Spirit of gift-shop commerce fills former church in Penfield
There's something really nice to be said about pumpkin scented candles and stained glass.

Namely, they beat the heck out of bulletproof glass partitions.
Eileen Wrona now owns the eclectic Enchanted Rose Garden gift shop inside a converted church, a far cry from her decadelong collections job.

"There were always the bad days" in the collections business, the 40-year-old Rochesterian said. "Then there were the really bad days."

Then one year a person in Texas whose car had been repossessed went on a shooting spree and the bulletproof glass got installed.

"It was a life-changing experience to hear about that," she said.

So dealing with the up-and-down retail industry with the Enchanted Rose Garden is like, well, a stroll in a park.

She enjoys hobnobbing with customers in the 5,000-square-foot store at 2106 Five Mile Line Road in Penfield.

Wrona got into the retail field when her 6-year-old daughter, Jessie, started school. She had quit her high-stress collections job when her daughter was born and knew she knew she wanted another job outside the house — but in a different field.

"I was on the verge of being a shopaholic," Wrona said, a habit started when she quit smoking while pregnant with Jessie. "I went to a lot of stores when she was young and I just decided this was something I could do that would fulfill that need."

Yet Wrona didn't jump into the venture blind. She took advantage of many local small business resources to make sure she had a solid chance in the competitive retail field.

She first went to the Service Corps of Retired Executives, a business-mentoring group comprising retired executives and affiliated with the Small Business Administration. Part of SCORE's advice was to take advantage of the State University College at Brockport's Small Business Development Center.

She developed a business plan with SBDC mentor Dave Denz, including using family resources to finance the startup.

Then came finding a location.

"An acquaintance in the business told us the church was here and it was vacant," Wrona said.

Next: Three months of renovations and building up inventory.

Finally, on March 21, 2003, the Enchanted Rose Garden opened for business.

Since then, Wrona has hired 15 local artisans to create products for the store.

"We went out to see her when she was putting it together and we were impressed," said Jan Bradling, half of the Hamlin husband-and-wife team that make Braddock Bay Gallery glassware. "She seemed to have a lot of vision as to what she wanted to do."

Another artisan, Sue Rogowski, started out as a customer and still shops the store frequently.

"I came in for the grand opening to see what the store was about and I loved it," she said. "I asked her if I could sell some of the things that I make here. And it went from there." Rogowski makes purses and baby items and fills small sewing orders.

Some of the artisans sell their goods on commission, some on consignment; others pay a flat rate for space. They conduct classes for children and adults in the store's Creative Corner.

"We tried to find a niche in the market that no one had," Wrona said. "We try to have that old town feel. When customers come in, we know their names. We always have coffee and always have food."

In Wrona's second year, the vision already appears to be paying dividends.

"The first year we were not profitable,'' she said. "But I have a feeling we're going to do very well this year. It isn't great for taxes, but it's good for us."

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