Michele Van Tuyl and Gina Burlison are a couple of average Fenton moms who love to craft. They funneled their creative talents into opening a gift boutique called UniQue Ideas ‘N More, 2075B Bentley Plaza, where they create personalized gifts for any occasion.
UniQue Ideas ‘N More sells gifts from t-shirts to jewelry and just about everything in between. They have three methods of personalization, all done in-house: embroidery, vinyl lettering and silk screening. They can also have items engraved. Most gifts can be customized with a two-week turn around, but a few easily monogrammed items can be done on the spot. They also sell “cash and carry” goods, like school spirit wear and tote bags.
Van Tuyl and Burlison’s shop started small but grew rapidly. Van Tuyl said that during their second Christmas season they were starting to really build their customer base through word of mouth. The tiny shop was so packed, customers were waiting on the sidewalk.
“When we were first open, we were half the size we are now,” said Michele. They have since expanded the shop, moving into a larger storefront two doors down. They still use their first shop as a work area. A Curves Fitness lies between the two stores, but as it’s owned by Michele’s mom, they don’t mind. They walk through the Curves to get to their workshop, and share restroom facilities.
Van Tuyl said they credit happy customers with their success and have large local fan base. Many customers not only come back for more, but they also tell their friends.
“We have a VIP card and a referral card,” Van Tuyl said. “Both of those are working very well.” She said the VIP card is a punch card and for every ten punches customers can redeem a $10 off coupon. The referral cards are on the back of their business cards—customers sign the back and give them to friends. If the friend buys something and turns in the card, the referring customer gets a $5 gift card.
They now employ nine other workers besides themselves, with three being full-time staffers. They also bring in their high school children to help around the store when things get busy.
November and December are their busiest months as customers shop for holiday gifts. The store is currently stocked with many holiday themed decorations and ornaments. They also offer free gift wrapping with any personalization.
Michele said that they also are happy to personalize an item not purchased in their shop. For example, they have been customizing Cardinals gear for customers with “2011 World Series Champions” for only $7.
They can customize one item or a hundred. They can embroider or apply vinyl lettering to a single gift, like monogrammed bags, lettered mugs, or cute sayings on a shirt. But they also do larger orders, like for little league teams or the Rockwood South Middle School Band.
“We can cater to small businesses,” Van Tuyl said. If a small company just needs three or four uniform shirts with logos printed on them, they can handle that. She said that not all screen printers are willing to do such small runs.
UniQue Ideas ‘N More offers custom gift baskets, purses, jewelry, personalized baby and wedding items, shirts, hoodies, headbands, glassware, window and wall decals.
If you’re interested in ordering an item for Christmas, the final order date is December 12 to guarantee delivery. Van Tuyl said some items can still be customized after December 12, but you’ll need to visit the shop and ask about delivery times. After December 12 they are happy to sell and wrap a gift before it’s personalized, with a gift card that the recipient can bring in after Christmas to have the item personalized.