ALTON — Since opening its doors in March 2011, The Gift Box has been a safe haven for vendors to showcase and sell their goods.
The shop at 300 E. Broadway houses more than 100 vendors from Greater Alton and beyond, including St. Louis, Collinsville, Granite City, Edwardsville and Belleville. The vendor store differs from consignment as owner Andrea Abbott does not take commission from the vendors; they simply rent space in her store.
“I don’t take any of their commission,” Abbott said. “A lot of our vendors are single moms. A lot of them are families that need an extra income, and then there are some of them that love and want to sell their stuff.”
For Abbott, this is second nature. She received her first cash register for her 10th birthday, and that is when she started her first business.
Making banners and invitations out of her parents’ basement earned the young entrepreneur $1,500 in profits. It was a good start, but only an inkling of what Abbott would achieve in later businesses.
“In retail, I’ve almost done it all,” Abbott said. “I’ve sold everything from shoes to shirts, Grateful Dead to hemp. That’s how I started.”
When Abbott was 18, while going to college and working a part-time job, she began making hemp jewelry and traveled all over Missouri, Illinois and Indiana to sell her wares. She then opened a shop at the Mineral Springs Mall.
A and A Beads and Things flourished, becoming the biggest bead store in the bi-state area. Abbott stayed with A and A Beads and Things for 10 years before shutting down her shop to raise a family.
After two years of working at her father’s business, Abbott Machinery Co., Abbott said she craved to be back in the business of fashion and accessories. The Gift Box came about after Abbott noticed vendors from quarter auctions were looking to branch out.
Among the most popular items at The Gift Box are local landmark coasters produced by Abbott. They take photos of local landmarks such as Robert Wadlow and the Piasa Bird and handcraft them into coasters.
“There are180 different local landmarks,” Abbott said. “We live in a very historical town.”
Homemade bath and body products also are popular. Abbott said Dave’s Design’s children’s activity boxes sell like crazy, as well as duct tape wallets sold by Lo Co Duct Tape Designs. Abbott also sells Lotti Dotties jewelry, centered on magnets so wearers can change the look of their jewelry without buying a whole new piece. The Gift Box also hosts the business Wish&Wear, which rents and sells gently used prom and homecoming dresses.
Abbott said she wants The Gift Box to provide a place where the community can get a unique gift without having to cross the river.
“We’ve got these new stores opening up,” Abbott said. “Broadway is turning into an awesome place to shop. Keep the taxes in our town and let Alton flourish. It needs it.”
Last July, Abbott opened a second location in Grafton at 225 E. Main, giving another 45 vendors a chance to sell their products.
“That gives 145 people an extra income every month, and that’s awesome,” Abbott said. “The reason I did a vendor shop the way that I did is because with the economy the way that it is, opening a gift shop with $200,000 worth of product is darn near impossible.”
The Gift Box is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For information, visit the Facebook page at “The Gift Box Shopping & Retail.”