New Flair, Leadership at the Friends of Strong Gift Shop
The prospect of finding a replacement following the retirement of our long-time Gift Shop manager, Helen Hess, late last year, seemed daunting, but the stars were aligned. Without skipping a beat, Friends of Strong was able to bring in an equally well-experienced Gift Shop Manager, Luanne Crosby, who comes to us with more than 25 years of retail management experience, including owning her own gift shop for more than 10 years.
“Luanne brings several years’ of experience in floral design and sales, and is a customer service champion,” says Sandy Arbasak, Director of Friends of Strong. “Just over a month since taking the reins, the gift shop is doing as fabulous as ever—offering up the same great service and variety of merchandise perfect for you and your favorite friends and loved ones.”
As a courtesy of introduction, we took a few minutes to sit with Luanne to get to know her a little bit more and see what she sees on the horizon for the Friends of Strong Gift Shop.
Tell us about your first day at Strong? What excited you, what worried you?
My first day at Strong was great! All of the Gift Shop employees and volunteers were amazing. So many people went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and ready to start. My main worry was all the paper work, instructions, navigating the HR components, setting up passwords and remembering them. Yikes!
I started on Dec. 12, and I was a little overwhelmed. In retail, Christmas is the pinnacle, and I wanted everything to be perfect, and I hope that we were able to meet all of our patrons’ needs during this special time of year for so many.
What ambitions do you have for your first year?
I already feel at home, and I hope to continue fostering a sense of unity with my colleagues and our volunteers. I want to get to understand where our strengths lie and use that knowledge to the stores advantage. I want to find some new, unique products and create a place where our patients, their families and our staff love to shop.
What do you love about gift shops?
Personally, I love the art of displaying fun, unique gifts and keepsakes, and to poke around and see new colors and trends. Most of all, I love how the treasures you can find in a gift shop help some people say with a card, flowers or gift, what they might not be able to express with words.
We hear you’re no stranger to managing a gift shop?
Yes. I’ve worked at 10 or so flower shops, landscaping centers, and gift shops over the years. I even owned my own store for a just over a decade. It featured gifts and home décor mostly, with a touch of floral arranging for special events.
When did you decide to get into retail management?
I don’t remember deciding. I was lucky enough to buy my store at a very young age—and have it work out! That was in 1998.
Where is your happy place?
I love being at home with family, hanging with my dog Millie, and spending time working in my garden. I never met a plant I didn’t like!
In fact, my most recent role allowed me to manage the Master Gardener volunteer program with Monroe County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension. I’ll miss many of those folks, but I can easily see how that work is helping me here at Strong.
What future do you see for the gift shop?
I’ve never thought of myself as a competitive person but, eventually, I want to be able to say that our sales have raised more money than ever before for Friends of Strong, and I want that number to be huge!
We’re in a unique position of serving people from a diverse cross section of our community—professionals, students, staff, patients—all needing something special at one time or another. My greater hope is that our gift shop will become a place where they can find respite, if only for a few minutes, and enjoy themselves so much that they come to our store because they want to, not only when they need to.
Matt Ulakovic |