stories and photos by Jessica Park
The call came from California. Dee, the gift shop assistant who took the call, talked to a woman whose childhood friend was staying at Boone Hospital Center. The caller’s friend was not going to recover.
Dee knew this had to be a very special gift. The two women had grown up together; now, the friend in California needed to be at her friend’s side in spirit.
“Tell me a memory about the two of you growing up together,” she asked.
The caller told Dee that she and her friend would, as children, have fun reciting and acting out nursery rhymes. Dee immediately thought of an animated, talking Mother Goose doll sold in the shop. She retrieved one of the dolls and held it up to the receiver as its warm voice recited “Humpty Dumpty.”
The caller loved it and purchased the gift over the phone. And Mother Goose was delivered to her friend’s room.
“That customer later called back to tell me that her friend had let her know it was by far the best gift she’d ever received,” Dee says.
A New Home
Boonique Gifts opened in its new home in the lobby of the hospital’s new patient tower in June 2011. Across from the admissions desk, a curved wall of windows showcases a collection of colorful glass and glazed ceramic, fashionable scarves and handbags, a menagerie of plush animals, and new items being artfully arranged by Wanda, the gift shop’s coordinator.
Wanda also creates seasonal displays in a case just outside the shop. An assortment of black and gold Mizzou Tigers gifts will soon turn to a black and orange assemblage of Halloween ornaments.
“Holiday decorations are some of our best-selling items,” says Barb, manager of Boonique Gifts. “We like to have fun with sales around the holidays. Sometimes we’ll offer a discount for wearing a Halloween costume or singing a Christmas carol.”
In addition to a new location, the gift shop recently received a new name: Boonique Gifts, a portmanteau of Boone, boutique and unique. The gift shop staff members pride themselves on offering special items, from knickknacks to necklaces, not found in nearby stores.
“We have regular customers who come in from out of town to shop here for presents,” Barb says.
All sales at Boonique Gifts are tax-free and proceeds benefit the Boone Hospital Foundation. In addition to Barb, Wanda and Dee, the gift shop is staffed by a close-knit group of dedicated, upbeat volunteers, some of whom have worked in the hospital gift shop for decades.
“They’re loyal to Boone,” Wanda says. “This is their hospital. They’re not just here to put in time.”
Some shoppers aren’t looking for gifts but an experience. Visitors waiting on loved one wander in and browse. Hospital employees on break pop in for a pick-me-up snack.
“Sometimes,” Wanda says, “what people who come in here really want is a listening ear.”
Barb agrees. “I think of our shop as a respite.”
“We offer a personal shopper approach,” Dee says. “If I know a patient has already received a similar gift, I’ll suggest something different. I’m happy to make recommendations. Flowers aren’t for everybody.”
Boonique Gifts offers custom gift baskets tailored for any patient. Any item in the store, including personal hygiene items and Sudoku puzzles, to name a few, can be included. For those still unable to decide, Boonique gift cards, customizable for any amount, are also available.
The gift shop also takes orders from and delivers items to patient rooms during shop hours on weekdays. Payments can be made over the phone with a credit or debit card or with cash upon delivery.
Patients have found these services helpful. Dee recalls another customer who called the gift shop: “A lady called me from her room and said, ‘I’m going to be here all day, and I’m bored. Do you have any magazines?’”
After learning that the patient loved celebrity magazines, Dee read her the shop’s extensive list of titles.
“Great,” the patient said. “I want them all. With three young kids at home, I rarely have time to catch up on gossip about the stars.”
“So we bundled up the magazines and ran them all up to her room. She was so happy, you would have thought we’d gone to the moon and back for her.
Boonique Gifts is located on the first floor near Boone Hospital Center’s Main Entrance. The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Online orders may be placed 24 hours a day at http://www.boone.org/giftshop or, for telephone orders, call 573-815-3525.