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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Hometown Value and Traditional Family Atmosphere at Special Occasions & Gifts

Sep 27, 2015 09:39PM ● By Brandi Barnett

All in the Family

October 2015
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Tamara Orth

Small towns have a knack for supporting their small businesses, and vice versa. While larger cities crave an authentic mom-and-pop shop experience, stores like Porterville’s Special Occasions & Gifts are as natural to small towns as the summer heat is to the valley – just much more welcome. Without the support of its community, Special Occasions wouldn’t be celebrating its 34th anniversary this October.
Located on Main Street, Special Occasions was opened in 1981 by Carrie Brinkley and her mother. Originally a party store, the kind that sells balloons, streamers, confections and the like, Special Occasions has adapted over the years, catering a bit more to the specific tastes of its community.
Jennifer Shannon, Brinkley’s daughter and third-generation storeowner, says, “We’ve changed our look, changed our style.” Regardless of which wares are inside, having a daughter, mother and grandmother working together provides the shop with a real family atmosphere.
“I’ve been here since I was 5 years old,” says Shannon. “I grew up in this storefront; my mom and grandmother worked together. So since I was 5, I’ve had little jobs. This is where my heart lies, and this is where I want to be.”

“It’s quite awesome to work side by side for years with my mother and grandmother,” Shannon says. “Both of these strong, independent ladies taught me how to run this business and how to be successful… What a truly awesome thing to have not only that deep bond of family but to also learn and be guided by these women.”

Family has become tradition at Special Occasions, and according to Brinkley, that tradition is “based upon hometown values of being present in your business, and treating people as family as they enter the door.”

So it’s not surprising to hear Shannon says customers become family. “We appreciate them shopping with us, but we’re more thankful for the friendships we’ve gained.”

They realize it’s uncommon to have that kind of family familiarity between customer and storefront, maybe even in Porterville. “A lot of people do say that, and it makes us feel really good,” says Shannon. “As we have grown, we have learned that there’s a lot of people that love specific things and we’re lucky they share them with us.”

Those things that customers have shared have helped define the direction of Special Occasions, from home and kitchen décor to candles and jewelry, as well as goods from GG Collection and items designed by Vancouver-based artist Sid Dickens.

“Honestly, it’s what our customers have asked for,” says Shannon. “We have a customer base that’s more like family and friends, so they’ll come in and say, ‘Hey, I’ve seen this and I’d really like for you to carry it.’ Or it just comes from our heart, and what interests us and what we feel will sell.”

That’s also the best advice this family gives to their customers. When buying gifts, “just give from the heart,” says Shannon. “We buy based upon instinct and gut feeling,” and that’s a method she believes can work for customers too.

When Special Occasions celebrates its 34th anniversary, they’ll likely do it with a sale, raffles and door prizes. But the store would want nothing more than another year, and then some.
“We love Porterville and we’re very thankful that they’ve supported us so long. We see families grow up, and they’ve seen me grow up, and they’ve seen my child grow up,” says Shannon, talking about her 9-year-old son.

Their hope, really, isn’t just to pass on lovely gifts, but that family tradition. “We hope to be here forever and ever. Personally, I hope that my son might be interested in this, because it’s such a great family tradition.”

183 N Main St., Porterville •  (559) 781-2575
Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday, 10am-4pm
Find them on Facebook and Instagram: S.O.G. Lovely Gifts