BETHEL, Conn. -- Hauser Chocolates occupies an entire room at the Gift Cottage in Bethel, the 25-year-old hallmark on Greenwood Avenue, where four more rooms are devoted to unique, one-of-a-kind products, including jewelry and fine merchandise.
The gourmet chocolates include Boxed Truffles and Chocolate Lace in Original Dark. If you've never tasted them, stop in at the store, where visitors receive a truffle upon arriving.
"They are delicious, and we wanted to carry them when Hauser Chocolates closed in Bethel and moved manufacturing to Rhode Island," said Joan Craybas.
She co-owns the Gift Cottage with son, Bob Craybas. Daughter Terri is a member of "our dedicated, longtime staff," and husband, Larry Craybas, takes care of the landscaping, among other jobs.
The store is in a two-story, stand-alone brick house, brightened out front by a display of flowers, which are "always colorful and especially pretty right now," Joan told Daily Voice.
Everyone is welcomed to the store, and repeat customers are often asked about their previous purchases, which the staff remembers, and conversations carry on while they shop like "friends," she said.
"Our staff remembers them. The customers enjoy talking to us. We know many of them."
Browsing the roomfuls of merchandise takes time, and there's always a new find, said Joan.
"We keep ordering new products. We keep it current and try to carry what customers want to buy."
Among those products are the trendy Alex and Ani expandable bracelets, Stonewall Kitchen gourmet jams, Mi Moneda jewelry inspired by coins, a line of white, fragrant Kringle Candles, and jackets, wraps, ponchos and scarves.
"We have many new lines. We just got in John Medeiros Jewelry from Spain, which is really different. Savvy (shoppers) are looking for more fashionable items, and we try to carry them. The don't want simple (lines) anymore."
The store's mainstay, she said, is its contribution to retail choices downtown. The store maintains its reputation and strives constantly to keep its customer base by offering the products along with the personal touches only its customer service staff can provide.
These traits drew praise for the business recently, which received the Bethel Chamber of Commerce 2016 Bethel's Business of the Year Award.
"This truly means so much in our ever-changing technology world (where online competition is so difficult). We thank you for shopping local," the store posted on Facebook. "Bethel has always been a destination. We have a great staff that's been with us for years. When it's a family-owned business, you depend on your customers. Online sales hurt all downtown shops. Amazon is killing us. Once retailers start pulling away, you don't have a town anymore."
Gift Cottage is at 154 Greenwood Ave., Bethel.
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