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Karen Keenan Gifts in Lee set to close as owner retires

The business has catered to shoppers for 18 years.

Lee — A prominent 18-year fixture on Main Street will soon be a memory. Karen Keenan Gifts will close its doors in a few months as the store’s namesake, Karen Keenan, is poised for retirement. Currently, patrons can bid farewell to the shop with a sale of 20 to 40 percent off regular-priced items.

“I do not have a specific closing date; I’m in no hurry,” Keenan said to The Berkshire Edge from her Florida home. She said it may take a few months to clear out the leased space.

Karen Keenan Gifts features unique jewelry pieces. Photo courtesy of Karen Keenan.

The store features a variety of gifts for all occasions, from baby and wedding showers to children’s birthdays. Keenan purchased the business—Pamela Loring’s Gift Shop—from her sister-in-law in 2006, having worked for Loring previously. But she needed a bit of coaxing to jump in at its helm. “It wasn’t a dream of mine, it wasn’t anything that I ever thought I wanted to do,” Keenan said. “My husband actually was the one who talked me into doing it.”

She attributed her reluctance to a “fear of failing” but her spouse reassured her the couple “wouldn’t be on the street” should the business collapse. “My goal at that point was I’d create a job for myself for the next 10 years, and here I am, 18 years later, and it’s been wonderful,” she said.

However, Keenan’s resolve was challenged only a year after taking over the business when the economy shifted. “In 2007, things were tough, and I know I went a long time without a paycheck,” she said, adding that her husband’s support helped the company survive. “People weren’t buying a $50 birthday gift anymore. They were buying a $25 gift now. And I had to change to the times and did that.”

That scenario repeated during the COVID shutdown, with the shop shuttering for three months. Through it all, Keenan looked to her customers “wants” for guidance, a process that, ultimately, contributed to the gift store’s success. “You have to know who’s shopping in your store and what they’re looking for and price ranges,” she said.

The shop has also offered a selection of skincare products. Photo courtesy of Karen Keenan.

On April 22, Keenan posted a notice of the shop’s impending future on its Facebook page. “Although it’s been a very difficult decision for me to make, 18 years of owning the gift shop I have decided to retire from being a business owner,” wrote Keenan. “With so many changes in the world, I feel like this is the right time to complete this fulfilling chapter in my life. Most importantly, I would like to thank my family, staff, and all the customers that have supported me over the years.”

Keenan added that she was grateful for “all the memories, friendships, and support” she has received through the years. Keenan called the immediate social media response to her announcement “incredible,” noting the 254 likes and 115 gracious comments complimenting the store.

Keenan said she had been contemplating retirement since January. “It was a big decision for me for what was happening with the times,” she said of her upcoming 65th birthday and the growing number of buyers turning to online shopping. “If I was in my 50s and still wanted to work 10 more years, I would have changed the store up to accommodate what was happening right now.”

Her clientele has included many loyal customers, with some area second-home owners who always stopped at her shop when coming through town, along with locals who said they “could always find the perfect gift” at Keenan’s due to the variety of items stocking the shelves.

The shop has provided many shoppers with a selection of baby gifts. Photo courtesy of Karen Keenan.

For Keenan, retirement means splitting time between her home in Lee and one in Florida, as well as enjoying her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who live in Connecticut. She said she hopes to keep her hand in the business by working part time at one of the other amazing gift shops in the Berkshires, stressing the importance of her past customers to “support local stores” such as Sidetracks Gifts, The Shop Around the Corner, and Bella Flora.

“I wish I could stay here and be there for [my customers], but it’s just time for my next chapter,” Keenan said.


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