By Anne Christnovich
Men sweating to find the right gift for Mother’s Day or any other special occasion need only to travel as far as Bay Street to find help.
Rossignol’s, opened in 1995 by Ginger and Charles Aimar, carries cards, jewelry, clothing, fine china, fragrances and a host of other products produced locally and internationally.
About a dozen people milled about in the store on a Tuesday afternoon, each drawn to different collections for different reasons. While a Rossignol’s employee helped a woman find the perfect tote, a small blond girl in a pink dress squealed with delight as she selected a miniature purse containing a stuffed animal dog. Yet another customer found greeting cards for a graduation and a baptism.
Ginger said she and her husband came up with the concept of a store with “distinctive gifts for all occasions” but had to spend some time in the early ‘90s searching for the right location.
“We looked from Charleston to Wilmington to Jacksonville,” she said. “Neither of us thought we’d end up back in Charles’ hometown (of Beaufort).”
Once they settled into their Bay Street location, however, they knew they’d found the right place.
“There was no store here like it at the time,” she said. “It was right as far as growth … Before, few people had heard of Beaufort and now people are seeking us out.”
The line of products has evolved over the years, from mostly fine jewelry and formal table settings to carrying children’s books and clothes and greeting cards.
Pandora bracelets and Vera Bradley products are among the more widely known brands, but Ginger said she also likes to focus on finding collections produced locally.
One of their fastest growing lines, for example, is Daufuskie-based Spartina 449. Founders Kay Stanley and Curt Seymour find inspiration from their Daufuskie Island home to design jewelry, scarves, mixed leather and treated linen handbags, and other accessories.
“I love having a Beaufort product,” Ginger said. “It’s a fairly new company but it’s doing very well.”
The store also works with Maine-based Chart Metalworks. The company uses maps to make earrings or necklace pendants, cufflinks or other items. Ginger said she often suggests the jewelry as graduation gifts. Customers can request a location and chart scales and fit jewelry with the map. Cufflinks showing Beaufort and earrings showing Port Royal and Lady’s Island gleamed in a display case.
“A lot of people like to give graduates leaving the area a little piece of home to take with them,” she said.
They even carry a few funny novelties such as the “Dammit Doll,” a person-shaped plush with yarn for hair and a poem stitched to the chest that reads: “Whenever things don’t go so well, and you want to hit the wall and yell, here’s a little dammit doll that you can’t do without. Just grasp it firmly by the legs and find a place to slam it, and as you whack the stuff out, yell ‘Dammit, dammit, dammit!’ ”
Rossignol’s also holds regular promotions to help other local groups. Earlier in April, the store donated 10 percent of one day’s profits the Junior Service League of Beaufort, a women’s volunteer organization dedicated to helping the area’s needy. Rossignol’s also participated in the 10th annual fashion show recently put on by FRIENDS of Caroline Hospice.
Their next promotion will be Tuesday, May 7, which is Teacher Appreciation Day. Customers with a educator ID can get a 25 percent discount off Vera Bradley products. Any customer can also get a free Vera Bradley Tote if they buy $100 or more of Vera Bradley products.
Kathleen Linn, who has worked at Rossignol’s for three years, said she moved from Boston to Beaufort to retire, but picked up the job to keep her busy. She shared Ginger’s sentiment in giving Beaufort more than just physical gifts.
“People regularly buy their gifts here because of the reliability or our expertise,” she said.
Linn also said she likes working in the community of downtown shopkeepers. Instead of being overly competitive, employees often refer customers to other stores to help them find what they’re looking for.
One of the best parts about her work, she said, is helping young men buy that first special gift for a girlfriend.
“They come in and after talking with them for a while, you get to know them a little bit,” she said. “It’s great to see them leave with something they’re excited to give.”