CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – When you walk into Chappaqua’s toy store “Auntie Penny,” located at 11 King St, you might think you’ve walked into Santa’s workshop.
So, who are the elves?
That would be co-owners Eve Spence and Linda DeMase, who took over the store almost three years ago, back when it was called “Penny Auntie.” They are joined by Spence’s 16-year-old-daughter, along with a Dachshund-Chihuahua named Tina, who likes to leave her miniature tennis ball at the feet of customers for a game of fetch.
“While it may seem a bit chaotic here, I promise there is a method to the madness,” said Spence. “Sort of.”
Spence and DeMase say their method relies on one thing above all else: customer service.
“We wrap your purchases free of charge. If someone comes in here looking for an item that we don’t have, we’re immediately trying to bring it into the store,” said Spence. “I know my customers and they know me.”
Spence, who has been working in the store for almost 13 years, pointed to the impact of chain stores such as Target, which has recently moved into the area.
“It certainly makes you go that extra mile,” she said. “One thing I’ve noticed about our community lately is how vibrant it is. I think it comes from the amount of creative retailing going on in our town. Places like Target provide that motivation.”
Spence said creative retailing is having the flexibility mom-and-pop boutiques have that larger chains simply lack. For instance, her store's items constantly change based on the season, word-of-mouth demand and an intimate relationship with their customers.
You don't have to look further than their hottest holiday gift items to get a feel for their unique supply. Spence pointed out products such as a handheld puzzle game called Perplexus, the old-fashioned Electronic Football, pocketbooks made out of candy wrappers, fleece pajamas and the one they just can’t seem to keep in stock: Dinopedia Dino Xcavator, which is like playing “Operation” on a fossilized dinosaur.
Good luck finding those items in the toy aisle of Walmart.
“It’s a really fun place in here,” said Spence. “This time of year especially.”
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