Most hotel shops carry the usual mix of practical sundries, souvenirs and candy bars, but the Plaza Shoppe in the White Plains Crowne Plaza Hotel has gone a step further. Store owner Gail Sherman has turned what could have been an uninspiring lobby fixture into an oasis of unique gift items, New York City souvenirs, great-looking handbags and a whole line of designer costume jewelry
Sherman opened the store in 2010, having spent 11 years previous to that as a merchandiser for the Rye Beach Pharmacy, where she was responsible for the purchasing and display of toys, gifts and cards. Sherman also worked with her husband, a pharmacist, who previously owned a pharmacy business in New Rochelle, where they currently live, and also the former White Swan Pharmacy, which served the White Plains community for six years.
Even though she enjoyed working for the Rye pharmacy, Gail longed to run her own business. With a wealth of experience in the merchandising industry and a keen eye for display, Sherman looked for business opportunities in hospitals and other hotels, even visiting hotel gift stores in Manhattan to get ideas.
When the opportunity to open a store in the Crowne Plaza emerged, Sherman seized it wholeheartedly. “My idea was to create an independent business that would integrate well with the hotel and at the same time draw customers from all over,” said Sherman, who has a 25-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son. She used her business savvy and know-how to upgrade and expand merchandise, fashioning the shop as a destination for both guests and local residents.
Even though the store is small, there’s an incredible amount of merchandise that Sherman has been able to squeeze into it. For hotel guests, most of whom are business travelers, Sherman stocks the usual health and beauty items, like over-the-counter medicines and toiletries, in addition to other convenience items like shoe laces, shoe shine kits and battery chargers.
But there are other items there, too, such as the ones that guests frequently ask for, including mascara, nail polish, foldable luggage, black socks for men, collar stays, cufflinks, sunglasses, men’s and women’s underwear, and panty hose.
Because the hotel caters to parties of all kinds, including weddings, birthdays and bar and bat mitzvahs, Sherman decided to stock items that such guests might look for. They include cards for all occasions, rhinestone-covered slippers to ease the feet from a night of dancing and a selection of tote bags that might come in handy for ladies unwilling to carry a bigger pocketbook while out and about.
The line of souvenir gift items that the Plaza Shoppe also stocks has sold surprisingly well, said Sherman. They’ve been particularly beneficial to hotel guests, who, rather than going into New York City for an “I Love New York” gift, have taken the opportunity to purchase a tee-shirt, a mug, a stuffed animal or other tourist-related item in Sherman’s well-stocked store.
Her line of designer jewelry has also sold well, with some customers coming from different parts of Westchester to purchase them, at prices she said are lower than what other White Plains businesses are advertising.
While running the business is hard work, and stocking it can be a challenge because of its size, it’s a venture that Sherman is particularly proud of. “The reason I went into this business is because visual merchandising is something I’m good at,” said Sherman. Compared to other, larger stores in the area, Sherman also likes to think of her shop as “the little secret in Westchester with a quality and look that you won’t pay the high prices for.”
The Plaza Shoppe is located within the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is on 66 Hale Street in White Plains. It is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (914) 821-1399.