Giving a gift from the heart

Josie Villas shows off some homemade cards in her shop. - Seraine Page
Josie Villas shows off some homemade cards in her shop.
— image credit: Seraine Page

At one of Bremerton’s newest artsy shops, patrons will find that everything is done with love.

Gift Shop Alley by Hopisun is filled with crafts from local artists—everything from homemade soy candles to jewelry. The store has an eclectic flair, and it isn’t what one would find inside of a Hallmark store.

“Everything is made with a lot of care,” said Josie Villas, owner of the shop. “Gift giving is a very unique thing.”

Ninety percent of the gifts found in the shop are locally handcrafted, including Villas own potholders, hats and scarves. She has several vendors who offer up their wares to fill the shelves in her store, including her 25-year-old daughter who makes candles.

From one end of the store to the other, customers can find most anything for someone in their life who appreciates handcrafted items: clay dishes, celtic jewelry and homemade cards to fit every occasion. She accepts new vendors, but asks that they bring in their work to show her to make sure it’s a good fit.

“The artists put a piece of themselves into their art,” she remarked.

Villas also assembles balloon bouquets, and she creates gift baskets for all occasions, including birthdays and anniversaries. Gift baskets start at $10, depending on what is inside each one. Customers are encouraged to bring in their own items, or they can select special items inside the store to be placed in the basket. The owner said she asks questions about the person the gift is for, and she tries to make the perfect basket based on the answers.

After moving to Washington State in 1995, Villas found she started getting craftier with her extra time.

“I got the bug of crafting up here,” she said of her move to the state.

She had always crocheted, but she was finding herself getting involved with other art projects. Villas discovered several groups in the area deeply involved with crafts, and started joining in on their activities. It wasn’t until she met a man who held a regular Silverdale flea market with art pieces that she finally found her specialty. She got hooked on art shows, and she started showing her pieces around at a variety of venues throughout the year.

As a member of the Bremerton High School PTA, she established a yearly March bazaar as a fundraiser for the school. Vendors from all over—especially crafters--bring their goodies to the event to sell. Each year she organizes the event, but since opening her new shop, she’s looking for someone to take over.

Gift Shop Alley by Hopisun is nestled in with the creative minds who have made the Amy Burnett Gallery building their business home.

“It all just goes together,” Villas said of all the shops in the building. “The creative energy just flows through the walls. You just wanna be here.”

In October, Villas opened her shop right next to Claywerks.

Although two separate businesses, the shop owners and customers come through the same front door. Villas business is separated by a black wrought-iron gate. She opened the business with the  hope that people will feel at ease when they visit her shop. According to Villas, gift giving shouldn’t be a stressful event. Each person is unique, and the thought truly does count when it comes to giving a gift to a loved one.

“I want it to have a feeling of welcoming,” she said of her shop. “Gift giving is a happy thing. I want it full of love.”

But her business wasn’t always separate from that of Claywerks. As someone who dabbled in art shows, she displayed her work in an upstairs loft that Claywerks owner Angela Perryman used to allow local artists to showcase their work. Perryman found another use for the loft—a painting studio for classes she teaches—so the vendors moved their products elsewhere.

Villas didn’t get far, and she knew she had to have the space right next door.

Perryman was worried about who would be her next door neighbor. Many interested buyers had come in to look at the space, but no one made a commitment. The Claywerks owner knew that in order for the setup to work, it would have to be someone she got along with well.

Villas was just the right fit.

“I think her being there is a real needed thing in the community. There are no other real art gift shops,” said Perryman. “I think she’s filling a niche that’s been needed a long time.”

The thought of working again with Villas delighted Perryman, and she knew that Villas would fare better with having her own brick-and-mortar store. Watching Villas move about in her new shop, Perryman knows for a fact it is a better location for her former vendor.

“It is a very good fit. I just want more people to know about her,” she said. “You get things here you just won’t find anywhere else.”


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