A Publication of WTVP

One Customer at a Time

Located in downtown Havana, Gisela’s Haus opened its doors in the fall of 2019. 

by Peoria Magazine |
Julie Morissette

Gisela’s Haus offers home decor, kitchenware, gourmet foods and unique gift items, as well as culinary experiences and educational opportunities.

How is the internet impacting your business? What strategies do you employ tomitigate any downsides?
Of course the internet is an impact, but we are a unique gift store. In a small town, there are items consumers cannot get in town: a baby gift, a wedding gift, an “oh my gosh, it’s my friend’s birthday today” gift. These are things people want to touch and feel. They don’t want to get them online from Amazon. 

I have lived all over the country and travel extensively. I’d been gone for 30 years, but in my business plan I stated I wanted my store to look, smell and sound beautiful. Why shouldn’t my hometown have a beautiful retail space? Customers walk in and say, “I feel like I’m in Chicago.” They love to just come in and experience that. Items that are readily available on Amazon, I price to their price; I don’t give my customers a reason to shop there. I do believe that consumers, particularly women, still enjoy the event of shopping. 

I also go to markets around the country to bring in things that have been on the coasts for a year or two to middle America. I like to think I have culled through the offerings and bring a curated selection to the store. Many of them are “Julie’s Favorite Things”… products I love that I think everyone should have in their home! 

What other trends are you seeing in retail?
Retail is moving toward offering more than products, but experiences. I’m launching culinary experiences in the store, which have been well-received. Boutique “hops,” “crawls,” whatever you want to call them… There are usually demos, food samplings, raffles, etc. I will most likely go into “how to make a holiday urn” next winter. My business plan has a strong educational element, as there are generations out there that have not been taught certain things about running a home. They don’t know how to make a simple pie crust. It’s my goal to teach them: one customer at a time! PM

*Editor’s Note: Since this interview took place, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most retailers to close their doors, making a tough industry even more difficult. When we emerge from this crisis, local retailers will face all of the same challenges… and then some. Now more than ever, we must support them by shopping local.

Check out the rest of this series: “Exploring the Retail Landscape,” in the April 2020 issue of Peoria Magazine.