MINT HILL, NC – The Gift Workshop is now open in its new location! Situated on Matthews-Mint Hill Road next to Goodness Gracious Gifts and Interiors, the new location offers the same DIY workshops and customized retail items as before in a space more well-suited for social distancing.
In many ways, The Gift Workshop’s story is the story of so many small businesses during this pandemic. Per Governor Cooper’s order, The Gift Workshop shut its doors in mid-March. At first, Owner Kat DePrater thought she’d use what she assumed would be a short-term closure to start preparing early for the holidays. As COVID-related restrictions dragged on indefinitely, DePrater began offering take-home DIY kits and fresh flowers on Fridays.
With summer approaching and no relief in sight, DePrater began to question whether she’d be able to reopen. With a business centered around in-person DIY workshops, DePrater began to worry that even when restrictions were lifted, it was unlikely that she’d be able to hold workshops safely any time soon at her current location, a 4000-square foot cinder-block warehouse with no windows and little ventilation.
A single parent in addition to a small business owner, DePrater faced a difficult choice: prepare her to resume or figure out how to adapt her business model to this strange new climate.
Then, something amazing happened. Right when DePrater was thinking about how to gain increased visibility and outdoor space, the historic home next to Goodness Gracious came available for lease
“What was so funny is that for years and years – before I even opened my own small business – I just fell in love with this cottage house!” says DePrater, referring to the space previously occupied by Casa Tia Emma and Cottage Yarn. “And just about the time when I really was looking for direction, I found out that Casa Tia Emma was moving, and this was about to become available.” After speaking with the owner, DePrater discovered that the property would be available on July 1 – the exact date the lease on her current space was up.
So DePrater packed up her business and downsized from 4000 square feet to 1500. Around the time of the move, DePrater had another stroke of luck: North Carolina moved into Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, paving the way for businesses like The Gift Workshop to reopen.
During the day, The Gift Workshop is a retail boutique offering a variety of unique and customizable gifts: seasonal door hangers, candles, and “to go” DIY kits for kids to name a few. They also have some national brands they order from seasonally like Simply Southern and Mud Pie. DePrater likes to focus on products that are customizable, like a leather-bound journal DePrater can personalize with a fire-burned monogram. Unicorn scarves and monogrammable weekender bags in hot patterns like buffalo plaid and Lily Pulitzer will hit shelves soon in preparation for the holidays. They continue to offer fresh flowers on Fridays.
In the evenings and on weekends, DePrater is looking forward to resuming workshops under the canopy of pecan and chestnut trees behind the shop where people can gather but remain socially distanced. “I’m excited about that, and I think that’s where we have to be,” says DePrater. “Even if by the end of the year we were able to ‘phase up’ again, I don’t know that people necessarily are ready for that, so for the long term, I think it’s a smart decision.”
“I would love at some point to put some sort of shelter out here and maybe have garage doors that we could open up – that’s kind of the long term plan,” continues DePrater, “but I think for now outdoor is really important for people’s comfort level. This is really part of our survival – how do we engage with people and help them make things and work with their hands in a comfortable yet healthy manner? – and that’s why I felt that outdoor space was going to be critical for us.”
The Gift Workshop is in the process of updating their website right now; in the meantime, you can keep tabs on classes and offerings on Facebook @thegiftworkshopnc. DePrater plans to offer workshops through November and possibly into December depending on weather and private party bookings.
For those who lack the time or tools to create Pinterest-worthy crafts of their own, The Gift Workshop accepts custom orders for items like signs, door hangers, and candle sets. “I have a book that people can look through, so if they’re looking for a great gift and they don’t want to fool with a workshop, they can reach out to us and we’ll make it for them,” says DePrater. “We design everything in house that we make, so if there’s something that you see and you want us to recreate it, there’s a high probability we can do it.”
The Gift Workshop is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You’ll now find them at 7717 Matthew-Mint Hill Road.