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Olathe Medical Center Gift Shop

Jane Kitchen -- Gifts & Dec, August 1, 2008

The gift shop at the Olathe Medical Center in Olathe, KS, isn't your ordinary hospital gift shop. Realizing that there are a lot of difficult situations taking place all around — from families dealing with sick relatives to doctors and nurses being on their feet working long hours — retail coordinator Carol Aust takes great pride in creating a special environment in the shop for the hospital's employees, patients and their families.

“I want people to be able to come in and find a different atmosphere,” said Aust. To that end, seasonal decorating becomes a key way to impart a sense of wonder and excitement. “We hit every season head on,” she said. “So fall looks like fall here, and it smells like fall.”

In September 2007, Aust set out to take fall one step further, by creating an outdoor event she called Autumn Fest. The OMC Gift Shop hosted the event on the front lawn of the hospital grounds under a large tent. Regular customers, patients and their guests, the hospital staff and the community of Olathe all turned out to experience Autumn Fest and be inspired to recreate the seasonal feeling in their own homes.

Decorating classes were offered at no cost to those interested in learning more about fall displays, creating fall ambiance, and how to integrate selections from the shop's new merchandise in with existing home treasures. Refreshments such as hotdogs, chips, drinks, pies and cider doughnuts were also available for purchase.

Setting the outdoor stage

Recreating the atmosphere of the store outside was no small undertaking. Credit card service, phone lines and electricity all had to be established within the confines of the tent. Several old wooden medical files that the hospital was set to dispose of were repurposed to create low tables and portable shelving units. Aust had contracted with a local nursery to grow 80 mum plants of various colors, which added to the atmosphere and were also available for purchase. She also borrowed several antique farm implements for use in creating the autumn setting.

While the hospital staff and patients were especially appreciative of the opportunity to get outdoors, one of the goals of Autumn Fest was to reach out to the community-at-large. As the medical pillar in an area of nearly 100,000 residents, Olathe Medical Center is always pursuing new opportunities to build stronger relationships with that community, said Aust.

“There were a lot of people who got to know who we are (through Autumn Fest),” she said. “…It did give us a little brand recognition in the community. We're not a typical hospital gift shop, and that's what I wanted people to know.”

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