New custom gifts and apparel store opens at mall

Customize America, a customizable goods retailer, opened in the Salmon Run Mall Sept. 1. Marcus Wolf/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A new custom gifts and apparel store has opened in the former Things Remembered storefront in the Salmon Run Mall.

Customize America offers shirts, hats, picture frames, plaques, trophies, mugs, plates, flags, ribbons and many other goods that shoppers can purchase and have engraved and embroidered with personal designs. Customers can also bring their own possessions for workers to adorn with custom designs. The store opened Sept. 1.

Owner William G. McKinney manages another store, Bradley’s Military Surplus, Evans Mills, that primarily caters to military clientele, but said he wanted to cater his customizing services to civilian markets with different goods. Some gifts, including shirts, bags, mugs, desk clocks and decor, cater to first responders, business professionals and consumers of religious-themed decor.

“When soldiers are deployed, there’s a lot of volatility in the military market,” he said. “It gets tough to pay the bills, and I’d like a steady income stream coming in and I’d like to tap into the civilian market.”

Things Remembered Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, closed its Watertown store in late February after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Enesco LLC, Itasca, Ill., bought the company and planned to operate some stores.

An opportunity to repurpose the chain’s former Watertown storefront came before Mr. McKinney, as well as an opportunity to serve its previous clientèle, he said. The local retailer, who is also an Army veteran, signed a lease with the mall in May and spent a few months renovating the storefront.

“Things Remembered used to perform many of the things we do,” he said. “A lot of people used to come in here to get etch engravings done and we can satisfy that need.”

Customizing customers’ goods can take anywhere from one to three days, depending on the product and design, but Mr. McKinney said he also offers mass production engraving, embroidering and decal sublimation for large quantities of goods, although the process takes longer. Purchases equalling more than $50 include free shipping.

Two employees help Mr. McKinney manage Customize America, located next to Harris Jewelry, but he said he may hire more and add more products if his customer base grows.

“The key thing is to listen to the customer,” he said.

A seasonal retailer, Spirit Halloween, has also moved into the mall. The shop, located in the former Bon Ton space, sells a variety of costumes, masks, makeup, decor, props and other goods.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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