Purposefully edited and perfectly articulated merchandise can meet shoppers’ known (and unexpected) expectations during visits to Ampersand. For 20 years, the store (first at 50th and France and at the Galleria since 2005) has dressed tables and offered a cornucopia of giftware from a selection of premier designers, culled by owner Barbara Armajani and her team.
“When you enter the store, you are always welcomed with a seasonal attribute,” Armajani says. Ampersand is divided up into “rooms,” highlighting entertaining and designer sections, allowing shoppers to peruse according to their needs (and dreams of well-appointed living). “The brands we have serve the customer’s lifestyle,” Armajani says. Ampersand is the nation’s top seller of merchandise from Julia Knight, Juliska, Match Pewter and Simon Pearce, and also features merchandise from several other notable companies, the majority of which are American-owned with products imported from Europe. “Within that is our hope for everyday beautiful,” Armajani says of the store’s efforts to offer the best brands that are most desired by their customers. Vice president and general manager Carly Winslow further explains the store’s mission is “to operate our Ampersand brand in a manner for our customers to receive exceptional service and solutions to their everyday, entertaining and gift-giving needs.”
While home entertaining (“After you cook the food, we help our customers do everything else,” Armajani says) and gift-giving are year-round affairs, the tempo picks up around this time of year. “We have seen a trend towards fall home décor and entertaining,” Winslow says. Shoppers are turning toward a decidedly earthy or woodland style, with decanters with stag heads, oak-leaf serving bowls and wood accents. Winslow also recommends fall serving pieces from Julia Knight and Mariposa. “Our velvet pumpkins (by Plush Pumpkin by Monya Inc.) have become a customer favorite for decorating their table,” she says. No wonder—the velvet, linen and Italian lambskin collections feature real pumpkin, gourd or squash stems, creating a colorful marriage of textile and texture. The brand has expanded its repertoire to include fabric acorns and mushrooms—cute in a cluster or perfectly secure to stand alone to accept the accolades of guests.
Fall opens the door to the first holiday guests of the season. “Thanksgiving is the biggest tabletop holiday, and we are seeing customers want to make their Thanksgiving table something very special,” Winslow says. “Table linens are the perfect way to update your classic holiday dinnerware. We have a wonderful assortment of placemats, napkins and napkin rings that will make your table uniquely yours.”
Investing in a holiday table accessory that can embrace the rest of the season is a purchase well worth the investment. “Our most popular items for a stunning centerpiece are the Simon Pearce hand-blown glass trees,” Winslow says. “The trees are available in 12 sizes and can remain on your table all season.” They’ve been a consistent winner for Ampersand. “It is the core of our holiday business, but we sell them all year,” she says. “The fun is picking out what is perfect for your collection.”
One of the beauties of Ampersand is that it resonates with the modern woman, who likes to entertain and give one-of-a-kind gifts, but it also speaks to the woman who sets her card table with coordinating coffee and dessert ensembles, bridge tallies and matching card sets. While the store keeps a steady eye on trends, it also pays homage to the classics—the lovelies that never leave the style table. “Match Pewter, which is handmade in Italy, is classic and complements any style of home,” Winslow says. The offerings look good, as most pewter does, but it also is a treat to the touch, like satin flowing under your fingertips. The brand is spotlighted in the center of the store. “This room is the aspirational goal of our customers,” Winslow says, adding, “Simon Pearce Glass, which is hand-blown in Vermont, is also a classic. Each piece is a work of art.” Purchased pieces not only find their way into customers’ homes, but they are appreciated personal and business gifts.
The supporting players for tables and tableaus also have their staging areas in the store and include linens, placemats, paper products by Caspari, party and buffet accessories, Faribault blankets and throws, and top fragrance lines (Alora, Antica Farmacista and Diptyque). Along with the expansive lines of china and dinnerware and the expanded assortment of flatware (stainless steel serving as the No. 1 material), many of the store’s brands have been around for Ampersand’s entire tenure, thanks, in part, to shoppers. “Our customers like what they saw; we’ve maintained that loyalty, and we appreciate that,” Armajani says.
Many customers begin the foray into those long-standing brands and classic home goods with marriage or setting up house. Understanding what you need to outfit your home is not always second nature. “The registry process can be overwhelming for a newly engaged couple,” Winslow says. “Most couples are not sure where to begin. At Ampersand, we have a very skilled and knowledgeable staff that is able to offer guidance. It is important for the registrants to think about how they will be entertaining. Will they be hosting holidays? Do they have a large family or entertain friends frequently? All of these things we take into consideration when helping our registrants.” What young couples are bringing to the table is a sense of style paired with practicality. “Most couples are choosing dinnerware that can act as formal or casual depending on the accessories they choose to use it with,” Winslow says.
Armajani notes that the store’s relationship with customers doesn’t end when the honeymoon is over. Rather, Ampersand can serve as a constant when customers want a change from their wedding china or want to update their tableware. “We follow the customer, while providing a point of view for them,” she says. Many shoppers are becoming collectors of brands, adding dining pieces to their collections, or acting as their own designer by integrating pieces from various lines.
Ampersand appears to have a plan to keep leadership and staff motivated so it can celebrate another milestone in its local and online business. “At Ampersand, we have a staff of careered retail professionals,” Winslow says. “Our focus at Ampersand is recognizing the trends of today and evolving with our customers’ needs into the future.”
Visit ampersandshops.com to peruse the store’s latest and long-lasting home entertaining or gift items. Ampersand prides itself on customers receiving its full-service attention, which includes shipping, gift wrap, special ordering and monogramming services.