By PHYL NEWBECK
Ginny Couture has lived in Hinesburg for over 40 years. She loved her town but she couldn’t help but think there was something missing. “I always thought Hinesburg needed a gift shop,” she said. “When I needed something at the last minute, I couldn’t find a place.”
In 2016, while driving with a friend, Couture noticed a vacancy at a new building behind Kinney Drugs. She recalls telling her friend she hoped someone would open a gift shop there, and the friend suggested she do it. Couture followed that advice and opened the doors of Blue Cottage on Kailey’s Way that December.
Couture had never worked in retail, but she did have experience with sales. She and her husband lost both their parents in a three-year span and he had been “upcycling” their inherited furniture. Although they had been selling the pieces at other locations, opening a store seemed to make more sense.
Couture credits the Mercy Connection Women’s Small Business Program, a three-and-a-half-month course, with helping her learn how to craft a business plan, engage in marketing and develop other important skills. “It really helped put the pieces together,” she said.
A lover of craft fairs, Couture is excited to be able to use her gift shop to help local artists sell their wares. Her store carries the work of 36 artists and artisans, the majority of whom are from Hinesburg. They receive 70 percent of the proceeds from the sales, which Couture believes is higher than at most consignment locations.
Initially, Couture sought out artists, but these days they come to her. She carries a wide variety of wares including jewelry, pottery, cards, and knitted goods. The store is less than 1,000 square feet, so she is somewhat limited in what she can carry. Her main criteria is that any new item must look professional and cannot compete with anything already in the store.
Couture has a degree in human services and spent most of her career doing administrative work for nonprofit organizations such as the United Way and the mentoring program Mobius.
Her husband, Jeff, works for the Vermont Technology Alliance and Couture is able to use her desk at Blue Cottage to help that organization with some computer work. She is joined at the store by one part-time employee, one per diem employee, and her daughter Leigh.
“This is me,” Couture said. “The one gift I have is I can talk and I can shop so this job really suits me.”
Couture noted that the community has been very supportive and most people who stop by also spend time chatting with her. She enjoys promoting the work of local artists and is pleased to be able to sell the solid wood furniture her husband has refurbished. “I’m not trying to make a killing,” she said, “but I want people to see the beauty in these old pieces.”
Couture said she wants people to buy things that will make them happy. “Your home should be a cocoon,” she said. “You should be able to relax, be you, be safe and secure, and express yourself.”
Now 62, Couture realizes that many people might consider 60 a late start for launching a business but she had been thinking about opening a store for almost three decades. She hopes this might serve as an inspiration for others.
“Women should follow their passion at any age,” she said.