Celebrate 2022: ‘Amazing shopping experience’ helps keep customers at Clifton Park’s Wit’s End coming back all year | Jobs Reply


CLIFTON PARK – At Wit’s End Giftique, a special room sparkles and sparkles all year round.

A wonderful world of Christmas tree decorations, full of decorations for every interest and occasion: cats and puppies, sushi and cakes, violins and saxophones, martinis and mugs of beer, brides and babies. There’s even a jolly ol’ St. Nick showing his arm for the COVID jab.

Wit’s End, on Route 9 in Clifton Park, is the largest Christmas store in upstate New York, according to the Only in Your State website, and draws shoppers not only from the Capital Region and Northeast but from across the country and Canada.

“I didn’t want to be known as a ‘Christmas store,'” says owner Susan Hoffman. But soon after the store opened in 1975, she realized that holiday shopping might be her secret “sauce.”

“When I developed the most amazing Christmas shopping experience in town people kept coming back all year.”

In 1998, Hoffman took the holiday theme up a notch, sending 15-foot-tall toy soldiers outside the store that were exact replicas of the ones that once lined the doors of Cartier on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. After dark, lighted sentinels and a large American flag draw the attention of motorists plying the Northway.

For Hoffman, who is celebrating his 48th holiday season as the sole operator of the gift and clothing store, it’s all about the customer experience, from the room called “Fashion Princes of the World” to the hundreds of antiques that adorn the 30,000 square foot. -foot shop.

Hoffman likes to use antiques, and on recent trips he stopped often to talk about his purchases from longtime homes, schools and Capital Region businesses, like a sign from Dutch Apothecary on Schenectady’s Union Street and a fancy mirror from Capital Region. The old Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

Looking up at the traffic light hanging from the ceiling, Hoffman recalled how he and his father, the late Paul Hoffman, used to drive through Glens Falls 40 years ago as the city replaced the old streetlights with modern ones. They ended up bringing back the discarded lamps from the shop.

More: Celebrate 2022 – Culture, Food, Gifts, Memories

“People come from all over to see the antiques,” said Hoffman. In the past, the reality TV show “American Pickers” contacted him, “but they said the store is very clean.”

The “Fashion Capitals of the World,” a womenswear department unveiled in 2011 after a 10,000-foot addition, is glamorous and theatrical, with images and symbols evocative of the New York-based cities of New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. The York City design team, with much input from Hoffman.

“It was the most fun project I’ve ever worked on. I like the details,” she said, pointing to King Kong on top of a model of the Empire State Building, which Barbie held in her hand.

Hoffman believes in the power of the personal shopping experience. “I don’t have an online shopping plan. I want to do well in the store. Selling is theater,” he said.

He also believes in commercial therapy.

“Customers tell me this is the place they go when they’re sad.” And that makes him happy, he says, “knowing that I’ve built something that really makes others happy.”

The most challenging part of his job – and the most fun – is finding out what customers want.

“I continue to study, I travel, I go on a lot of shopping trips. We’re trendy but not too trendy,” so the goal is to find new and unusual items while sticking to “tradition” and “quality.”

This holiday season, Hoffman predicts that the food department, the room for dips, dressings, jams and baking mixes, will be busy.

“With food prices rising so much, people will be more excited than ever to unwrap food gifts.”

He expects that women’s clothing, especially loungewear and cozy sweaters, will be hot again. “People still work from home, and that relaxed look is always popular.”

Although the merchandise is constantly updated to match changing tastes and trends, the Wit’s End experience has much in common with the local stores where children grew up.

In the parking lot, visitors hear Christmas carols playing softly. Inside, shoppers are warmly greeted by vendors. One can order a crown or center piece custom made from the basement workshop. Wit’s End also offers personal shopping, gift wrapping and gift personalization with engraving and calligraphy.

When it comes to advertising, Hoffman has come a long way, having embraced social media with the help of her daughter, Lexi Nahl, a former WTEN Channel 10 news reporter with a degree in business/communications and public relations. Check out Instagram, where you’ll see Hoffman dancing down the aisle to Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero.”

The daughter of an architect/engineer and a member of the Central District family that brought us Hoffman’s Playland and Hoffman’s restaurants, Susan learned about running a business as a little girl scooping ice cream and playing the organ for customers.

Born in Albany and raised in Newtonville, he was in his 20s, fresh out of college, when his father built a store and took over.

When Wit’s End opened it was 5,400 square feet and sold candy, candles, soap, jewelry, crystal and collectibles. Today, after four additions, it is five times larger, and Hoffman commands a team of 75 employees, including eight buyers.

Hoffman is always grateful that her father was ahead of her time in supporting her as a female business owner.

“There were not many women in the shops and many men raised their eyebrows,” he said. “Lenders, vendors, competitors … many people said I would not succeed. My father gave me the courage to not listen to all that noise. He encouraged me to look for the stars, and I’m sure if he was around today he would just say, ‘wow.’ “

More: Celebrate 2022 – Culture, Food, Gifts, Memories

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