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Spruce Home Decor adapts virtually to holiday shopping during pandemic

The shop averages two to three live shows per week. “Our live sales have grown. It's almost as if we've kind of opened up another virtual storefront, which makes us maybe take pause to opening another physical storefront,” owner Nick Giancola said. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]

Spruce Home Decor — 600 Robbins Ave. in Niles and 1315 Boardman Canfield Road in Boardman — has much of what Mahoning Valley residents need to deck their halls this holiday season.

And it has adapted its business model during the COVID-19 pandemic to include live shopping shows available via social media.

Brother and sister duo Nick Giancola and Erica Lewis opened Spruce Home Decor’s first location in Niles in 2014 during a transition period in both of their lives. 

“I had moved back after living away and had gone to grad school and was working professionally, and [I] moved back to the area as my sister was having kids, and I was just kind of ready to come home,” Giancola said. 

Giancola said the idea for a home decor store was influenced by his experience with shopping at locally owned small shops and boutiques in bigger cities. 

“A Saturday afternoon, with a cup of coffee, going to small, little stores and being able to look at unique items and fun things was something that I really love to do,” he said. But when he got back home, he found those types of shops lacking.

“So we decided to kind of fill that void with what we thought would be a good addition,” he added. 

Although Spruce Home Decor and Gift Store initially specialized in upcycled furniture, the store recently restored its focus to home accessories as its clientele grew and it saw more interest in decor items. 

“That kind of led us to where we are today with having home gifts and the gourmet food line in the store as well as furniture — but almost more as an accent to our home decor accessory items rather than our focus,” Giancola said. 

Giancola said Spruce Home Decor has started to become a “home lifestyle brand” in recent years with the addition of items like Stonewall Kitchen, a gourmet food line that produces items like jams, jellies, pancake mixes, salsa and queso, as well as Mud Pie, a ceramic wares company that makes entertainment platters, bowls, napkins and more.

In recent years, the store owners have opened a pop-up store for the holiday season in downtown Youngstown. Giancola told Mahoning Matters that he decided to opt out this year as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Instead, Spruce Home Decor and Gift Store has continued to grow its social media following this holiday season with more than 7,000 likes on its Facebook page. 

“We were quickly able to pivot and shift the focus from walking through the front door of the store to tuning in to a live sale on our Facebook page,” Giancola said. 

Spruce Home Decor and Gift Store averages two to three live shows per week, bringing in between 1,000 to 5,000 views each. 

“That has really helped us sustain and grow this year with our business. Now again, we're very lucky and blessed to be able to say that because I know that's not the case for a lot of small businesses,” he said. 

Spruce Home Decor and Gift Store also focuses on selling items from other local businesses and carries an inventory that displays hometown pride, such as Youngstown and Ohio Christmas ornaments. 

“We want to continue to support other local businesses in our store,” Giancola said. “It’s kind of our way to show our pride in where we're from, and we love to continue to celebrate the area that we're from. Our customers love that as well.” 

Additionally, Spruce Home Decor and Gift Store supports a variety of local nonprofits, including The Niles Avenue and Main Committee, Girard First United Methodist Church, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Project Hope, OH WOW!, Kid’s First Inc., Golden Strings, the Purple Cat, Relay For Life, March of Dimes and Youngstown Mothers of Twins. 

“We’re currently selling gingerbread houses for families to decorate that come with a kit. This is in conjunction with One Hot Cookie and [OH Donut Co.], but all the proceeds of the sale of the gingerbread houses are going to be going to Second Harvest Food Bank this year,” Giancola said. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Giancola said he and his sister had a plan to expand Spruce Home Decor and Gift Store locations in 2020.

Although their growth wasn’t according to plan, their uptick in social media following has caused the business partners to take a step back and reevaluate. 

“Our live sales have grown. It's almost as if we've kind of opened up another virtual storefront, which makes us maybe take pause to opening another physical storefront,” he said. 

In the meantime, the store owners plan to grow their warehouse and fulfillment facilities. 

“[The COVID-19 pandemic] has helped us grow. And it actually has helped us reach and meet new customers. But at the same time, I'm a shopkeeper at heart. So that has been very hard to not see face-to-face customers or have those relationships or have those conversations with them. But they're still showing up for us. So we are very grateful for that,” Giancola said.

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