A name like Connors Mercantile sounds like something straight out of an old western, complete with gingham-garbed ladies shopping for cornmeal and cast iron skillets. But on Market Street in Corning, Connors is the modern-day gift shop, with the perfect blend of forty years of history and hot trends. Jill Agosta manages the shop for owners Ann and Barry Nicholson, and she has the enviable task of shopping for colorful, practical, and fun gifts and collectibles.
"The original owners started Connors as a pharmacy, with a small corner for gifts. Over the years, the gift shop component grew to the point that the pharmacy was discontinued. The use of 'Mercantile' in the name was a way to honor the legacy of the business."
Don't be fooled by the name: the inventory is straight from the cool kids' wish list. Pandora, Vera Bradley, Woodwick Candles, and Farm House Fresh are just a few of the featured brands.
"The gift shop business has changed so much. Fewer people collect pieces these days, so gifts often need to be functional, as well as pretty. Things like scarves, handbags, and bath products are more popular than ever."
Jill's priority is to keep the variety of items constantly changing, so smart shoppers know that repeat visits are the best way to not miss something new. "When it comes to holiday shopping, we want to be a destination for both residents and visitors." Jill says, noting that those who come through the door split about fifty/fifty into those categories. The store also sees a lot of traffic from the local employers. A brisk walk down East Market and a fragrant search for an important gift is the perfect antidote to a long morning spent with spreadsheets.
"A food item or some of our specialty chocolates is the perfect hostess gift during the holidays. And, believe it or not, kids are still getting gifts for their teachers. The chocolate is a big hit."
There is hope for the world yet.
In 2008, when the economic situation slowed most business development to a crawl, the Nicholsons responded by launching a rebranding of Connors. They changed the logo and the inventory and hunkered down with their loyal employees and a strong customer base to wait out the financial storm, emerging stronger than ever on Market Street.
When you think of Connors Mercantile, don't think old—think classic.