If you’ve ever shopped at Emmy Lou’s Gift Shop, you’re probably well acquainted with its namesake, Emmy Lou DeBari, as well as her constant companion, Ginger Girl.
“People come in and they look for Ginger Girl right away,” says Emmy Lou. “She’s always here and everyone loves to see her. And she loves everyone, especially children.”
Ginger Girl, a 12-year-old Welsh Corgi and former show dog, is pretty much the mascot of Emmy Lou’s Gift Shop, now in its 35th year of operations here.
Emmy Lou started the business in May of 1985 in a building at 2211 Main St. About 15 years ago she moved the store to its current location at 17 Hebron Ave. Her boutique takes up the entire first floor of the large Colonial home at the corner of Hebron Avenue and Main Street. It’s owned by the town and formerly served as the community's Senior Center.
Known for her home decor and unique gifts, Emmy Lou’s seasonal exterior decorations at her shop have become iconic local fixtures.
“It’s a perfect location,” Emmy Lou says. “We’re right on the corner and right across from a park, so we get a lot of foot traffic. It’s worked out perfectly being in the center of town here. I decorate outside for every season. We try to keep the flavor of the seasons going throughout the year.”
In the fall, there are Halloween and pumpkin displays, in spring and summer there are flowers and wreaths on the front door of the historic home.
And of course, at Christmas, there’s a sleight out front decorated with holiday finery. Inside, Emmy Lou decorates her shop with at least a half dozen Christmas trees and makes the most of the former home’s numerous fireplaces, decking them out with holiday finery as well.
She usually starts working on those holiday decorations just after Halloween, but this year, with the changes wrought by the Coronavirus, she’s not sure when she’ll start planning her Christmas themes.
“Everything in here changes for Christmas but it’s such an anomaly this year, I’m not sure when we’re going to start.”
Still, there’s plenty in Emmy Lou’s to capture the shopper’s attention.
From the front entrance to the last fireplace in the multi-room store, Emmy Lou’s brims with a variety of home goods, jewelry, knick-knacks, clothes, furnishings and decorations. Virtually every table, mantel and display shelf overflows with colorful goods and gifts.
There’s an entire display of Glastonbury and Connecticut goods at the store’s entrance, racks of women’s clothing are sprinkled throughout the shop, right now there’s an abundance of fall decorations and goods and there’s even a Christmas tree with twinkling white lights decked out in fall decorations.
There are lamps, clocks, baskets, shabby-chic mirrors, signs, planters, framed prints, jewelry, curios (even an entire family of wooden chickens), planters, vases, gift cards, books, garden statuaries, mugs, plates, scarves, sweaters, ribbons and even, in a nod to the current pandemic, custom made face masks.
Every year in January Emmy Lou attends an annual gift store trade show, the International Gift Show in Atlanta, and buys enough goods to see her through the entire year.
“By the end of January I’ve pretty much bought everything I need right through Christmas.”
She prides herself on selecting an eclectic inventory that is both approachable and affordable.
“We have a little bit of everything, gifts for every occasion. You can get a gift certificate for $5 or a gift for $100.”
That approach, she says, has served her well in more than three decades in business.
“Most of my customers are repeat customers. They always seem to find something here that they like.”
Emmy Lou says she specializes in custom-designed home decor items and florals, including seasonal door wreaths, baskets and garlands.
“We also have a lot of those items in the store, but we do custom orders and that’s a big part of our business.”
Her hours have shifted in recent months to accommodate shopping habits because of Covid-19. Her hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturdays. Check her website, emmylousgiftshop.com, for Sunday hours. You can also shop online.