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Cathie Rowand | Journal Gazette
Hats by local artist Jane Borge are available at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art gift shop.

Putting downtown gift shops on map

Courtesy
An Irish-themed gift shop sells a T-shirt with punch.

First, there was Black Friday.

Next came Cyber Monday.

Now it’s time to get ready for Gift Shop Saturday, also known as Shop Local Saturday, Chauffeur Saturday and I-Am-Not-A-Sheep Saturday.

In truth, it is not known as any of those things. Yet.

But the Downtown Improvement District’s Holly Trolley, which will wend its way as only trolleys can wend from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, amounts to an adventure and an antidote.

It’s a chance to bypass the familiar in favor of the unfamiliar, the overhyped in favor of the unsung.

The Holly Trolley will ferry passengers between and among nearly 40 unique downtown retail destinations, none of which have a food court or a movie multiplex attached to them.

Some of them are gift shops in museums and some of them are scrappy little freestanding establishments that could always use more exposure.

On Monday, maps will be available at all locations, including the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, says the Downtown Improvement District’s marketing director, Tena Woenker.

But you could just as easily drive around the corner to Three Rivers Apartments and visit Angela’s Gift Box. It is at 103 Three Rivers North along the Maumee River.

Co-owner Angela Guisinger says she wasn’t intending to open a shop when she and her twin sister, Michelle Snyder, began looking for a place where people who bought their customized gift baskets could pick them up.

And after the shop had opened, she didn’t expect that half of it would one day be devoted to the life and legacy of her late Irish pugilist grandfather.

Guisinger’s store-within-a-store shares her grandfather’s nickname. It’s called Phucky’s Mad Irish Shop.

In the interests of upholding community and journalistic standards, Guisinger explains that Phucky is traditionally pronounced without the “h” – the same way the name of a minor league hockey mascot might be pronounced.

In the interest of exploring links between innuendo and succeeding in business, some products in Phucky’s Mad Irish Shop do seem to make reference to other possible pronunciations, whatever they may be.

Guisinger says her son Nic Gerard is mostly in charge of extending the Phucky’s brand, which now includes some Irish and Irish-friendly lasses called Phucky’s Girls.

Paul “Phucky” Rowan was “a funny guy, very funny,” Guisinger says.

He also had quite a temper, she says.

Rowan had a head of bright red hair, and she says her business now sponsors a local fighter with Irish ancestry and red hair.

Guisinger’s grandmother is remembered in the store in a more sedate manner, she says – by way of a line of homemade cosmetics called Irish Eyes by Lorena that make use of rare Irish moss.

Guisinger believes Phucky’s Mad Irish Shop finally gives her grandfather some long-overdue recognition.

He was poor all his life, she says, and “soon after he retired from GE, he found out he had full-blown bone cancer – stage four. He felt he had never really been recognized for the things he had done.”

Gifts bought from Phucky’s Mad Irish Shop can’t be found anywhere else, and that’s the whole point of the Holly Trolley, Woenker says.

“Sometimes it’s hard to think of Christmas ideas,” she says. “You go to a big-box store and everything’s so ordinary.

“But there aren’t many places you can go and find hand-painted Christmas ornaments,” Woenker says. “We want to encourage people to support local retailers, because that’s where you find more unique and interesting gifts.”

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at spen@jg.net, or go to the “Rants & Raves” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net. A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at www.facebook.com/pages.

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