Meet a Geneva store designer-turned store owner who’s found success providing unique home decor.
Iow refreshing to walk the tree-lined streets of Geneva, where more than 200 shops do what the big box stores never can: offer hand-picked items displayed in one-of-a-kind settings. From art galleries to apparel, antique and pet supplies, the owners’ individual fingerprints are clearly apparent.
Such is the case at Anastazia – Treasures for the Home, at Dodson Place, 447 S. 3rd St., a successful and charming home décor and accessories shop owned by Tom Konopacki, whose keen eye for unique products is evident in every inch of the store.
“I work with many different vendors and then cherry-pick the items I think will work best in the store and most interest my customers,” says Konopacki. “Offering items customers can’t find anywhere else, and providing excellent, personalized customer service, are the secrets to the store’s success.”
Konopacki has a knack for knowing what items his customers will like before they ever think about them. One recent example is Scent Sticks, a clean alternative to incense. Available in many fragrances, they emit long-lasting fragrance, minus the messy oil. “They’ve already become popular with my customers,” he says.
Close observation of customer tastes has directed the evolution of Konopacki’s shop. When Anastazia first opened, Konopacki featured larger items like artwork and lamps. Over time, he refined his selection and created a niche for one-of-a-kind items that delight.
Finding just the right selection of merchandise is an ongoing process that Konopacki clearly relishes. He scours catalogs and websites, seeking out that next fun, special item that catches his eye – from recycled glass vases and handmade soaps to whimsical owl figures – and makes sure to choose items from a variety of price points. He’s developed a reputation for offering that unique home accent piece that will stand out.
Konopacki has more than 20 years of retail experience, having begun his retail management career in men’s apparel. He worked at several department stores, including The Gap. This led him to Spiegel Catalog, where he gained experience working with many departments and developed an enthusiasm for quality home accents.
When his position was relocated to Spiegel’s corporate headquarters in New York City, Konopacki decided to remain in Illinois. His years of experience honed his merchandising, visual presentation and customer service skills to the point that he felt confident opening his own store. Still, part of success in any business is watching for customer reaction and adapting your business accordingly, he says.
For example, Konopacki understands that not every customer is looking for a full home makeover. “Home accent pieces are a great way to create a brand-new room without spending a lot of money on larger items, such as new furniture or carpeting,” he says. “It’s the little touches that can freshen up a home. A few seasonal items really change up a room without breaking the bank.”
Konopacki offers something different to see each time customers come in. “I’m continually featuring new items and changing things up,” he explains. “I order a limited quantity of items. So, every time a customer visits the store, she’ll see something new and it will be a fresh experience.”
Among the store’s variety of collectibles is Lori Mitchell Folk Art, whimsical, handcrafted figurines for every season and holiday: Simon the Sorcerer and Kitty Back Jack O’Lantern; Kris Kringle and Santa’s Goose Chase; Little Charlie Chick and Peek-a-Boo Bunny.
“I have regular customers who visit the store and collect figurines for each season,” Konopacki says.
Anastazia has become a family affair for Konopacki, whose wife Stacey and three children often help out on weekends. The store especially sparkles during the holiday season, when the family sets up three Christmas trees and several seasonal displays featuring both favorite and new holiday merchandise.
The store is a delight to wander through. Sunlight splashes on merchandise and an inviting fragrance wafts through the air. Displays are thoughtfully spaced throughout the cozy store. Each showcases about 10 items, representing various vendors, but somehow combining to create a cohesive look. Visitors are blissfully unaware of all the thought that goes into each detail, and that’s as it should be, Konopacki says. “When carefully planned, a good layout should lead the customer effortlessly from display to display, around the entire store.
Five years after opening, he decided the store looked tired, so he redesigned his space, applied a fresh coat of paint and cleaned the carpet.
“It’s a good idea to take a look at your store once in a while and think of new ways to re-energize it,” he says. “A change in layout and full displays keeps things interesting for customers and avoids questions about the stability of the store. When customers notice empty displays, they question whether or not the store is going to stay open.”
Konopacki’s merchandising experience is apparent throughout the store.
“Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work,” he says. “Visualization is key. It’s important to ask ‘What’s going to fit?’ and ‘What’s going to work?’ What will make customers come to your shop instead of the shop down the street? How can this display be arranged in a way that won’t overwhelm a customer? When a shop is too packed with merchandise, customers tend to get over-stimulated and, many times, just walk out without purchasing anything.”
Konopacki is involved in just about every aspect of the shop, an important key to running a successful retail business.
“Many people decide to open their ‘dream stores’ and don’t understand the demands,” he says. “I do everything – assist customers, put away boxes and orders, accept deliveries, arrange and create displays, decide what I’ll purchase next. People need to understand this when they’re thinking of opening a store.”
Konopacki’s philosophy is working. In October 2011, he opened a second Anastazia location, at 482 N. Main St. in Glen Ellyn.
It also helps to genuinely enjoy working with people. “We’re extremely customer-focused and take great pride in to getting to know our regulars,” says Konopacki. “After awhile, they become like family.”
The store also showcases the wares of many local artisans, including Batavia-based Watershed Soaps. The handcrafted artisanal soaps are created in small batches, using natural oils and preservative-free ingredients such as shea, brown sugar, Hawaiian hibiscus, cocoa butter and mango. Konopacki also features Pauly Joe Designs from Madison, Wis., brightly-colored floral artwork on hand-finished wooden box frames. Anastazia’s customers also enjoy a Yorkville-based artist’s fun letter tiles.
Konopacki also gives back to the community. Because of its historic setting, Geneva is a perfect location for many special events throughout the year. Konopacki participates in all of them, including numerous art festivals. Like many of shops in Geneva, each October, Anastazia supports Black Hat Day and Pumpkins for a Cure, which raise money and awareness for Juvenile Diabetes. He takes part in the city’s annual Christmas Walk and House Tour, when local businesses stay open late on the first Friday of December. Konopacki is also a member of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.
“I just love working with customers and helping them to create that next great look for their homes,” he says.❚