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Ingear gifts prove pretty and practical

Stocked Generously

SMALL BUSINESS

Ingear Ltd. - Started in 1991 with a big emphasis on guy gadgets; - Soon shifted to jewelry, kids and baby items and other gift-appropriate goods in response to customer demand; - Store offering continues to evolve in response to customer wants a nd needs; - Caters to show home stagers and movie set designers; - Ingear store.com is soon to be e-commerce ready

--When chicks buy gifts, whether for their gal pals, the kid's teacher, a coworker's new baby, the mother-in-law or themselves, the biggest desire is to find something special and unique.Finding a store that caters to all of the above is especially sweet when it has the product lines that appeal equally to the whimsical and practical sides of ones' nature, and the occasional bout of risque humour.It doesn't hurt, either, to be able to choose from a jewelry collection that will cause even the most harried customer to pause, look and linger, perhaps even long enough to eye the smart, woven synthetic placemats that wipe clean in a snap and never need ironing.Such is the gist of Ingear Ltd., a store that has all the cool stuff girls of any age could want for their home, themselves, or others.Ingear's owners, husband and wife team Maryanne and Jim Campbell, are tuned in to what their customers are buying and what they're looking for, so their retail offering is constantly changing in response."It's just a matter of listening to your customers and trying to bring in what they want," said Maryanne.Jewelry currently takes up the bulk of display space in the store, with lines from more than 40 Canadian and international jewelry makers.Included here are names like Henning Design and Andrea Waines, whose jewelry incorporates inspirational words and is popular for graduation gifts.Dyrberg/kern, Karyn Chopik, Nicole Bigg from Nelson, B. C., and Rebecca Green of Arizona, are among other well-known lines.Offerings range from plain silver to pieces with semi-precious stones, freshwater pearls, turquoise, amber and black onyx to shimmery dichroic glass jewelry made in Calgary.There are handbags from designers like Karen Wilson, Joanel, and Maruca Design, and cloth bags alongside Lug travel bags.On the gifty side, practically every thing available has a pretty, feminine theme to it, making the items perfect, feel-good, pick-me-ups.Included here are trendy purse hooks, mini nail files packaged like a book of matches, notepads with sassy sayings, key chains, and funky mint boxes.Pretty silk fortune cookie shaped coin purses can be used as intended, but often serve as a gift bag for small items or as a jewelry travel bag."Just really cute little gifts for girlfriends, teachers, moms, you know,"Maryanne said.There's a section devoted to the upcoming barbecue season, complete with wine charms, grill seasonings and barbecue cookbooks.A cheese section holds slate cheese boards and brie bakers, while in another section salad servers from Vancouver's Dazzling Gourmet can be found, along with utensils and appetizer forks and spoons.The kids section is brimming with neat toys, some retro in theme like silly straws and the ever-popular Fanny Bank, that boasts the catchphrase, "Drop some loot and hear me toot."For preteens, there's the Slumber Party Box of Questions, bead kits, jewelry, and craft kits to make their own sock monkey.There's a section devoted to journals and notepads, and another to travel. Here customers will find passport holders and luggage tags--most of which can be colour coordinated, right down to a Lug travel bag.There's a small selection of body and bath products, from fine luxury almond soaps to all-natural Rocky Mountain Soap Company goods."If you can't find something here for Mother's Day, then there's something wrong," she said.A selection of guy stuff, includes the obligatory 007 Bond Girls deck of cards. There's also a sleek masculine line of steel jewelry called Steelex, whose rings are hot sellers as wedding bands.Ingear opened in 1991 with an obvious emphasis on gear, carrying things like Gore-Tex jackets and cool, gadgety guy things.Jim, a one-time stockbroker, had bought a Dairy Queen and was running that. Maryanne had worked in retail, as a manager at Arnold Churgin Shoes.The couple decided they wanted to open up a cool store, after seeing some cool home accessory stores while in California, and realizing there was nothing like that in Calgary at the time.Plus, Maryanne said she was always the shopper growing up, and people would always get her to pick out their Christmas gifts for them."People seemed to like my taste, I guess," she said.Maryanne was six months pregnant with their first child by the time Ingear opened in October 1991. By December, business was so brisk that she recalled being in labour and on the phone trying to order an emergency shipment of stock as the items --thermal socks--flew out the door.While the store's initial emphasis was on neat gadgets chosen by Jim, like language translators, it was Maryanne's section of jewelry, kid and baby items, pottery, and travel goods that sold. The couple took their cue from sales figures, changed direction, and business grew from there.We just became known as the place to go for gifts,"Maryanne said.Today, Jim manages Ingear's financials and Maryanne and store manager, Sarah Atkinson, the buying.

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