Special to Emmaus Patch By Chrissy Cilento, Emmaus High School Senior
Business: The Basket Gypsy
226 Main St. Emmaus
Owner: Pamela Witter
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10-6; Sunday 10-5
What you sell?
I sell Longaberger Baskets -- new and retired -- accessories for those baskets, Longaberger pottery, and then I have other accessories, like home decorating accessories.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had a couple of old Longaberger baskets, and I didn’t realize there was a market for them -- 10 years ago there was a HUGE market for them; you wouldn’t believe how much you could get for a retired basket, it actually cost more than a new one. So I started off just selling the retired stuff out of my house [for 6 years] and it just got so big that I had stuff in storage tubs and people would want something and I’d have to dig through all my storage tubs... So it just made sense to be able to display them all. It’s just easier for customers to come in and get what they want, rather than calling me up, meeting me in a parking lot somewhere... The business had grown too big to run out of my house, so putting it in a shop made sense.
What is the most rewarding part of your business?
I like being able to help people find the parts to their baskets that they can’t find anymore. Longaberger doesn’t make some of these products, so you can’t get, say the plastic protector [for a basket] anymore. People get really excited when they come in and they see this wall of protectors I have upstairs. They’ll come back with a bag of baskets and say, “I need protectors for all these!” That’s exciting. I like when people are happy. When you get something for them and they’re like, “I never thought I’d find this!!” The customer service aspect of it -- I like that a lot.
What’s the hardest part of your business?
When people come in here and they see Longaberger and that turns them off. Because there are some people that will just come in here and say “Oh, baskets” and they’ll just walk out the door -- they won’t even go upstairs and see what else I have up there. Sometimes it’s just dealing with the abruptness of customers. So I have to be a little thick skinned. And also the fact that the economy is not what it’s been. It’s been really hard over the past four years for small businesses. I mean you’ve seen it in Emmaus -- you’ve seen a lot of small businesses close up and go, and it’s really sad.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about entering this business and why?
Be open every day -- because if you’re not here, you don’t see what you miss. Make yourself as available as you can. The customer is what’s driving your business -- if you’ve got whacky hours that no one can remember, they’re not even going to come because they’re just going to say, “Oh I can’t remember when they’re open.” But if you’re consistent and you’re available to your customer -- that benefits you in the long run. You have to be committed.
Do you have a role model or mentor for what you do?
My role model is Jamie up at Sweet Memories. I just think she’s very devoted to her work, she does excellent work, and people just love her. I’ve often said I wish I had the business she had -- I don’t want to put in the hours she puts in, though! For that reason, I admire her tremendously. She’s really built a tremendous business down there.
Chrissy Cilento, a senior at Emmaus High School, plans to study journalism in college. She is a periodic contributor to Patch.