By Abbey Nickel The Gleaner, Henderson, Ky.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) During this busy holiday season, Kentucky gift shop owners Audrey and Jerry Benton reflect on the growth of their small business.
The Gleaner, Henderson, Ky.
For business owners Audrey and Jerry Benton, the holiday season is full of hustle and bustle.
The chaos that comes with the holidays gives the Benton's a little more to be thankful for each year. It serves as a reminder that their goals as business owners are coming to fruition year after year.
The Bentons own Sweet Peas gift shop and Benton's Garden Center in Henderson, and unsurprisingly, they see a steady increase in clientele in the gift shop during the winter months as customers scramble to find gifts for loved ones.
But the Christmas season is also when Audrey pauses to reflect on the overall success of Sweet Peas, which she started seven years ago.
"I look at my numbers every Christmas and compare them to previous years," she said. "And every Christmas I've done better than the last, so that's really the best gift I could ask for."
This year, Audrey received her gift a little early -- Sweet Peas, which the community has come to know as the "sweetest little gift shop around," had a record retail day on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 27.
"We were packed all day," she said. "I was really pleased with how the day turned out."
The gift shop, adjacent to the garden center, is located at 3000 U.S. 60. The gift shop is inside a renovated barn area.
"I think that really attracts people," Audrey said of the barn atmosphere. "It has that unique feel to it."
The gift shop carries an array of items, such as clothing, candles, pet items, home decor and more. The shop also features a section dedicated to University of Kentucky apparel, a big draw.
"I realized people really wanted a place to find unique items like that," she said.
Right now, the store also features its fair share of holiday-themed decorations and gifts.
Sweet Peas employee Beth Ann Denton said the fact that the store caters to both men and women and to all age groups continues to make it a staple in the community.
"When people think of Sweet Peas, a lot of people assume that it's a girly store that just has stuff for women, but we really do offer something for everyone here," Denton said.
The store also offers memorabilia for the Henderson County School district, some of which they design in the store. "We want people to come in here and find that perfect gift," Denton said.
The idea behind Sweet Peas started about a decade ago when Audrey opened a small gift shop kiosk in Florida, where and and her husband owned property.
Eventually, the Bentons came back to Henderson and realized they had the room and the potential to open something similar next to the garden center, which has been in operation for more than 30 years.
"They used this space as an office area, and when I started thinking about it, I realized this was the perfect area for what I was trying to create," Audrey said. She gradually added merchandise to the garden center, and as interest grew, so did the merchandise.
The sign for the store in Florida, called "Crabby Toes," hangs on a wall in Sweet Peas now. It's surrounded by Christmas memorabilia today, and if you don't look hard enough, you might miss it -- but it serves as a reminder for Audrey of where it all began.
"It's funny how something so small became to be something so big," she said.
Both Audrey and Benton said the store has "plenty of regular customers," but also has requests for shipments from other states.
The garden center closes after the holidays for a couple of months, but the gift shop is open year-round.
"The gift shop has been a nice addition because that means our doors are open all year," Audrey said.
The duo bring their dogs to work every day -- Ellie, Lillie and Mollie -- and they're a fun addition to the work day, Audrey said.
"It's nice to be able to go to work and bring them with you," she said.
As for the future, they hope to keep doing what they're doing. She wants to continue to create a relaxed, home-like atmosphere for customers, and hopes the businesses continue to be a success.
"We both love people and we love to talk, so I guess we're in the right business," Audrey laughed. "We'd be bored to death if we didn't have this."