BETHEL, Conn. -- It's been 26 years but Joan Craybas, owner of The Gift Cottage in Bethel, is still as excited about the wares in her shop as she was when she first opened.
"It's all about reinventing yourself," she said. "Having a nice mix of items."
To that end, there is now less higher-end jewelry and more chocolate.
The store, which Craybas runs with her son, Bob, recently renovated and expanded its chocolate room, which for years has sold Hauser chocolates, among other brands. There's now more room to satisfy your sweet tooth, buy a hostess gift, or order wedding or shower favors.
Gift baskets that utilize housewares (think trays and containers) with chocolates are just one way the store caters to its customers. The other -- and the big key to success, said Craybas -- is her staff. "They're friendly, super accommodating, they gift-wrap and we're open on Sundays," she said. "It's a win-win."
The other key?
"I always research to always stay ahead of trends," she said. "Trends come and go; you need to always have something else."
With Easter and Mother's Day approaching, that means chocolate. Lots of it. Expect Hauser bunnies, truffles, chocolate lace, chocolate crosses, almond bark, eggs, lollipops, coconut nests and more. Vermont Nut Free Chocolates are another top seller.
The chocolate room is something she continues to expand on and doesn't see fading in terms of popularity anytime soon.
Coupled with her baby room and areas that sell housewares, jewelry, and handbags, she said her store covers a wide range of occasions.
Look for her new Spartina line of cell phone cases and cross-body bags along with jewelry by John Medeiros and UNOde50.
The Gift Cottage is at 54 Greenwood Ave., (203) 730-1000, www.giftcottage.com .