A career retailer, Denise Nielsen is merchandising her way into the hearts of La Jollans with a new gift shop, Cherub’s Cottage, and a new location, Coast Walk center in the Village.
A 25-year retail veteran, having previously worked for Nordstrom’s, Loew’s Coronado Bay Resort’s gift shop and Point Loma Nazarene University’s merchandising area, Nielsen recently hung her shingle out at a corner space at 1298 Prospect St., Suite 1P in La Jolla. “I decided to venture out and do this on my own,” she said.
Her store’s namesake is a cherub, which is a baby angel, which has little to do with the mother of five’s background, other than that she’s fond of the image and it’s gift-shop friendly. She talked about her business philosophy, “I try to have a little something for everybody, try to touch on a lot of different categories.”
Formerly Beach Bungalow, an apparel store, the bright and colorful Cherub’s Cottage is now engagingly full, stocked with a plethora of items for every room in the house and the garden and the outside too. It’s mostly geared toward women, but men can find a few curiosities too, like golf books and a minature putting green and pool table. There is also a model sailboat that is quite striking and really draws the eye.
Above all else, Nielsen’s shop is affordable. “I wanted home decor gifts, things priced well for people to decorate inside and out,” she said.
A tour of Cherubs’ Cottage, as promised, revealed a little bit of everything, something for either gender and any age. She even has a special section set aside for kids with items like a miniature ceramic tea set. Her “sea section” carries vases, candleholders, tabletop items and unique silverware, including salad tossing forks with seashell handles.
In the corner is a bath section including lavendar bath oil selling for $18 a bottle. There’s also a special line of greeting cards, Happy Birthdays with elephants and other animals, plus seasonal cards and those for special evens, like weddings.
Another section in the store sports a “cottagey look,” offering accessories like greeting cards. There’s even an animal section with books titled “Living With Dogs” and “Living With A Neurotic Dog.” She also has a section filled with foodstuffs like pesta and pasta sauce and olive oil. Said Nielsen: “The idea is for people to come in and shop and take something back for their homes or as a gift.”
The eclectic mix in the gift shop features antique clocks at a very reasonable price, topiary bunnies, inspirational “Eat Your Peas’ books, a line of notepads and bookmarks and a few jewelry items. The price range at Cherubs’ Cottage is $15 to about $200.
Cherubs is in a perfect spot for passerby traffic. Who are her customers?
“It’s about 90 percent women,” noted Nielsen. “It’s either for people buying for themselves, for someone that’s at home, or to take back home as a remembrance of their trip. Its predominantly middle-aged women.”
Much of Cherubs’ business is tourists. But she has some loyal locals too. One customer from Del Mar has purchased items from her store half a dozen times in the two months Nielsen’s been open.
“It’s extremely fun,” said Nielsen of her new gift shop. “It’s a happy store, a happy place. You couldn’t have a better location. My goal is to just make it a nice experience.”
And Nielsen offers a money back guarantee on every item she sells in the unlikely event it’s marred or defective in some fashion.
For Nielsen, merchandising is what it’s all about. Though gift shop retailing is fun, there’s also an element of uncertainty to be dealth with. Nielsen talked about the hardest part of the business for her. “Personally, it’s hardest when you’re not making your sales goals,” she said. “It’s just the unknown. It’s really hard to track a business like this. One day it could be great. The next day it could be the exact opposite.”
Buying is the most fun thing about retailing to Nielsen. “Buying for me is fun,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for so many years, I have a really good relationship with vendors.”
There are lots of humorous items in the store, like pocketbooks that ask, “Can I pay my Visa with my Master Card?” or another that states, “I like my money where I can see it - hanging in my closet.”
Nielsen feels she’s accomplished her goal if she’s succeeded in making shopping fun and easy for her customers. “We’ll ship anywhere,” she said. “We’ve got new things coming in all the time, so it’s worth coming back.”
Cherubs’ Cottage is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call (858) 459-3518.