By Karina Ioffee
Retailers often talk about creating an “in-store experience,” a mood they set by playing music, offering chairs and selecting certain items to display.
It’s something we’ve come to expect at stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom’s or Sephora, and what makes shopping an enjoyable hobby for many.
But occasionally, we stumble over a store we've never heard of, where interesting merchandise, affordable prices and a cozy environment create a welcoming space that makes us want to spend, spend, spend.
The gift shop inside Novato Community Hospital is one such a place, where patients and their families can unwind and forget their troubles by browsing through an assortment of interesting jewelry, clothing and home décor items.
There are summer scarves made with silvery thread, pleather wallets so soft they seem like the real thing and elegant blouses under $40. On another shelf are hand-woven baskets from Bali and colorful necklaces and bracelets from local designers, including pieces made from Czech glass.
It’s an unexpected treasure trove as far as hospital gift shops go, typically more known for teddy bears, key chains, snacks and other tchatchkes.
Overseeing the 150-square foot store are volunteers Marilyn Smith and Pam Pansini.
“We see ourselves as falling somewhere between the downtown boutiques, but at more affordable prices, and department stores, but with higher quality,” Smith said.
Smith’s husband, Lowell, was the administrator of Novato Community Hospital from 1990 to 1996, while Pansini’s husband, Andy, is a former member of the hospital board of directors.
Smith now spends a part of her year in Washington state and attends gift and clothing shows to scope out interesting merchandise. Then she invites artists to sell at the gift store creating a strong artisan to community pipeline.
All proceeds from the shop are funneled into hospital programs including the chaplaincy program, Health Express, which helps transport seniors without cars and the hospital’s Institute for Health and Healing, which offers therapeutic massage.
Besides clothing, jewelry and home items, the gift shop prides itself in offering merchandize representative of the Bay Area, such as wine country products and America’s Cup bags and paintings, along with seasonal merchandise.
Have you been to the Novato Community Hospital gift shop?