Summer 2008
Baskets & Beyond By Kristen Hains

Article Resources

Metropolitan Gifts

Sue's Gift Basket & Sweet Shoppe

The Bwarie Gift Basket Co.

Creative Containment with The Bwarie Gift Basket Company

Tom Bwarie has one requirement for the containers he uses to create innovative gift packages: They have to fit through the door of his store. In the 31 years that Bwarie has been selling gift baskets, he has used everything from surfboards and boogie boards to riding saddles and beach chairs as containers for gifts.

The Bwarie Gift Basket Co. is three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, CA. Since Bwarie went into business he has seen a lot of change in retail. In the beginning, online shopping did not exist and the majority of his creations were hand-delivered. A large portion of his business involved creating gift baskets for Beverly Hills clients and movie studios like Paramount and Warner Brothers studios.

But as word of his baskets spread, Bwarie found himself delivering to destinations all over the United States. His company grew from one store, Wine ‘n Liquor Basket, to two. Bwarie relocated the second store, Bwarie’s Emporium, to an area mall in 1992. Following the devastating 1994 Southern California earthquake—which shuttered his retail operation for six months—Bwarie scaled down to the one current store, The Bwarie Gift Basket Company.

Despite these challenges, Bwarie’s commitment to creating gifts that recipients will remember has remained unchanged. He begins with beach towels or spa products and complements these with gourmet food products from DiCamillo Baking Company, Christopher Brookes Distinctive Foods, La Tempesta biscotti and confections, Neuhaus Belgian chocolate truffles and dozens of others.

In a special touch, Bwarie customizes the container’s fill material depending on who will receive the basket.

For example, instead of generic shreds, he throws in PVC plastic elbows if the basket is for a plumber, or dozens of loose Legos for a child. Whether it’s a wooden box or a glass of bottled water, Bwarie personalizes each gift with special engraving.

These special touches don’t go unnoticed. Bwarie says his products do the talking for him. It’s part of what he calls the domino effect. “Either someone receives the basket and my information is in there, and they like it enough that they call me and say, ‘Oh, I love what I got, so I want to send it to so and so.’ Or, people will pick up my card and call me at some point in time later,” he says.

Bwarie, who is 60 years old, continues to work 17 hours a day during busy seasons, but he would not have it any other way. “It is never work when you are trying to be creative and you are making something that is artful,” he says.

At a time when many gift basket retailers are going the online route, Bwarie says he wouldn’t dream of closing his brick and mortar store. “Most gift basket companies do not have brick and mortar,” he says. “Since we went into business, we have always had brick and mortar. We believe that is true retail.”

Kristen Hains

Kristen Hains is a professional writer based in Traverse City, Michigan. A former retailer, she is now a regular contributor to Dance Retailer News magazine.

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