Story and Photos by Kelly Newsom
For 19 years Carol Rawlings has seen the ups and downs of Downtown Woodland, in particular Main Street. As owner of The Gifted Penguin, located at 716 Main Street suite A, Carol has persevered through the tough times and is more than happy to see the downtown area grow and has high hopes for it’s future.
Loosely modeled after the now closed Discoveries gift store in Davis, The Gifted Penguin carries everything from gifts and cards to home decor, soaps and treats. It’s a place where you can find a little something for yourself while you’re shopping for a gift for someone else. The Gifted Penguin is jam packed with goodies, so take your time and wander around the shop. There are surprises in every nook and cranny.
There’s something to be said for businesses and their owners that persevere through our town’s tougher times. It couldn’t have been easy but Carol was patient and smart about her store during the those years. It makes it all that more important to support local businesses. With the revitalization of downtown happening make sure to shop at The Gifted Penguin, say hello to Carol and let her welcome you to Woodland’s downtown.
How long have you been in business?
Carol: We opened 19 years ago in a smaller spot next door to where we are now. It was about 500 square feet and now we are in a 1400 sq ft space. We moved in this current space about a year and half after we opened. I originally worked at Discoveries in Davis. It was very similar to what I’m doing now but it was three levels, very large. We are a miniature version of Discoveries. Kelly: I was born in Davis and I used to go to Discoveries a lot! For whatever reason I remember having an obsession over these clear plastic boxes. Carol: Well I can tell you how old Discoveries is – my sister went to UC Davis and I remember Discoveries when it was about the size of my store. They had those little colored plastic boxes then. When we would visit my sister going to Discoveries was the treat for me. Especially those plastic boxes.
Kelly: So you drew your inspiration for The Gifted Penguin from Discoveries? Carol: I worked at Discoveries for 14 years. One day I was driving down Main Street and I saw a vacant store and mentioned it to my husband. He said, “You’ve been talking about opening your own store for years. We should go look at it.” and I said, “I have?”. There are somethings you don’t realize your saying but I had been wanted to do something on my own. So we did. It was right after Discoveries had been sold and my role had changed so it worked out. I wanted it be more of a card and paper store. That was my forte while I worked at Discoveries. But when I opened here I realized I was coming into a different community with different buying needs.
When did you first think about opening your own business?
Carol: We originally looked into the mall. That didn’t work out. When you’re in a mall you have to follow guidelines of when to be open. I wanted to set my own hours and run my business my own way. So, I gave up on the idea. About two years later this spot opened and we decided to give it a try. The first location was small, so we didn’t have to pour a lot of money into it. It was a nice way to get a feel for what people were looking for. Kelly: Was this your only job at the time? Carol: Oh yes, I was the only person working in the store. I was open six days a week and that went on for about a year and a half. It was great because I could be here all the time…so I wore out fast! It’s still 24/7 but I now have employees. So I can get away for a half or full day. I’ve learned over the years you have to take care of yourself.
Tell me about the process of expanding into a larger space.
Carol: Where we are now was a bridal shop. My husband pushed me to move to the larger spot. Our original spot was so small that if we had one person in the store, it was one person too many. In the new spot we could move around. My concern was wondering how we were going to fill up all this space, it was overwhelming. My husband is very handy and he built a wall here so we could have a stock room. Our neighbors at home helped us move all the product and displays. It was around Thanksgiving when we moved so we didn’t have a problem filling up the space with all the Christmas trees.
What’s the style of your store?
Carol: My favorite word is eclectic. We have a little bit of everything. It’s not just cards and candles. We have stationary, aprons, wind chimes, locally made products, and soaps. There is a variety because I try to listen to what my customers ask for. I try to have things that aren’t everywhere. I do have people say they haven’t seen such a variety in a store.
Being here 19 years you’ve seen a lot of change on Main Street.
Carol: It’s been a roller coaster. There was a time, maybe seven or eight years ago, when someone could have rolled a bowling ball down main street and not hit anyone. It was absolutely quiet. That is what’s nice about my store. I don’t have 30 employees to worry about. It’s a matter of slowing my buying down and just hoping for the best. Kelly: With the upswing of what’s happening downtown how are you feeling? Carol: Feeling better. Trying to not get too optimistic because we still have road closures but for the most part it’s all good. More business are opening rather than closing. People are feeling better about downtown and coming downtown. It’s really nice to see so many empty buildings get so many different types of businesses in them. Its not all just gifts or restaurants – its a wonderful mixture that brings foot traffic.
Kelly: You have to be proud of yourself for what you’ve accomplished. You’ve seen the ups and downs of our town and you’ve stayed. Carol: That or I was silly! I did have those times where I was wondering “why am I here?”. But I like what I do and I feel lucky that I can do it. I enjoy coming to work AND I get to say I like my job!
Tell me about a special memory since opening.
Carol: Being here for 19 years its interesting to see people come in with their families. They came when they were little and now those babies are in college or they are bringing in their own babies. I feel like I have a lot of extended family here because people do come and share.
What do you want Woodland to know?
Carol: Come check us out. If you haven’t been down here in a while come on in. Sometimes I think people forget that Woodland has a lot to offer. We’re near a couple of restaurant and we have parking in the back. I like making people happy!
Stay local, spend local.
The Gifted Penguin
716 Main Street Ste. A
Woodland, California 95695
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