Nestled on Duke of Gloucester Street between the bustling sidewalks of Colonial Williamsburg and the storefronts of Merchants Square sits the Bruton Parish Gift Shop.
Unlike other stores down the road, this gift shop is a charity.
Run by manager Diane Koun, assistant manager Pam Michael and 50 regular volunteers, the shop sells both religious and nondenominational items.
The gift shop was opened in 1993, but Michael said it was closed for five months for renovations in December 2016.
Koun previously ran the Silver Vault jewelry store 40 years, so when the gift shop reopened in June 2017 she and Michael used their business knowledge to help reinvent the store.
Koun said the two choose all the merchandise, display and set up for the store.
“Our mission was to boost things up a little bit, to make things more colorful, more inviting,” Koun said.
All of the profits from the store go to the church's mission and outreach committee, according to Michael. The charities Bruton Parish helps are local, national and even international, Koun added.
“The shop has contributed more than $2 million dollars over the years,” Michael said. “(The gift shop) is an institution that has done so much for this community and it is very important to this community in many ways aside from the relationship to the church.”
Some of these organizations the store has raised money for include the Williamsburg Area Meals on Wheels, Lackey Clinic, Boy’s Home of Virginia and Angels of Mercy.
Koun said the gift shop is run like any other business. However, since it is a not-for-profit, she said a certain percentage of its merchandise must be religious or historical in nature.
Of the religious merchandise, Koun said one of the store’s most popular items is hand-carved crosses. They are crafted by a Virginian artist who only sells to the gift shop.
“We love discovering people who do things locally, that is always the best,” Michael said.
Local artisans’ work is featured in the store, and Michael said many of them approached the gift shop with their work.
Among the nondenominational items the shop sells, umbrellas decorated with impressionist paintings and costume jewelry are some of the more popular items.
Koun said the shop is owned by the church — and operates on church property which allows the store to operate rent-free — and all of the the staff are volunteers.
However, Koun and Michael stressed the volunteers aren’t all from the church and come from across the community.
“Working with a volunteer staff is interesting,” she said. “They all come in very enthusiastic … because they all do different little jobs when they come so it is very exciting.”
With the low operation costs, more of the money the store makes can go towards charity. Koun said she feels that when people know what they are buying is going towards charity, they feel good about their purchase.
“I would say don’t feel bad if you spend a lot of money here because it’s all for a good cause,” Michael said laughing.
Want to stop by or volunteer?
The Bruton Parish Gift Shop is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
To volunteer at the gift shop you can call 220-1489 and ask for Diane or Pam. They will set up an appointment to meet you.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.