Despite losing thousands of shoppers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of Husker football games earlier this fall, the From Nebraska Gift Shop in Lincoln’s Haymarket is looking to brighter days with a recent store expansion and enhanced marketing efforts.
On Memorial Day weekend, the owners of From Nebraska opened the Haymarket Mercantile that features classic toys, men’s gifts, kitchen and bath décor, a year-round Christmas store and their new Curveball Ciders on tap.
The expansion was made possible after another business vacated the space next to From Nebraska at 803 Q Street in Lincoln.
Store owner Barb Ballard said after seeing an 88 percent decline in business in April and May, they are down by only 33 percent for the year as of the end of September.
Barb has amped up her business-to-business marketing to encourage employers to purchase gift baskets for their employees while they are working at home during the pandemic. She also is planning a Christmas shopping campaign on local television stations to encourage Nebraskans to send “Made in Nebraska” gifts this holiday season.
Barb and her husband, Jim, own the From Nebraska Gift Shop, the new Haymarket Mercantile and James Arthur Vineyards. The couple purchased the From Nebraska Gift Store, which features a tasting room for their wines, six years ago and have slowly expanded the business.
She said GROW Nebraska has been an important partner for their business.
“GROW Nebraska does a really good job of advertising what they have available, and it seems to reach a lot of people so it gives us a bigger customer base,” Barb said.
She features several GROW Nebraska member products in her store, including longtime members Preferred Popcorn and Dorothy Lynch and new member Sue’s Creative Confections.
Barb said she and GROW have a great partnership and often refer products to each other. She also sends potential new product businesses to GROW for technical assistance.
“It’s a nice relationship because I can turn them over to GROW because GROW has expertise in certain areas, such as packaging and labeling,” Barb said. “That’s invaluable to me to have GROW to send these makers to so they can improve their packaging.”
Barb attributes some of the store’s recent growth to her consistently staying on top of customer trends by reading trade magazines and noticing what is trending on the coasts that will soon be popular in the Midwest. She recently noticed a trend in honeybees and started offering honeybee décor and paired it with Nebraska-made honey.
From Nebraska features more than 100 products made in Nebraska plus another 150 products that are Nebraska-related, such as coffee mugs, t-shirts, snow globes, magnets and other products that tourists want to buy. Like GROW Nebraska, Barb also sells gift baskets with Nebraska products.
“It’s a win-win for both of us,” Barb said of her relationship with GROW. “We are both trying to make Nebraska businesses thrive.”
GROW Nebraska® Foundation is a statewide non-profit training and marketing organization. Serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses, the organization provides marketing opportunities, education, and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska’s educational programs receive federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors.