I met Susan Bonsall Singer and Nancy Smith at their shop, Susan’s Treasures, in the West Shore Farmers Market last week.
It was a gray, rainy day and most other market vendors were closed, but still several customers popped in, kindly interrupting our interview to ask for advice on a hat or a suggestion for a gift.
At one point, a delivery man appeared with some boxes, and Singer called out his name, excusing herself to go check in on how he was doing.
I didn’t need to ask what has kept Singer and Smith’s business growing for 25 years—a milestone the gift shop is celebrating this month—I could already tell. But I asked anyway.
“It all grew on relationships,” Singer said. “My mother drilled that into my head–you welcome everyone.”
To celebrate their anniversary, Susan’s Treasures is holding giveaways to benefit customers and local charities—to honor those relationships they value the most.
Starting in April and continuing through May, the shop will draw names of customers to win $25 gift cards, twice each week. People can register in their store. They also plan to give away two $100 certificates in late May.
To support local organizations, they are selling special anniversary T-shirts and gift cards to benefit Highmark’s The Caring Place and The Peyton Walker Foundation.
The weeks-long celebration will culminate in a weekend anniversary event on May 21 to 22 at the store. They plan to have music, refreshments and product and gift card giveaways.
In April, Susan’s Treasures held a by-donation raffle for a gift basket with proceeds supporting Andrew’s Gift, a nonprofit that assists individuals with autism.
Dorothy Ward, who leads the organization along with her husband, has been a customer at Susan’s Treasures since the beginning. She visits the store at least once a week to shop or just to talk, she said. This time, she was looking for a Derby Day hat that could double as a beach hat for an upcoming trip. She made sure to get advice from both Singer and Smith and settled on a bright pink one.
“It’s just great friendly service and great people,” Ward said. “I like to support female-owned local shops.”
Ward is one of many loyal customers at Susan’s Treasures. Over the years, Singer has added over 350 customers’ numbers into her phone. Her first two customers, from 25 years ago, still come in regularly.
Singer originally opened Susan’s Treasures in a café on N. 6th Street in Harrisburg. Over the years, the business expanded, Smith became a partner, and the shop moved into a roomy space on the second floor of the West Shore Farmers Market.
Singer prides the business on the many American-made products the store carries and the relationships she’s developed with artists over the years.
When some of their vendors heard about what Susan’s Treasures was planning for its anniversary, they offered to donate products for giveaways.
Customers have been just as supportive, especially during the pandemic, Singer said. Many bought gift cards and ordered from the store’s online shop, which the business expanded when they had to close their doors.
“The support made us realize we had to continue,” Singer said.
The gift shop has shipped items and even delivered products to customers at their homes.
But it was a tough year, the hardest so far, Smith and Singer said. Even having gone through a recession and personal tragedies, this was the first time they ever doubted if they would survive.
“When we did reopen, the kind words and the shopping and support made every stressful moment worth it,” Singer said. “You see all the bad news, but we watched this microcosm of people being kind and helping one another.”
Not all customers have come back yet, but Singer and Smith are hopeful.
“I told a lot of customers, when this is all over and I can hug them again, I’m going to stand at the door so when they come in they can’t run, and I can give them a hug,” Singer said.
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