Monday, February 01, 2010

Storage and workspace solutions - Part 3

Balloons can get out of control if you don't have a good system for keep track of them. We store the mylar balloons in these clear plastic shoe boxes labeled by occasion - Thank you, Birthday, Get well, etc. The latex balloons are in one of those over the door shoe holders (you can see it in this picture to the right of the mylars on the door going into our kitchenette) with the clear plastic pockets - it's super easy to see what you have, and doesn't take up any floor space. The helium tank is lashed to the wall on the left of this, and the curling the ribbon is just a step away.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Storage and workspace solutions - Part 2

Another item we struggled with was the rolls of bubble wrap we use in our shipping room. They are big - and we didn't have a good way to keep it handy for packing.

We created a giant spool by taking a cheap round outdoor patio table and gluing a piece of PVC pipe in the middle. It sits next to the packing table and you can feed the wrap out as you need it. It's so simple, but it works perfectly.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Storage and workspace solutions - Part 1

(Okay, Gift Basket Guru - the next few posts are for you. :-)

This is a pic of our main production area that we just relocated to a bigger room. There are a few good, stealable ideas you can see in this shot:

1. The worktables: Most of us in the biz use those 6ft lightweight plastic folding tables for a workspace - but they need to be brought up to counter height. When we started, we used to put them up on cement blocks. It worked, but they were a pain in the butt to lug around and sometimes we are setting up and taking down tables when big projects come up and at Christmas. One of my seasonal helpers showed us a better solution - PVC pipe fitted onto the legs. You can get them at Home Depot or Lowe's and they will cut them for you - about 12inch lengths should do it. MUCH easier.

2. The work station: A "U" or an "L" shaped configuration is the most efficient, especially if you can manage an island in the middle. Its a basic tenet of lean manufacturing. .

3. Ribbon storage: Gutters! Lightweight, cheap, easy, and everything is right in front of you.

4. Shredded paper: We buy crinkle cut shred in 40 pound boxes. It's cheaper that way, but they are huge. We store them in those big plastic bins under the worktable (and we finally got around to labeling them).

5. Cleanliness: Make your life easier and put a trash bin under each and every table. You may think that it will be okay if it's only a few steps away - but trust me...your space will be much neater if you do this.

Friday, January 22, 2010

More improvements...

Every new year I vow to fix all the nagging little (and big) issues with the business, and this year is no exception. We solved a bunch of them this week:

1. Producing gift baskets creates all sorts of weird storage where to keep multiple rolls of shrink wrap so they are visible and don't roll all over the place when you're trying to use them. You can mount racks on the walls, but I didn't have enough available wall space and many of our walls are difficult to mount anything to because of the concrete. I figured out a cheap and easy fix - paper towel holders (see above). The are accessible and I can easily see what we're running low on.

2. I finally hooked up an iPod to pipe music into our showroom and production area. Now we listen to "smooth jazz" instead of some lame radio station...and no commercials! I can't believe I didn't do this sooner.

3. Our building is like a big shoebox - a long rectangle. There is quite a distance from the front door to the rooms in the back, plus there are a lot of concrete walls in between. We often didn't hear customers and delivery people when they came in despite our clumsy temporary fix - a set of wind chimes attached to the door. I was looking at door chimes in a retail supply catalog, but found a cheaper solution (30 bucks!) - a driveway sensor. It's meant to alert you when a car passes the sensor in your driveway, but it works great here - and I can hear it from anywhere in the building.

It's the little things that make me happy...LOL.

(I do realize that this is probably only of interest to someone else in the business - but I know we have a few who read this blog :-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New sign

Check out our nifty new sign! I was looking for an "Open" sign that lights up to put in our front window, and ran across this.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Changes for the New Year

Well, we survived our first holiday season in our new location.

In some ways, the new spot on Erie Blvd is better - it's more visable and much easier access...WAY better for our customers. Behind the scenes, it was not so good. Our old space was wide open - we could divide it up however we wanted and change it as our needs changed. This building is split up into rooms, which turned out to a bigger issue than I had anticipated, even though we have more square footage. Being super-busy will amplify everything you are doing wrong - and we spent a lot of time running around in circles this year. It became very obvious that we needed to make some adjustments.

We made a minor change in the showroom to make it flow better, and some major ones in our workspace - we moved our production area into a different room, removed some doors, and came up with a better system for handling our shipping and receiving. I also acquired my new favorite toy - a shopping cart! Not for our customers (we're not that kind of store), but for us.

Back when she started with us, Laura suggested a shopping cart for collecting all the stuff that go into the baskets. I lost track of the idea until this Christmas when my boyfriend brought it up again after watching me take 10 trips into the inventory room just to collect everything I needed to make something. I found a company that would sell just one - and it arrived last week. I LOVE IT!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Round 1

The first round of gifts - 92 - is heading out the door today.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Project #2

No rest for the wicked....we are diving into our next big project. 40 down, 165 to go...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The first wave

We have a tractor trailer coming today to pick up the first wave of gifts - 9 pallets wrapped and ready to go. I was a little worried about having the space to get these together, but it all worked out fine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A New Skill

We learned how to wrap boxes on a pallet yesterday...and discovered that, YES, we can actually fit these things out the door.

The Home Stretch

The boxes are snaking down the hallway...we're running out of room!

But the client stopped in yesterday and checked on our progress, and they were totally thrilled. If the program is successful, the next time around it will be about 2000 gifts. Yikes!

We are contemplating warehouse space and World Basket Domination....LOL.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update, Part 3

And many, many more that still need to be shrink wrapped and bowed. We had a potential crisis yesterday that halted production, but luckily it turned out to be a false alarm. Onward and upward...

Update, Part 2

We've got about 250 gifts completed and in various stages of production. These are waiting to packed.

Update from the SGB Annex

We had busy productive weekend at SGB, and we're at about the halfway point with our project. The first wave of baskets are boxed, labeled and ready to go out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Basket Factory

We've had a productive couple days at our satellite location, aka "The Basket Factory". The first 100 baskets are complete and have moved into the shrink wrap area. Thankfully, all the unexpected kinks in the project have been worked out, the rest of our materials have finally arrived, and we're moving full-speed ahead. 540 gifts in 2 weeks? No problem!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of Mice and Men

You know that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men going awry?

When we moved to our new space in the spring, we felt pretty confident that the extra square footage and a more easily accessible location would serve us well for at least the next few years.

A few months later, we are pretty well settled in and gearing up for our first holiday season in our new location. At this time of year, we are typically doing a lot of planning - creating holiday designs, lining up extra inventory, and enjoying some free time before the holiday onslaught.

We were surprised (and thrilled!) when we landed 2 large and unexpected new orders, due within a week of each other and both on VERY short notice. We went from being pretty happy with our new space to looking around going, "Really? WHERE ON EARTH are we going to put all this stuff????"

But, we've never backed down from a challenge (like the year we outgrew our original downtown location....but that's another story). We contacted the building manager in our old place on Teall Avenue and rented extra space for the holidays. This will be our satellite location for the next couple of months, devoted entirely to our larger corporate orders. The inventory and supplies have started to arrive, and we are getting ready to start working on the first order - 540 baskets, due in less than 2 weeks, and packed to ship - on pallets no less, which is a first for us.

The picture above is one of our new work rooms - the calm before the storm!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Central NY Products

We recently set up a display showcasing the many local products we carry.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Custom Gift - Survival Kits

These cute bags were delivered to the Turning Stone over the weekend for a conference - the theme was "Survive and Thrive".

Friday, July 17, 2009

June Basket of the Month winner - CallieAnn Pappastavrou

Congratulations to CallieAnn Pappastavrou, the winner of the June basket of the month drawing!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

BBQ season is here!

While the Dinosaur might be the most well-known BBQ joint around here, they are definitely not the only game in town when it comes to sensational sauces and seasonings to add to your grill this summer.

Local entrepreneurs have created all kinds of yummy things - Tom's Bootleg BBQ, Juanita's Soul Classics and Yellow Dog are a few great sauces, and Yellow Dog also makes a wing sauce and a dry rub. If you want a change of pace, try Mare-o-Lin's Chili sauce or Salamida's Spiedie sauce.

I've been a die-hard Dinosaur fan for years, but I have to admit - I LOVE the Yellow Dog.

They say variety is the spice of life....and that's especially true on the grill. ;-)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


New store pics...interior

Not that different from our old showroom....the difference is in the "behind the scenes" parts of the store.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Closeout Gifts!

When you relocate your business, a funny thing happens...all sorts of odd bits and pieces turn up. Containers left over from big projects, off-season inventory that got lost in the shuffle and things we just plain bought too much of (6 cases of stuffed gorillas? Really? What was I thinking????). And often, our vendors will discontinue an item in one of our standard gifts, which forces us to redesign it - which in turn leaves us with orphan inventory.

Now that things are getting back to normal, we had time to create some fun, creative gifts using up some of that inventory - and we've added them to our "Closeout Gifts" section at deep or below cost.

We've added some beautiful new gifts to our regular catalog as well - take a look!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


...and we finally have a number on the building. We appreciate everyone's patience in tracking us down at our new location.

Our new signs are up!

Absolute Sign and Awning did a TERRIFIC job on our new signage! Thanks Corinna!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


As we wind down the last of our projects inside the building (and the last of the frost warnings...hopefully), we're starting to tackle the outside. I spent last weekend pulling up 2 foot tall weeds, lugging in soil, and planting new shrubs and perennials in the front of the store. This weekends project: start working on the area that runs the whole length of the building along our parking lot.

Monday, June 01, 2009

May Gift Basket Winner - Christine Praino

Congratulations to Christine Praino!

Once a month we draw a gift basket winner from our email newsletter subscriber list. It's easy to subscribe - just enter your email address in the "Join our mailing list" box at the bottom of every page of our website, and click "GO".

We promise we won't flood your inbox - we send newsletters out 4-6 times a year, and it's super-easy to unsubscribe if you change you mind.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

10 Things I Love About Our New Store (and counting!)

1. We have the whole building. It's Syracuse Gift Basket world!
2. The bathrooms, and the shower! No more sharing and running out of TP and paper towels.
3. Lots of padded much easier on the feet and back.
4. It looks like us, inside and out. The owner allowed us to paint, and use our corporate colors. And there is a place to put in landscaping.
5. Windows everywhere!
6. It feels really cozy.
7. More space and a basement.
8. Only minutes from everything in the city.
9. Easy to get in and out of the parking area.
10. And, less can you beat that?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's beginning to feel like home...

Today was definitely bettter. It might have been LOTS better if the illustrious cable company had actually changed our service over! Julie called in MARCH and set up the change for the Friday before our move. Now, however, the company insists that it can't be done until May 1st. The logistics of this whole scenario are daunting. The phones and computers are still in the old store on Teall, so that's where everything is coming in. Consequently, several times over the day one of us runs back to the old store to check e-mails, and the business calls are being forwarded temporarily to Julie's cell. (And we need this while we try to finish unpacking and set up our business???) Trying to keep the flow going with things going every which way is a little insane, but we are hanging tough... just like we always do. ( I believe I mentioned before that we are gritty.) But, two more days of this? It boggles the mind!

On the positive side, our showroom is put together and looking fab! "Mr. Scott" laid the great-looking new floor in the entranceway this morning, we hung the new window treatments, and Julie is arranging the finishing decor on the walls. Somehow we have even managed to have the shelves full of GIFTS! The production room is put together and adequately functioning, the inventory room and basket/box rooms are organized and stocked (much thanks to Laura) and the breakroom is set up. Shipping is a bit haphazard yet, and we still have a small amount of painting and rehab to complete in the back. It has been a little mind-bending going from the high-ceilinged pie shape of our old space to our new squared and compartmentalized layout. But we're managing to rethink everything, and overall we've accomplished miracles!

But best of all, our new space is really starting to feel great. It's cozier and feels like a place we really want to be. It's beginning to feel like home!

Monday, April 27, 2009

What have we gotten ourselves into????

We made the big move over the weekend - we are officially open at 1015 Erie Blvd East. This is what the space looked like when we we got everything over there - yikes! We've got our work cut out for us.

We've got the important parts of the building functional - but just barely. There are a few remodeling projects still left to do, and we haven't touched the landscaping or settled on permanant signage. We have a paver coming today to look at sealing and striping the parking lot; also, someone was kind enough to dump a load of garbage and construction debris in our parking lot last night (because we don't enough of our own stuff to handle right now....seriously???).

But, we sent our first few gifts out from the new location this morning, and we're looking foward to making ourselves at home in our new space.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Coming up for air's been a crazy couple of weeks. We've been working our butts off to get the inside of our new building ready for the big move this weekend. Like any big project, things popped up that we hadn't expected - plumbing issues, replacing the hot water heater, and a leaky roof. Luckily, our new landlords have been fantastic partners in resolving the problems.

We've gotten most of the interior painting done (17 gallons of paint later), with the exception of some trim touch up and a couple of the bathrooms. The carpets have been steam cleaned, the kitchenette installed, and we're almost ready to go!

In the midst of all this, we had a large corporate order (118 pieces) to get out on Monday, and Administrative Professional's Day to get through (usually our biggest holiday next to Christmas). As the day winds down and the last minute gifts go out, we're turning our focus to packing up the store and making our move.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So Excited!!!

Short bulletin from The Paint Pit: We've finished the inside painting and cleaning, and Mr. Scott has finished most of his repair work. On Sunday Scott painted the exterior of the new store our own lovely shade of sage green. He calls it "pea soup green", but no matter..... we LOVE it! The finishing plum trim will happen on the next dry day, and will finish the look.

We are SO EXCITED! The results of our month of hard work is so very gratifying, and we're ready to only a few more days. Our large order has gone out the door, and we're really scrambling to do Secretary's Day. But after tomorrow, we can begin moving in the direction of our new "home" at 1051 Erie Boulevard East. We are SO ready! After another long weekend of work, we will open our newly painted doors on Monday, April 27. We look forward to seeing friends and customers there!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Paint Pit

It sounded like a good idea when we started...after all it was wide open space. How hard could it really be to paint the interior of the new store ourselves??? Armed with gallons and gallons of paint in our signature colors, new brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and miles of bright blue tape, we attacked our newly acquired 2300 square foot facility with determination and boundless enthusiasm. Working around both of our full-time jobs and the rest of our lives, and painting in our "spare time" wouldn't be easy, but we had no doubt that we would be able to do it. Bring it on!

Okay....three weeks and counting later, I have to tell you that the paint thing is getting old, REALLY OLD! Yes, we've made great progress, and the end is in sight. And yes, the space IS transformed. BUT, there are 9 rooms, 3 bathrooms, a kitchenette, several closets, and various other nooks and crannies we keep discovering. Every room has needed 2 coats of paint, and some 3. And we won't even mention the BIG MISTAKE room (the largest room, of course) which on the first try came out an unfortunate shade of chartreuse or butter cup yellow, depending on the light. It really was NOT okay.

So as we approach the finish line in the "paint pit", with Secretary's Day, a large corporate project, AND moving day all happening within the next 2 weeks...we just look at each other and say, "please God, just let us be finished!"

And then there is the EXTERIOR....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend Progress Report

We spent the weekend at the new store, painting and cleaning the inside - made very good progress. 2 rooms are completely done, and a good chunk of the showroom and main hallway are in various stages of completion. The kids came in for a few hours and raked the glass and other debris out of the future flower beds and cleaned many, many years worth of grime off the windows. That's my son Nick, being a goofball. :-)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Let the fun begin!

Well, we signed the lease for our new building earlier in the week and got the key. Whoo-hoooo!

We can't wait to get in and start cleaning and painting, but the first order of business was getting the water turned back on. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, since the building has been vacant for years we had some issues.

This space has 3 bathrooms (1 was hidden in a closet and we didn't know about it until we took possesion!), inluding 1 with a shower (not sure what we'll do with that, but I bet it will come in handy during the Christmas season). All 3 sinks were leaking; 1 toilet was stuck in a continuous flush mode; 1 wouldn't flush at all. So, we were forced to turn the water back off and wait for the plumber today. 6 hours later, we're good to go.

This building was actually scheduled to be demolished, because the owners were unable to find a long term tenant until we came along at the 11th hour. Because of this, they had to test all surfaces for asbestos. Now, the building is not in bad shape at all - but in each room there is 1 or 2 missing ceiling tiles, a corner of carpet is pulled up, and floor tiles are missing. There are also some vintage flourescent lights that are not very pretty, plus several years worth of dirt. I have to admit, I had more than a few "What have we gotten ourselves into????" moments this week.

But - the weekend is here, and we've got our paint and supplies, and my favorite handyman "Mr. Scott" is meeting us there tomorrow to get started. We can't wait!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Custom Gift Basket - The Zoo Basket

This super-cute custom gift was ordered by one of our regular corporate clients to be donated to the Boys and Girls Club for their 2009 Bids for Kids Auction.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Building - After

This is our Photoshop version of our building with the addition of a new color scheme and some landscaping. We should be getting started this weekend!

New building - Before

This is our new building! It's in a fantastic location for us - closer to SU, downtown and the hospitals and as a bonus has good visibility from 690. It has a lot more square footage and is significantly less expensive than our current can't hate that, right?

It might not look like much now (we like to think of it as a blank slate), but we'll be working our magic - and documenting the progress here - over the next 6 weeks while we prepare for the big move.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We found Chris Dardano!

Our January gift basket winner finally came in and claimed his gift (we were getting worried about him). Congratulations to Chris Dardano of Eldan Homes!

Anyone who signs up for our email newsletter is eligable, and we'll be drawing our February winner later today.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We're moving!

It's official....we're moving! Stay tuned for details....

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Our (almost) movie

After 2 1/2 years of waiting and wondering, we finally got to see "The Great Buck Howard" ("The Craziest Story", July 2006). It's due to be released in theatres on March 20, but you can watch it on VOD right now.

We knew it was a long shot - we didn't pay for the product placement in the movie, so we knew that the gifts could be cut; we knew that it was a struggle to find a distributer for the movie and get it released, and we knew that our contact at Walden Media wasn't involved in the final editing.

As it turns out, a couple of our baskets are in the movie - but they are not identified in any way. The part with the delivery person wearing our apron did not make the final cut. The gifts are in the background of a couple scenes, but nobody but us would know they came from our company.

We're not really as disappointed as we thought we would be....there was such a lag between when we did this project and seeing the end results, that it's just not a big deal anymore - kind of anticlimactic. We were chatting about it after we watched it, and we realized that a lot of really positive things came out the experience:

1. We developed a much better way to ship our gifts - they arrive in better condition than they used to, and we eliminated the use of styrofoam packing peanuts (which we hated - and I'm sure everyone else did too)
2. We started rethinking our gift designs, and it sparked new ideas for our standard website gifts
3. We streamlined our operations and worked on becoming more efficient. It started us on a path of continuous improvement.

4. It got us through some dark times. We went through a phase a couple of years ago where we both got really burned out and lost a lot of the passion we have for this business. Knowing that we had a possible "big break" coming up kept us going.

5. It prompted us to start this blog

6. When I flew out to California so that I could hand deliver the gifts to Premier Entertainment in L.A., I stayed with my uncle' and his family, who I don't get to see very often, and I spent some really good one on one time with my aunt Leslie. Within a year of my visit Leslie was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. If not for this unusual opportunity, it would have been years since I had seen her; I'm incredibly grateful for that time.

Was it a mistake? I don't think was a really interesting experience. If you don't take a risk once in while, you don't get a chance to reap the rewards. No regrets!

And now? Well, we have some really good things cooking with the business.

Last year I hired 2 employees to help out with the day to day operations of the store, in preparation for me beginning another career. I just wasn't interested in doing this anymore. But a funny thing happened....

In training my new employees how to do everything I do, I began creating an operations manual, something I've been putting off for years. It was really important to me that customers who were used to dealing with me got the same consistant experience when talking to one of the girls. I came up with training exercises and quizes. I was forced to think about exactly how I wanted every task performed and to document it - which is a very good thing.

Once Jenny and Laura became a little more self sufficient, I was able to tackle some nagging projects that I just hadn't had the time to deal with before, and it felt good. One thing led to another, and pretty soon I realized that I was really enjoying my business again. Freeing myself up from performing every single task myself allowed me to focus on big picture planning, which is what, as the owner, I SHOULD be doing. I read "E-Myth" years ago (work ON your business not IN it), but it took preparing to leave my business for me to really do it.

That other career I was planning? On hold indefinitely. The enthusiasm I had for this in the beginning is back, plus some.

We have some big changes coming up in the next few months - stay tuned, we'll be announcing the details very soon!

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quote of the Week

"Never underestimate the power of a woman."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Featured Product - BP Callahans Firehouse Sauce

This pasta sauce is outstanding!

I really like to cook, so I NEVER use pasta sauce from the jar (my own is so much better), but BP Callahan's has become a favorite at our house.

It's something like a spicier, chunkier version of a classic vodka sauce (without the vodka) - tomatoes and cream, fresh basil and peppers. You can use it as a dipping sauce, over pasta, or with chicken or seafood.

My only complaint about this sauce (from a vendor standpoint) is that it isn't obvious from the label what to do with it - but it's been delicious on everything I've tried it with. Our current favorite is over cheese ravioli with grilled chicken - and don't forget some fresh Italian bread for dipping!

Labels: ,

Monday, February 16, 2009

SGB is on Facebook!

We've created a Facebook page for Syracuse Gift Basket - become a fan!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine's Day

The team at SGB has been very busy this week getting ready for Valentine's Day - here is a peek at the first wave of gifts going out tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 06, 2009

New trailer for The Great Buck Howard

We just found a new, longer trailer for the "The Great Buck Howard" (see "The Craziest Story", July 2006) - take a look:


January Gift Basket Winner - Chris Dardano

A few weeks ago we announced that we would be drawing a winner each month from our list of subscribers to the SGB email newsletter. Our very first winner is Chris Dardano, who is a new home specialist at Eldan Homes.

Congratulations Chris!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

St. Baldrick's - March 22 at Kitty Hoyne's

This is my sister, Jenna. Her entire life she's had beautiful, very long, thick dark blonde hair - and on March 22 at Kitty Hoyne's Irish Pub in Armory Square, she will be getting her head shaved - yes, SHAVED - to help raise money for the St. Baldrick's foundation.

I've been to a couple of St. Baldrick's events, and the scene is absolutely wild - Kitty Hoyne's is packed to the rafters with volunteer barbers and hairdressers, people lined up to have their heads shaved, and friends and family supporting the cause. It's like St. Patrick's day all over again (except people are bald when they leave the bar).
To date, St. Baldrick's has raised 50 million dollars to help fund childhood cancer research. To find out more or sponsor any of the "shavees", go to


10,000 visitors - whooo-hooooo!


Monday, February 02, 2009


One of our most regular, ongoing corporate projects doesn't have anything to do with gift baskets.
Webucator is a Syracuse based company that offers online computer training. When a client signs up for a class, they are imediately sent the necessary materials - usually a computer headset, and sometimes a training manual, and some complementary goodies - a cup, pen and highlighter with their logo on it and some candy. When they approached us a couple of years ago, they were just putting the candy in a zip-lock bag, boxing it all and sending everything to the client. It worked, but the presentation wasn't great and they were getting too busy to keep up on it (it's a good problem to have!).
We came up with an easy, more attractive way to present the items: we put the pen and highlighter in the cup, filled the cup with assorted candy, dropped it in a cellophane bag and tied it up with orange and blue raffia (and the salesperson's business card) to coordinate with their corporate identity. They loved it! And best of all, they didn't have to worry about it anymore.
Now we have a separate area in our workroom devoted to Webucator, and we keep all their materials on hand to be shipped out at a moments notice.