Beverly Noyes-Hanson was dabbling in picture framing and searching for a different job when her husband suggested she start a frame and gift shop.
“With minimal retail experience, it was quite a leap. I quickly located a storefront that was available to rent. I reached out to a framing supplier that was willing to help me get started, and I then filled my store with handcrafted pieces I’d been working on, along with a small assortment of vintage décor,” she said. “It was impossible to make enough handcrafted pieces to supply the store, so I started researching providers of product lines I felt would fit our clientele. Our local florist introduced me to a cash and carry floral market that carried perpetual florals and home décor pieces.”
Beverly and her husband, Tim, opened Doubletree Gallery, Framing, Gifts & Collectibles in Sisseton, South Dakota, in June 1997. The farming/ranching community in rural, northeast South Dakota is the county seat, with 2,500 residents. The county’s population is 10,000. The largest employers include schools, medical facilities, and a cabinet factory.
“We have an array of lakes in the area for water sports in the summer and ice fishing in the winter. Besides the lakes, locals and visitors are able to enjoy camping, hiking trails, birding, bicycling, golf, and viewing wildlife like turkey, pelicans, coyote, fox, and buffalo,” she said.
Beverly explained some of the inspiration behind the business. “When Tim and I married, I relocated from Coos Bay, Oregon, so he would be able to return to cattle ranching. The job market was not what I had been accustomed to, so I took a couple part-time jobs to give me the opportunity to get acquainted with the community,” she said.
Around that time is when she started dallying with picture framing and began looking for a more productive job. A few years after she opened the gift shop, Beverly went to Minneapolis Mart for the first time.
“That was amazing. I found a number of vendors that were extremely helpful, and I came home with so many cool display ideas,” she said. “Early on, we used a lot of repurposed pieces, furniture, pallets, wire spools, and even discarded wood flooring from a historic fort to create displays. Our theme caught on, so we’ve continued repurposing vintage in our displays.”
An Accounting Background
Prior to moving to Sisseton, Beverly’s education and employment background was in accounting, banking, and customer service and debt collection for a utility. “Obviously, we don’t have any issues with debt collection, but accounting and customer service skills are extremely beneficial to being a small-business owner,” she said.
Choosing a name for her gift shop was a challenging process, she said. “I don’t recall our original list, but I wanted the name to contain a reference to the prairie or our ranch life. While considering names, we ran across an antique, double-tree horse hitch in one of the family homestead buildings. That was it — Doubletree Gallery, Framing, Gifts & Collectibles,” Beverly said.
She originally rented a 900-square-foot retail storefront on Sisseton’s main street. Ten years later, with encouragement from Tim, she purchased a property along the state highway that passes through Sisseton.
They contracted to have the structure put up, and Tim then worked with several local contractors to complete all the interior finishing work. Doubletree Gallery reopened at its new location in January 2008.
Beverly said moving the gift shop from downtown to the highway was the store’s turning point because it increased their visibility. “We have more traffic from tourists, lake residents, and even residents of other rural communities in our vicinity,” she said.
Regarding challenges and how she has overcome them, Beverly said, “We have been fortunate to have weathered economic downturns and, of course, COVID-19 relatively unscathed. Our most difficult challenge has been South Dakota winters. Thankfully, it’s not an every-year occurrence, but the snowstorms/blizzards are devastating for business. We aren’t able to make the trip into town to open the store, and customers aren’t able to venture out either. We post updates on social media and encourage our customers to stop in when the highways are clear for travel. The advantage to severe winters is we see more of our customers shopping locally.”
What Her Customers Say
Doubletree Gallery’s typical customers are 25- to 90-year-old women. “We do have a few brave men that will venture in,” Beverly said. “During the Christmas season, we encourage women to leave a ‘Wish List’ with us to make shopping easier for their spouses.”
Store visitors frequently comment on the displays and fragrances, and Beverly often hears people say, “Where do you find all of these fun gift ideas?” She shared, “Just the other day, a lady from the Minneapolis area said Doubletree Gallery is the most beautiful gift shop she’s ever been in.”
The giggles Beverly hears are the best. “With our assortment of vintage pieces, we frequently hear shoppers telling each other stories of a vintage piece being in their homes when they were growing up, and then they laugh. We love it!” she said.
Customers discover an array of products at Doubletree Gallery. “We offer gourmet foods such as Door County Coffee; The Republic of Tea; Land O’ Lakes Cocoa; The Secret Garden jams, soups, and bread mixes; Wind & Willow cheeseball and dip mixes; and Abdallah Candies. Greeting cards from Leanin’ Tree, Pumpernickel Press, Avanti Press, and Shade Tree Greetings. Home décor, including perpetual florals, wall décor, and photo frames; scarves; jewelry; decorative paper napkins; gorgeous aprons; and zkano socks,” Beverly said. “We greatly enjoy offering American-made products, such as South Dakota T-shirts and sweatshirts from Scratchpad Tees; Dakota Stoneware Pottery; Sorrel Rose Candles & Melts; BenShot glassware; HomeSpun Chick Goat Milk Lotion; locally made birdhouses; John W. Anderson art and greeting cards; Clay in Motion Handwarmer Mugs; Paul’s Metal Petals; South Dakota souvenirs; and one of our favorite products, South Dakota wines from Schadé Vineyard & Winery, Prairie Berry Winery, and With the Wind Vineyard & Winery. We also display a small offering of vintage pieces to enhance our home décor lines.”
She said the gift shop’s product categories change and evolve based on community needs and regional trends. “I tend to purchase products that I’m attracted to,” Beverly said. “If I’m not sure about a product line, I don’t hesitate to consult my staff. We’re in different age groups and have differing tastes. I feel it’s good to hear their perspectives.”
Custom picture framing is the shop’s primary business, and on the retail side, South Dakota wine is its star product. “They are a huge draw, and most customers leave with more than the wines they initially came in to purchase. Next would be home décor, gourmet foods, and apparel,” she said of what sells best.
Being in a small, rural community, Beverly feels fortunate to have two grocery stores, several convenience stores/gas stations, three discount stores, a flower shop, a couple thrift/antique stores, and a pharmacy. “When we first opened Doubletree Gallery, Sisseton supported several stores offering amazing gift lines. Those stores have all closed due to retirement,” she said. “We’re now the only specialty gift shop in the area. We try to offer beautiful, higher-end products at affordable prices for all of our clients. Our goal is happy customers!”
When asked what makes her store successful, she said, “We have a plan. Excellent customer service is imperative. Offering products our customers want, need, or desire; a store our customers want to visit; promotion of products; and location.”
Beverly said their attitude and desire to assist customers to the best of their ability set their customer service apart from other stores. “We want to be known for our top-notch service!” she said.
The high level of customer service they provide is the norm for her staff, she said. “Every customer is greeted upon arrival, and our assistance is always offered. We give our clients space to shop, but we’re always available to assist them. Sometimes a customer is only looking for a respite from a hectic day. Sometimes they’re looking for a gift idea to pop out at them,” Beverly said. “Every purchase is wrapped in vibrantly colored tissue, and we offer complimentary gift wrapping. If our clients are looking for an item we don’t offer, we don’t hesitate to refer them to other retailers in the Sisseton area. We hope other retailers do the same, so we can keep shoppers here in Sisseton.”
Doubletree Gallery does not have an online store. On rare occasions, they ship items from the store. “That’s usually for customers that are flying and aren’t able to fit their purchases into their luggage,” she said.
Beverly has used numerous marketing strategies. “Over the years, we’ve had a website, advertised in the local newspaper, placed rack cards at visitor centers, advertised in local and regional travel guides, placed radio ads, and posted on Facebook and Instagram. While we still participate in a variety of marketing strategies, we find word of mouth and social media are the most successful for us,” she said. “While we were closed for a couple of months during COVID-19, it was an excellent opportunity for me to rearrange displays. I’d post photos of the new displays as they were completed. Frequently, customers would call to ask if they could purchase a piece that was in the post. Of course, they could! They could pick it up curbside or come in for a bit of private shopping therapy. Social media made that possible.”
Through the years, Doubletree Gallery has collaborated with other local retailers to offer a variety of shopping events, including Business Afterhours Shopping and a Crazy Days Sale during the summer, Beverly said. “We have also offered a Customer Appreciation Luncheon or Pie Social on the porch to celebrate our anniversary over the years in mid-July.”
Their largest, collaborative event is the Holiday Extravaganza. “One of our local crafters and I held our first extravaganza on Nov. 8, 1997. Twenty-five years later, there are now 12 to 15 retailers and event locations that participate. November-weather permitting, we have clients that will travel over 200 miles to spend the day with us here in Sisseton, South Dakota,” she said. “Here at the store, we wine and dine them! We offer gourmet food samples, South Dakota wine samples, and each customer receives a complimentary Christmas ornament from us. It’s a great way to start our holiday season!”
Beverly connects with her community in a variety of ways. She has served on numerous boards, including the Chamber of Commerce, an association for retailers, and a regional tourism board. She represented Sisseton at the South Dakota Governor’s Conference on Tourism.
She has coordinated with other local retailers to promote tourism in their area and local shopping events. “We also donate gift cards and/or gift baskets or an occasional pie for local benefits,” Beverly said.
Her advice to those who’ve recently opened a store is to remember that excellent customer service is essential and word of mouth is powerful. “Endeavor for it to always be positive. Listen to your clients. There may be products they’re requesting that might be worth testing in your store,” she said.
Beverly also recommends subscribing to Smart Retailer, saying she has picked up numerous tips from articles and found some great vendors through the years. “When you’re traveling, stop at other small retail stores for display and product ideas. It’s great if you have time to visit with the owner and maybe make a small purchase. It’s amazing what you can learn from others in our profession. Ask if you can borrow a display idea, but never borrow display ideas from your neighbor! Make your job fun for yourself and your staff and be creative,” she said.
Doubletree Gallery has been a labor of love for Beverly. She loves her store, staff, and customers.
She appreciates her husband’s support. Tim is not actively involved in the store, but Beverly said, “He is my moral support, sounding board, junkin’ travel companion, and muscle. Without his encouragement/nudging, I could not have built this beautiful store we have.”
Facts at a Glance
Business Name: Doubletree Gallery, Framing, Gifts & Collectibles
Location: 1608 South Dakota Highway 10, Sisseton, SD 57262
Employees: Two (part time)
Size: 3,750 sq. ft.
Trade Shows Attended: Minneapolis Mart, North American Floral
Product Categories: American made, home décor, candles, jewelry, apparel, greeting cards, gourmet foods, kitchen, vintage
Social Media: Facebook, Instagram
POS System: QuickBooks