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Third act ...Gamble's shifts location, direction in continuing tradition

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts for American lives. But successful businesses often become so by transforming into second acts and beyond.

During the 39 years Gamble's Gift Gallery has been in business, the store has redefined its niche several times.

The original store was called Gamble's Treasure House, and it specialized in china and bridal registry gifts.

After several years and some product expansion, the name was shortened to Gamble's in 1984 when David and Sandy Harrison bought the store in partnership with their friends Larry and Maryann Wakefield.

The Harrisons bought out the Wakefields in 1996 and they began making plans to take the store in a slightly different direction. This year, the Harrisons changed the name to Gamble's Gift Gallery, and the store moved to a new shopping area on East Republic Road.

The move signaled a shift in the business' focus, which is reflected in the store's new look.

Sandy Harrison said everything from the overhead lights to the custom-made cherry-wood cabinets give customers a better appreciation for the products on display.

Some of the store's high-end product lines include Waterford, Marquis, Baccarat and Lalique crystal and Lladro and Armani figurines.

Customers also can find fine china made by Wedgwood, as well as more contemporary table settings, such as those by Fitz & Floyd, Waterford and Phillipe Deshoulieres.

The store carries many limited-edition figurines, some of which cost several thousand dollars. However, Gamble's Gift Gallery also carries items under $20.

"We plan on refining the products we offer," Sandy Harrison said. "We haven't forgotten, though, that some customers come here looking for a unique but relatively inexpensive gift."

To help customers find the gift or collectible figurine they're seeking, the newly designed store has a desk and chair in one corner, which is surrounded by product catalogs. Customers can use this area to review the latest catalog offerings, and the store frequently places special orders.

The Harrisons work at Gamble's Gift Gallery part-time. David Harrison works full-time at Glenstone Block Company, and Sandy Harrison just retired as a counselor at Kickapoo High School.

"For the last 15 years, Sandy fulfilled the heavy responsibilities of her professional career, and then went straight to the gift store," David Harrison said. "She worked evenings, weekends and summers building the business and keeping up with new product lines."

Many of the lines carried by the store come from ideas the Harrisons have gleaned from their trips around the world. Sandy Harrison and several of the store's key full-time employees also look for new product lines or trends when they visit the markets in New York, Dallas, Kansas City, San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago.

"We want to create a gift gallery unlike any you would expect to see except in major cities," Sandy Harrison said. "We look for pieces that are well done or those that have good form. It's important for us to go on trips so we can see what's out there and bring something back that's truly unique."

According to the Harrisons, Gamble's staff has played an instrumental role in the business's continued success. Nancy Seaton, who serves as the store manager, has worked at the store longer than the Harrisons.

Other employees, such as Debbie Savage, have helped refine the store's look. In fact, display work done by employees can be found throughout the store.

For example, one corner contains a large display of Department 56 cottages and accessories. The display, which was designed and arranged by employee Claudia Parrish, sits beneath two large wall murals painted by Parrish and Andrea Hopper.

Indeed, for collectors, how a set is presented is almost as important as the set itself.

To help customers refine the way they present their collections, Gamble's Gift Gallery will begin holding classes at 2 p.m. every Wednesday starting in July, according to Sandy Harrison. Each class will cost $10.

In the coming months, the Harrisons said they plan on expanding their product lines and refining the store's new look before hosting a grand opening in September. They're also working on plans to take their business global by establishing an online gift shop on the World Wide Web.[[In-content Ad]]

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