A Little Bit of Everything at p.s. i love you too
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From the Heart
By Jordan Venema
Photos by Tamara Orth
What’s in a name? Well, the answer will always depend on who you’re asking, but that doesn’t always mean the answer will be right. Take, for instance, Mary Beth Shearson’s downtown Visalia store, a gift shop with unique merchandise and an even more unique name. And had she listened to the advice of others, Shearson might have abandoned the name altogether.
The store, p.s. i love you too, admittedly is more a phrase than the average boutique name, and Shearson says the sign initially raised some eyebrows. “When I first opened up, people asked if I got the name from the movie,” she says, “but I hadn’t even heard about it.”
Even when Shearson approached somebody to make her storefront sign, she was told that nobody would get it.
It was the good fortune of Visalia shoppers, and some romantic couples, that Shearson went with the name anyway. “It’s been the exact opposite,” Shearson continues. “Everybody loves it and everybody relates to it.”
So where did the name come from? Shearson explains that at the time, her boyfriend was doing a lot of traveling. “So in our emails and texts it was something we started doing at the end of them” – p.s. i love you too – “it’s just something we both really liked.”
And so have her customers. “There’s been a couple different people that have come in and said that their boyfriends proposed to them in front of the sign, or it’s the first time they said they loved them,” Shearson says.
p.s. i love you too opened in November 2010, and it’s been a busy ride since.
“I consider myself a small gift shop,” says Shearson, the size of which typically allows her to the run the store solo, though she takes on help for the holidays. “I have organic food, baby items, wedding items, candles, pet items of course – really just a little bit of everything.”
But “a little bit of everything” doesn’t really describe the environment of the store, or its product. “A lot of people say, ‘This reminds me of my mom,’ or ‘My mom would love this.’ That says a lot to me, that makes me feel good,” says Shearson. “That’s what I’m wanting to do, to relate to people that way when they come into the store.”
Shearson adds, “I wanted to open something so people would feel comfortable, that they would just enjoy the atmosphere and that the products would be unique, different, but not too expensive.”
Entering p.s. i love you too is like walking into a comfortable country kitchen, surrounded by the kind of goods you’d want to find at home: Box signs emblazoned with encouraging phrases, and delicious foodstuffs you’d hope to find sitting atop a coffee table. Intentionally or not, she’s stoked her store with the kind of goods that complement the sentiment behind a gift: love.
Shearson’s favorite and most popular line in the store is a line of pillowcases created by Brigette Farrell. “I have a line that’s called Faceplant, and they have pillowcases that have a lot different sayings on them” – phrases like “Sleeps with dogs,” “Believe in the beauty of your dreams” and “Always kiss me goodnight.”
“Farrell’s very first show as an exhibitor was also my first show as a buyer, and she had a set of pillowcases that said p.s. I love you and I was like ‘This is just meant to be,’” says Shearson.
There was a certain synchronicity between Shearson’s store and Farrell’s pillowcases, but the other lines that fill p.s. i love you too are equally at home. “Most everything in the store I would have in my own home,” says Shearson, “and I’ve known in my mind what I wanted.”
The store also carries blabla dolls, and a line called Primitives by Kathy, which includes box signs with decals and phrases.
Five years after opening, Shearson is as busy as ever, and while achieving success has to be a reward in itself, she’s grateful for the people she’s met, and growth she’s seen in downtown Visalia.
“The best thing is having met so many amazing people,” says Shearson. “I didn’t expect to hear what I hear all the time – and there’s a lot of people traveling through Visalia who are from out of the country or from the East Coast, and everybody tells me the same thing – that nobody has a downtown like we do.”
Shearson is grateful to be a part of this unique downtown, and willing to keep her own store unique and personal to maintain Visalia’s vibe. “I think it says a lot about our downtown,” says Shearson, referring to the feedback from out-of-towners, “and I’m keeping the store small so I can run it by myself.” Which in the end might also be a good business model, since, as the phrase goes, the best things come in small packages.
p.s. i love you too • 119 W. Main St., Visalia
Tuesday-Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday 10am-5pm
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