Next time you’re in the Castle’s Gift Shop searching for a stuffed dragon, princess fairy wand, Castle memento, or the perfect wedding gift, give a little thought to the story you’re about to read. Once upon a time (in the not-too-distant-past), the beautiful Gift Shop we have today didn’t exist. Originally, a long hallway filled with milking stanchions for cows, (Loeb Farms, 1918-1927), filled up the King’s Gallery. The cows were sold at public auction in 1927. By 2006, the Gallery was upgraded to a makeshift gift shop with a single table, which was stocked with postcards for sale to visitors who wandered in, curious as to what the Castle was all about. Peggy Kusina, hired in 2006, was the lady in charge of the postcards and zippered money bag. She operated off the long table with her inventory stocked on a rolling cart that was locked up at night. Soon after, a VHS historic video was added to the tour, plus a 1-page map. Eventually a booklet was printed to help guide people around the Castle. Postcards and the tour booklet were the first items available at the Castle’s ‘make-shift’ Gift Shop.
Linda Mueller, the Castle’s current owner, thought it would be fun to showcase books that dealt with castle lore. A sales display cabinet was added, and soon Peggy was selling books, plus a few other castle-themed items. One showcase became two (though they were still using the original zipper bag for money purchases). In 2006, the idea of building a separate Gift Shop was bandied about. Though the original plans called for it to be built by the Blacksmith Shop, the decision was eventually made to incorporate it as a ‘Gift Shop / Welcome Center’ at the main entrance of the parking lot, in order to greet guests entering the Castle.
Construction began in the winter months, with a planned completion date of March 2007. A trip to Chicago to purchase inventory (January of ’07) proved fruitful, and merchandise for the shelves soon began arriving. Problem was, there were no shelves. It wasn’t until late April that the Gift Shop was completed. Peggy was unpacking boxes even as the workers were finishing up construction. When it finally opened, the Gift Shop wasn’t merely a store to buy souvenirs and trinkets; it also provided a bit of history in itself. The Shop had been constructed using local fieldstone harvested from Charlevoix’s downtown Band Shell and East Park Pavilion. Additionally, the architects were able to incorporate one of the original stone silo towers as a back wall of the Gift Shop, using the inside silo space for storage. Peggy put away the money bag for good once a cash register was added. The Castle’s Gift Shop was open for business!
From the beginning, the focus was never about selling items in the Gift Shop. Rather, visitors were greeted at the Welcome Center, where the focus was on promoting tours. Guests began requesting Castle-themed items, such as key chains, magnets, and prince and princess t-shirts. Later, wedding items, jewelry, and other fashionable items were added to the shelves. A few years later, a second cash register was installed to accommodate overflow customers.
By the winter of 2013, it was obvious that a Gift Shop expansion was necessary to enhance the guest experience. Plans were drawn up for a new addition into the existing King’s Gallery, with an estimated completion date for May 2014. Linda suggested including an enclosed Media Room as a place where guests could view the historic video in relative privacy. Elegant French doors with glass walls would highlight seasonal items. On May 26, 2014, the Castle’s newly expanded Gift Shop celebrated its Grand Opening. The Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce was on hand for the official Ribbon-Cutting ceremony.
The Castle’s Gift Shop now offers a wide variety of products, including books, toys, trains, chess sets, house wares, etc. Fairy Garden items have increased in popularity. An on-line cyber-shop offers guests the convenience of shopping 24/7. Castle souvenir packages are now available, adding to a guest’s shopping convenience.
Beginning with a zippered money bag and a table in the Gallery, the Castle’s Gift Shop has expanded to become the elegant Welcome Center and shopping center which it is today. Searching for mementos of your trip to Castle Farms? Now you know where to begin!