MERIDEN – From handmade cards made in Meriden to sweet smelling lip balm made in Portland, The Gift Box shop on Main Street in South Meriden is keeping it local.
Owner Dorothy DiBenedetto decorates her boutique just as she decorates her home – located upstairs. The Meriden resident converted the first floor of her family’s house into the shop, even re-purposing her dining room table and buffet for displays, nearly five years ago.
Q: What is your boutique all about?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: So we have a little bit of everything for everyone. We try to have unique items that you won’t find everywhere, so when you’re giving that gift it’s something special.
Q: What are some of your most popular items this time of season?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: We have clothing, dresses, tops that are popular. We go along with the seasons so springtime we’ll have some fun dresses, in the summer we’ll have maxi dresses. We always have jewelry. Scarves are very popular and we have a variety from cats to hedgehogs.
Q: How do you set yourself apart from a bigger retailer?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: We have some made in Connecticut items. We have soaps that are made here in Connecticut, a friend of mine Lauren makes these beautiful hand-crocheted blankets for babies with matching hats and she can do them in different colors.
Q: What is a popular state-made item you carry?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: We carry Lip Luxe which is made in Portland, Connecticut. It’s a great lip balm, all natural ingredients which you won’t find at a big chain store.
Q: What are some of the changes you’ve experienced at The Gift Box in the last five years?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: It’s always changing, you’re meeting new people and you’re bringing in new products that you hear customers mention. The community stays the same, it’s a nice area.
Q: How do you find the products you want to include in the store?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: Well there’s gift shows but then I build really good relationships with the reps for a lot of the companies that I purchase things from. They’ll see something that they may think I’ll like and they let me know, ‘you might want to check this out.’ The soaps and the lotions, there’s one from Orange and it’s Connecticut Soapworks and I just happened to meet the lady, smell the soap and love it and so we put those in.
Q: How does it feel having a small business in the community you live in?
Dorothy DiBenedetto: Everyone is kind to each other, you just try to help each other and look out for each other and support each other. Small business is a big thing around here.