Thursday, June 28, 2012
If you want to have what everyone everywhere has, Uniktings! is not the place to shop.
If you want to see the same displays year in and year out, Uniktings! is not your kind of place.
But if you enjoy the one-of-a-kind, the excitement of hunting/browsing and being treated like a person rather than just a purse, then Uniktings! is your kind of place.
“I just always thought I wanted a store that was totally different,” owner Cindie Robinson said.
What she started as a booth behind the Cracker Barrel in East Ridge has become a salient point in downtown Ringgold.
Robinson said it was a little more than five years ago that she was driving through town and spotted a “going out of business” sign.
“The car automatically stopped,” she said.
That the store was a liquidation type operation filled with what Robinson described as “a lot of big, heavy furniture I couldn’t even move” was not a deterrent.
“I bought her inventory that day and picked up her lease. I guess it was just meant to be,” said Robinson.
What she had was a big space with white walls, but within two weeks the interior had been repainted and Robinson opened for business.
“I knew what I wanted, and that was that I wanted the shop to be different,” she said. “I was torn between ‘Off the Beaten Path’ and ‘Uniktings! Unique Retail Therapy’ for a name. Sometimes I wonder if I picked the right one.”
Since opening in May 2007, the shop has become a go-to place for anyone needing gifts for special occasions, including their own birthdays, and has gained widespread recognition.
Uniktings! was named the county’s Small Business of the Year in 2009 and was chosen by Chattanooga Times Free Press readers as “Best of the Best” gift store in both 2011 and 2012.
But it was not always so.
Robinson recalls that shortly after opening, probably sometime around February 2009, business was very slow when one day she heard the bell ring as a customer entered from Nashville Street.
“It was a little lady, all bundled up for the cold,” Robinson said. “She came up to me, touched my arm and said, ‘I don’t need anything today, but when I do I’ll be back.’”
Somewhat taken aback, Robinson said the customer told how she and her late husband had operated a small business for years in the community and understood what it meant to open and run a store.
“She told me, ‘I know how hard it is, and you’re doing all the right things,’” Robinson said. “She was like a little angel.”
Words of encouragement and support from loyal customers are appreciated, and so is the way Robinson and her business has been embraced by her adopted hometown.
Early years were spent in far-flung regions, both here and abroad, as her father was involved with the military. Robinson and her three sisters settled in North Georgia. One, a traveling nurse, lives in Ringgold, one was involved in retail, the other has a horse farm in Chatsworth and Cindie was living in Dalton.
Robinson said moving and opening her shop across from the Catoosa County Courthouse was not so much a relocation as finally finding a place she considers home.
A member of the Catoosa Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club and secretary of the Ringgold Downtown Partners for five years, Robinson has been the driving force in the popular Girls Night Out series.
“It’s been a struggle at times, but it has been fun,” she said. “The Downtown Partners have become like an extended family, it is a wonderful feeling.”