CLARKS SUMMIT – At the end of next month, Laura Moore will have owned the Willow Tree Shop for two years. She expects the weeks between Black Friday and the last day of December will pass in a blur, as the store will be active with holiday shoppers and there will be little time for her to think of the past. But. on a recent Saturday afternoon, while trade was slow, Moore reflected on the professional choices she made in late 2015.
Those choices took her out of an office and put her behind a sales counter.
“It’s very different,” she said. “It’s different, what I’m doing now.”
Home décor and unique gifts are the Willow Tree Shop’s two main sales categories. Items for the home are the top sellers for most of the year, Moore said, but gift sales predominate in the weeks leading up to Christmas. About 20 percent of the inventory is sourced from local artisans.
“We have ladies who make jewelry, and I have a lady who makes purses,” Moore said. She hopes to bring in additional items from nearby vendors. “We have a man that does wood crafts, like pepper grinders, and we have soap and candles and stained glass. I have a woman who does a lot of kid stuff.”
The owner makes some of the items she sells, including luminary jars, jewelry, wreaths, and furniture she found, stripped and refinished. Moore’s connection to the shop began with jewelry.
Amy Jones opened the Willow Tree Shop about 12 years ago in Scranton. The store was moved to its present location, at 725 S. State St., in April 2015, shortly before Jones decided to close the business and relocate out of the area.
Moore had made jewelry for Jones to sell in her store from 2008-2011. She remained a Willow Tree Shop customer, and news of the store’s demise made her think about a career change. Moore was employed as a writer in the marketing department at Clarks Summit University.
“I had this dream; I always wanted to open a shop,” Moore recalled, as a mother and her daughter searched upstairs for something to gift a hard-to-please friend. “So, here we are, and I’ve learned a lot of things.”
When asked about her strengths during job interviews, Moore would always say she was highly organized. She reconsidered that assessment after running the Willow Tree Shop for a few months while battling the heaps of paperwork that come with engaging in commerce.
Never an extrovert, Moore had worried about being able to talk to strangers when they asked questions while browsing the store. To her surprise, these conversations were easy.
The first day under Moore’s ownership was Jan. 1, 2016. She has tweaked the store’s inventory since then, including offering fewer antiques. Various customers and the previous owner have confirmed the store now bears her imprint.
“Everyone says this is definitely my shop, which is fine,” Moore said. “I loved the shop as it was before, but it’s really hard to keep up someone else’s vibe.”
Willow Tree Shop is open from Tuesday-Saturday. On one of those days, a woman works the front counter while the owner performs administrative duties or manufactures new items for inventory.
Retail is a cyclical endeavor, and Moore is able to predict revenues by the name of the month. The increased sales due to Christmas normally carry over to January.
“I think business is a little bit busier, just because people are more familiar with us now,” she said. “But it comes and it goes. It’s up and down.”
February and March are slow periods, but the customer count typically increases again when the warmer weather arrives in April and people look to add to the décor in their homes.
To find new merchandise and keep her store’s inventory different from the stocks found inside chain gift stores, Moore regularly takes buying trips. Philadelphia and its suburbs are frequent destinations.
When she spots an item of interest, Moore must consider if it belongs in her store. Most gifts in the Willow Tree Shop are priced from $5 to $100, and home décor pieces run from $10 to $275. Since she must buy most of her inventory, the owner tries to avoid tying up money in things that will be slow to move off the shelves.
“I envisioned shopping for the store to be this dream come true,” Moore said. “And the first couple of times, it was like that. And now it’s a big challenge.”