County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

The Purple Monarch Opens Doors to New Gift Shop

Fluttering into the Heart of Harrison



Cleaver Guest Writer

HARRISON – Embracing their journey upon the wings of change, Kelly and Ray Denison have found an abundance of beauty within the new ventures 2024 had in store for them. With 35 years of retail experience, Kelly had always dreamed of opening a retail store of her own. The store, along with moving to their summer home here in Harrison, was their goal for retirement. With some changes in work for Ray at the end of February, their journey upstate and into retirement fell into their laps earlier than anticipated – and their remarkable transformation only continued from there.

“We had planned on looking for employment up here and looking for storefronts maybe a year or year and a half down the road,” Ray recounted their initial plans. “And then a week after we moved, we found this building, and within the next five days we actually signed the lease and handed him the check.”

“You make plans, and the lord has other plans for ya,” Kelly laughed as she glanced incredulously around the idyllic storefront that blossomed seemingly overnight into Harrison’s newest gift shop, The Purple Monarch. 

“You can either hate it or you can embrace it, and we chose to embrace it,” Ray said of the unexpected twists and turns that navigated their way to the Purple Monarch’s grand opening on May 25. “It’s always been our goal, so we just embraced it. We never intended to open this quickly, but what a blessing it has been for us to have been able to find this and become part of the community like this. It’s everything she has ever wanted.”

The charming and unique business name mirrors Kelly’s kindly essence and inviting personality.

“I love purple – I have since I was a kid. Purple bridesmaid dresses, purple bedroom, you know, there’s just been purple everywhere. And I love my husband – and he has been such a sport about it all,” Kelly laughed. “And I love butterflies. To me, they just, generate hope.”

Kelly’s vision for the store was to create a space without all the overstimulating store racks and store displays of a typical box store. She envisioned a peaceful, relaxed, no-rush environment with a “little bit of everything for everyone” as her motto.

“She wanted to be at home, and she wanted people to come in and just feel at home – she didn’t want it to be a box store look,” Ray explained. “She was very precise about making sure things were spread out, so people had space to walk or for people in wheelchairs or with walkers.”

With the peaceful, light purple walls and the nostalgia of easy listening music from the Rat Pack era as the soundtrack to one’s visit, Kelly has gone above and beyond in creating a welcoming, homey storefront that is inviting and relaxing for their clientele. She even has a sitting area as you enter the storefront with brain teaser games and a little library of books for customers to read and take with them. They welcome donations for the little, free library but reiterated that the books are not for sale.

 “My thing is pass them on. It was always a big thing with the women in my family,” she said. “It starts with grandma, works down to the aunts, my mom, and I was always the last one. We would pass the books around. And even though I may have purchased a book at full price, that is one of my big passions - to open somebody’s imagination and world to reading. And I would rather hand them out free.”

Kelly’s heart and passions have been well integrated as she brought her visions for the store to life. Campers seem to especially enjoy and have really taken to the free library, selecting new books to read throughout their travels and camping excursions.

“One lady came in and took a whole bag with her for their camping trip, and she was so excited,” Kelly jovially recounted.

And there truly is “a little something for everyone” throughout the store. From the seasonally themed table upon entering, to graduation gifts, The Purple Monarch is a hot spot for gift giving and hidden treasures.

Ray chuckled as he warmly remembered the encounter. “Our opening weekend we had a lady that came in, and Kelly has silicone spoon rests down there. And never did we ever think this, but this lady was so excited, because she and her husband had camped for many, many years. And she uses her spoon rest, but she doesn’t use it for her coffee spoon. She uses it for cooking. And over the years she has gone through so many different spoon rests, because when they travel in their camper it moves and bounces around and it chips. So, they get to their campsite. and she has a handle broken off. And she says she just likes having a spoon rest - that’s her thing. She said at one time she had bought a plastic one, and the second time she used it, the spoon melted it, and she was not about to use that again. She said she had been wanting to find something like this, and she was thrilled because it was light weight, and she doesn’t have to worry about it getting ruined. You would have thought that woman opened the best Christmas gift ever when she found those things.”

 “She found her gold that day,” Kelly laughed. “But we have everything here. You lose your earbuds, I’ve got earbuds. And even the over the door hangers – one lady was thrilled because she could turn it into a spice rack for her camper.”

“Sometimes you don’t realize what or who you’re going to appeal to,” Ray chimed in with a smile.

From the pet and garden sections to the faith-based section full of items meant to inspire and empower, it is difficult to walk away from this versatile new store without something catching your eye.

“It is everything that I wanted, because you have some new, some old,” Kelly beamed, as she has clearly poured her heart into the darling shopfront. “There is not an overabundance of any one thing. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and something new will come in and replace it.”

Their Handcrafted in Michigan area is their newest addition and will be growing over time. They currently have a local artist with some incredibly beautiful, hand painted cards, and they just received some initial inventory from another local artist who creates stunning stained-glass pieces.

“Another thing she was very much persistent about, was she wanted to make sure we stay real and not have a lot of overpriced items,” Ray pointed out.

Kelly’s pragmatism is clear in her vision for the store as well. “We’re living in an overpriced world as it is,” she said. “There’s things in here from 39 cents up to $60.”

“But I would say 98% of the items in this store are under $30,” Ray added.

With Ray’s background of over 30 years in business, and Kelly’s background in retail, the couple boasts an extensive resume of knowledge balancing one another’s strengths as they take on this new business. While they are just getting things up and running as they approach one month of being open for business, they have some innovative ideas up their sleeves for the future.

“We always try to remind people that because we quickly went ahead and opened the store, not everything came in by our grand opening Memorial Day weekend. We are receiving new items regularly – like we didn’t have our coffee or our coffee mugs when we opened. But we remind people to please come back in because new items will continue to come in and items will change,” Ray remarked regarding the growth and variety of their inventory customers can expect.

Through all the changes they have encountered so far this year, they have found a home in their move to Harrison and in their new business.

“It kind of blows us away from being down state,” Kelly said. “The whole attitudes down there, everyone is strung out. And when I say strung out, I mean stressed. Everyone is pulled so many different ways.

“And after being up here for only three months, I sometimes sit and wonder how in the world did we do this? That stress. It’s very hard to just relax, but we have in a lot of ways. And being up here it has just been amazing,” Kelly spoke warmly of their newfound pace of life.

“Everybody is working for one another in this community,” Ray said of the special and cohesive community that they have come to know here in Harrison. “We’re not the only gift shop in this town, but it doesn’t matter to anybody. Everyone has different items to offer, and there is plenty of merchandise in the world for us all to have different things. And it has been so positive in this community.”

© Clare County Cleaver


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