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Small Businesses Deliver Holiday Treasures in Escondido’s Downtown District

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for someone special this year, head to Escondido’s Historic Downtown District. Small businesses line Grand Avenue while even more open their doors to customers along the many side streets that cross this very walkable shopping strip. You will be sure to find something for everyone on your holiday gift list in this charming and vibrant neighborhood.

A Modern Mercantile

Its name really captures the spirit of this shop located at the corner of Grand Avenue and Kalmia Street - Vinklectic Mercantile sells a mixture of classic vintage styles peppered with a bit of modern, western, rustic, and romantic fashions throughout its very large 7,000 square-foot space. Owner and operator Beth Stevens said, “It’s the kind of place where you can come in and get a gift for a friend and pick up something for yourself too.”

Quality products and home decor for yourself or as gifts

The vintage and eclectic theme comes from Stevens’ personal style. “I love vintage and I love to mix things together. There’s also a nod to my Western roots.” Stevens grew up barrel racing and participating in rodeos in Northern California where she lived before moving to Southern California. The K in the store name is for her father’s last name, her maiden name, Karns.

Stevens opened Vinklectic in September 2017. At the time, it was only a 1,500 square foot shop. Within a year, she knew she wanted more and expanded to its current size. Retail wasn’t always Stevens’s world. She came from corporate HR where she designed health plans and retirement structures for over 10,000 employees. However, when she left that job five years ago, she wanted to do something more creative. She also wanted to be closer to home. Stevens had been commuting to Los Angeles for many years and felt it was time to find something local. 

“I fell in love with the historic district,” said Stevens. “It has a lot of old buildings; you can see the conversion of the buildings that has transpired over the years and it’s kind of quirky.”

When she and her husband Todd were looking for a space to open their shop, Stevens saw the corner store on Grand and fell in love, including its large front windows, and imagined the display possibilities. “When I first looked into the building I was in love, but my husband said it was not for me. He was afraid there wasn’t enough storage space. But I thought it was perfect right on the corner.” 

When Stevens called and found out there was indeed enough storage to start her business, she decided to rent the space and has not looked back. Her husband helped with the construction of the space, leaving exposed ceiling structures and support beams and adding railings by the stairs, all of which add to the boutique's rustic-yet-cozy atmosphere that customers get when they walk into the enormous space. It somehow feels like you are shopping at a friend’s place.

Vinklectic doesn’t just sell clothing; in fact, it is truly a modern mercantile where customers can find everything from jewelry to jam. The store has a large selection of women’s clothing that ranges from evening casual to t-shirts and jeans but also sells gift items, tabletop housewares and serving pieces, candles, fragrances, coffee and yes, jam. Stevens works with local artists who make some of the jewelry and candles found throughout the store. She also said her special line of coffee is one of the top sellers in the store as well as a wide selection of home-canned artisan jams that make perfect gifts this time of year.

The picturesque front windows have been one of the reasons many who stroll down Grand Avenue decide to wander into Vinklectic. “Every season we change the windows. It takes about a week.” Stevens said, “People often come in and say it’s the windows that bring them into the store.”

The holiday spirit is spread throughout Vinklectic right now. Gift items such as holiday scented candles, sparkling jewelry, holiday-inspired t-shirts, Santa serving plates, and holiday gnomes can be found throughout the store. These unique gift items are what help make small businesses stand out amongst the competition and Stevens understands this type of marketing. “I try to find things that are exceptionally unique that you won’t see in big box stores.”

Instead of competing with larger stores, Stevens offers her customers individual shopping experiences. “What I do is create events where we have a register.” Customers can create their own wish lists of things they would like to purchase in the store. 

“We try to offer a little more service.” This type of concierge shopping is especially helpful for husbands who don’t know what to get their wives during the holidays, she said. Stevens finds that this type of service is something locals appreciate because they don’t have to go far to find things and they know shopping locally helps their community.

The Escondido community has been a big supporter of Vinklectic since it opened. “What I feel the customers like about the store is that we know their names. They also like the small-town feel.” 

Stevens credits Escondido’s mayor, Paul McNamara, with much of the resurgence happening in the Downtown District. “He is trying to get events on Grand Avenue and promote small businesses. He has made this the narrative for the city. He is also very engaging,” said Stevens. 

She feels having such an approachable mayor has made a difference to the city. Stevens said she often sees McNamara and his many associates walking around the city, engaging with the community and local businesses and asking them how they can help improve the area. “It’s an-up-and coming district. There are lots of great changes going on.”

Unique Finds for the Home

Head east on Grand to Juniper Street where you will find one of downtown Escondido’s newest shops, Gordelly, Unlimited. This vintage and contemporary home décor and gift shop opened its doors in September with a Grand Opening event in early November.

Owner Shelly Luan at Gordelly Unlimited

Owner and operator Shelly Luan has been selling vintage décor for nearly four years. She started her business on Amazon then opened a vintage booth at Carlsbad mall that she ran until the mall closed. Luan always wanted her own business and found the Escondido location to be a perfect spot.

Exterior of Gordelly Unlimited

The unique name was actually inspired by a joke she and her husband share from when they first started dating. “When we started dating the paparazzi was putting celebrity names together. My husband’s name is Gordon, my name is Shelly and we became Gordelly,” she said. They like this version better than Sheldon, the alternative mix-up of their name. “It just didn’t sound right, and Gordelly is just kind of unusual.”

Like the unusual name, the store offers many unique and collectible finds. Most of the vintage items are mid-century and bohemian pieces that Luan has found at estate sales or her travels around the states, and from Idaho where some of her family lives.

There is also a mix of new items such as jewelry, home items, exclusive EcoTools makeup tools, wellness items, and clothing.

Mixture of items you can find at Gordelly

For the holiday shopper, Luan has set up a Santa’s workshop display that has a selection of children’s toys, baby items, and Star Wars collectibles. Handmade and vintage ornaments and select décor are also on display for sale.

Gordelly, Unlimited plans to participate in the Escondido Shop Small Business Saturday event on November 30. Customers are invited to shop and get their bingo cards stamped for potential prizes.  

Luan always wanted to run her own business. She started her career in retail working for Bon Marche. Then she took a detour becoming a certified medical coder for a while. However, the pullback into retail never left. She feels both her mother and daughter inspired and encouraged her to find a place in retail again. “My mom used to sell home interiors,” Luan said. When her daughter wanted to go vintage shopping with her one day and she saw the limited shopping out there, she said, “I realized there was an opportunity to sell stuff myself.”

She chose the downtown Escondido community because “I love the downtown feel. Even though it’s a big town, it has a small-town feel. I like the architecture from the 50s and 60s and felt it was a good fit.” 

You can find both vintage and decor items at Gordelly

She also sees the opportunities Escondido is bringing to the community. “Some other towns may not be advancing as much as Escondido,” Luan said. She feels the community is very interested in meeting new business owners and visiting her store. “Since I’ve been open, I’ve been meeting a lot of locals and getting to talk to them. It’s great. A lot of people come in and wish me well. They say they will come back and bring friends. That’s a good thing; they want to support smaller businesses.”

Luan hopes to extend Gordelly, Unlimited beyond a vintage and décor store. Part of the space is sectioned off for studio art. Luan wants to someday open it to art and home craft classes such as painting and macramé crafting. She thinks this might be a good opportunity to work with local vendors and crafters, “I would like to get some of the local artists to come in and teach,” she said.

Luan also sells her items on her online website, on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, but she feels having a brick and mortar presence makes a big difference to her business. She understands that engaging with the community has benefits that go beyond a sale. “I think just because someone comes in and doesn’t buy, they may think about me later and come back. I’ve made a friend. I think that’s good.”

The Escondido community spirit is alive and well in these downtown stores. When shopping this holiday season, make sure to stop inside Vinklectic Mercantile and Gordelly, Unlimited where you may find yourself buying something unique and meeting a fellow community member.

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