Emerging from the darkest days of the pandemic, Dedra Bennett, owner of Zinnia’s Gift Boutique, is getting ready to open a second store—this time focusing on interior décor.
Home by Zinnia’s is the latest addition to The Hangar at Skypark development at 262 Mount Hermon Rd., where a taproom and ice cream parlor are already in the works.
“It’s going to be sensory,” Bennett said, describing the shopping experience she’s crafting for the new space. “There’s going to be these different vignettes.”
The shopkeeper is bucking the nationwide trend of retail collapse, dreaming big in a difficult time.
When Covid-19 hit, Bennett drew inspiration from her family’s past.
“My great-grandmother is the migrant mother,” she said. “I was raised, and it’s in my blood, that you do what you gotta do.”
In order to adapt, she knew she had to buckle down.
“That’s easy to say in hindsight,” she said. “We shifted, and pivoted immediately to online, and just pushed through as best as we could, very mindful that we wanted to provide what people needed—whether it was masks or hand sanitizer.”
Corbett Wright, the developer behind The Hangar project says he can’t help but admire Bennett’s business acumen. And he says he’s a customer at her gift shop, too.
“We’re excited to have her aboard,” he said. “She works hard.”
Bennett says she just tries to listen and respond to what customers want.
“It’s about the people,” she said. “I just feel blessed every day by the people that come in and say high with their coffee.”
Bennett left the corporate world in 2016 to take over the business from the original owner.
It’s a family affair. Her daughter does the marketing. Her mom, on the East Coast, is sometimes recruited to help create display fixtures, jewelry boards or mannequins. Her husband is quitting his job as a UPS delivery driver to help with the expansion.
Over the years, Bennett enjoyed tinkering with different merchandise offerings and business development techniques, as she carefully grew the business.
“You never know what the right product mix is,” she said, adding her approach is to be “mindful of what’s trending, but not ‘trendy.’”
According to Bennett, one of the coolest parts about running a gift shop has been the broad cross-section of folks she’s been able to assist.
“Our goal with the store is to be a community-based store,” she said. “This community is so supportive of us—whether it’s the new mom or somebody new in the community, or somebody my daughter grew up with in town, to the seniors and the retirees.”
For some travelers, Zinnia’s is a destination in itself, or a place to stop off while on their way to conference centers like Mount Hermon or Mission Springs.
She says it’s been so nice to see the older shoppers emerge again after being stuck in lockdown.
“I hadn’t seen them for a year, and I was worried,” she said. “It’s not about the purchase; it’s about the connectivity.”
Wright says he feels fortunate to be able to usher in a series of new businesses, to help give Scotts Valley residents more reasons to shop local.
“We look for a synergistic mix of complementary local tenants,” he said. “They actually do more business together because they are co-located.”
One benefit of housing tenant businesses with different peak hours is that you maximize the parking space, he adds.
Bennett says she wants to give people the tools to shape their own spaces into more homey environments.
“We were hearing and seeing the need here in town,” she said, adding the new store will feature things like linens, accent furniture, lamps, table arrangements, clocks, and wall accessories. “We couldn’t fit it all into Zinnia’s.”
The store is slated to open later this year.