not only Northeast Ohio, but throughout the United States, are all on display at Trail Mix. “We really feel that it’s important to support the local and small businesses, so you’ll find things that are done by a family,” says Ghinnici-Good.
Whether it is a bag made from the ends of yoga mats or bath soaps, the items are unique and provide a personal flair to gift giving. Ghinnici-Good says that Trail Mix’s biggest piece of business comes from the local photography. These gorgeous images are all captured in the national park by—the Cuyahoga Valley Photo Society. “Everything on the wall represents the park,” says Ghinnici-Good.
The store also features unique items sporting the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s logo. Nature lovers can show off their adoration for this local gem with t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and more. A new youth and adult collection has also been introduced that features the Conservancy for CVNP. “We feel it’s very important to get the word out about protecting our national park, so this is an introduction we’re doing for the holiday season,” says Ghinnici-Good. These articles of clothing are also designed locally.
When looking for a meaningful gift this year, why not connect it to a wonderful memory? “We really try to be the link, like all of the spokes in a wheel, that pulls it all together and extends that whole park experience—give everybody a piece of the Cuyahoga Valley that you can take home with you,” says Ghinnici-Good.