Up until June of 2016, Ellenville was missing something: a gift store. That need was met and exceeded with the opening of the French Corner. A labor of love by Gerry Gress and his partner, Pascalene, the French Corner sells unique gifts from France, one-of-a-kind antiques, and items crafted by local artists.
Even more notable than these products, however, is the personable atmosphere at the shop. “To be a successful business, you have to be that social person who sincerely cares and will sit down and spend time with people,” said Gress. “We frequently have people coming back just to explore the shop, sit down, see what’s new, and just talk.”
Pascalene, who grew up in Provence, South France, offers visitors an opportunity to practice their French. Whether they’re a 7-year-old who’s just learning or a grandmother who hasn’t been back to her former country in years, anyone can stop in for some conversational French. It’s not structured, just a free chance to learn, refine and practice.
“She’s got this personality,” said Gress. “I believe people walk in just to talk with her; and then they find something they absolutely have to have.” It’s this personal, communal aspect that Gress believes makes the store so successful.
“One of the goals that Pascalene had was to create the shop in a manner that was attractive,” Gress added. Even though they do sell antiques, the shop doesn’t have the feel that’s most commonly associated with an antique store. It’s clean, everything is clearly labeled and the displays are organized to be visually appealing. “Pascalene spends a lot of time putting the right displays out and changing them so people have a constant upcoming look at new products.”
There’s even a setup for bookworms to nestle into and read. “We bought a series of different types of books that we use as a library, encouraging people to come sit down and read through them,” Gress said. Visitors can explore the shop without any intention of buying anything and still have a great time. Then, when they do find something they can’t resist, they can even have it carefully packaged and shipped to its destination.
So what are you waiting for? Find your corner of France in Ellenville!