museums&MORE Summer 2015
California Healin’ – Comforts Gift Shop meshes amid Monterey Peninsula surroundings By Zeke Jennings

Most people would find California’s gorgeous Monterey Peninsula therapeutic in itself. The popular tourist area features majestic scenery and unmatched amenities, including world-class golf, shopping and restaurants.

People still get sick, however, and that’s where the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula comes in, a facility that incorporates nature into its healing mission. Nestled quaintly but prominently just inside the hospital’s main entrance is the 660-square foot gift shop, aptly named Comforts since the staff and volunteers consider the shop’s purpose as being an extension of the hospital’s goal to improve the lives of its visitors.

Museums & More recently caught up with Comforts Gift Shop Supervisor and Buyer Harlan Schenbaum, who has more than three decades’ of retail experience. That includes the past four years as head of the hospital gift shop, which he called the most enjoyable job” he’s ever had.

MM: How big is the Comforts staff?

Schenbaum: Our gift shop has three employees, one full-time — me — and two part-time assistants. We have about 38 volunteers that help us in the shop, serving four-hour shifts at a time. … Our profits go to the Auxiliary, which contributes at least $200,000 yearly to special hospital needs and departments. To help our community gives you a really good feeling inside.

MM: How do you balance teaching volunteers to be sales-savvy without being too demanding? After all, they are volunteering their time.

Schenbaum: Three or four of our seasoned volunteers serve as trainers and they spend several shifts with new volunteers. I also have two workshops a year for all our volunteers, where we go over specific areas and new merchandise. We give them thank-you gifts and have raffles for prizes at our meetings. Community Hospital has a beautiful luncheon once a year for all its volunteers — nearly 1,000 throughout the hospital — at the nearby Pebble Beach Resort.

MM: How does the gift shop fit with the hospital and surrounding areas?

Schenbaum: The building was designed by renowned architect Edward Durrell Stone and is recognized for its healing environment, which features water elements, extensive natural light and a large art collection. The gift shop is the first thing people see when they come through the main hospital entrance. The shop was moved to this space in 2009 and has large welcoming glass doors. At that time, it was named Comforts Gift Shop in keeping with the healing environment theme. We carry books and cards from local artists and authors and items that foster the healing environment, including music, lotions, sleepwear and a large selection of orchids. … We also feature wonderful chocolates made by a local company (Lula’s Chocolates). We are very selective about these items to avoid being more like a tourist shop than a hospital gift shop.

MM: What are your best-sellers?

Schenbaum: Gift items are always the No. 1 selling category in our shop, followed by clothing (apparel, purses) and jewelry. We also sell a lot of seasonal and holiday merchandise, from Christmas to Halloween to Mother’s Day. Top-selling items are our logo sweatshirts and jackets, Snoozies! slippers, Crislu jewelry, journals from Peter Pauper Press, wind chimes and garden items from Grasslands (Road), travel latte mugs from Evergreen and talking plush animals from Gund and Cuddle Barn.

MM: What are your top impulse-sellers?

Schenbaum: Any small item near our main counter and registers usually sells great. They include clever types of lip balm, inexpensive hair and jewelry items and small unique gift items.

MM: The store has a nice website. How is online business doing?

Schenbaum: We work with the hospital’s web project manager in communications and marketing to keep our website fresh and updated. Our online sales are only about 2 percent of our total sales, but it’s a great option for people who don’t live in the area. Our office staff handles all online orders.

At a Glance

What: Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP)

Where: Monterey, California. The hospital is located less than 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean and is just a short drive from Cannery Row and some of the country’s most famous golf courses, including Poppy Hills, Spyglass Hill and the world-renowned Pebble Beach.

Traffic: The hospital has 248 licensed beds and a total staff of more than 2,000, which service about 11,000 admitted patients each year, which doesn’t include more than 275,000 outpatient visitors. The hospital reported 4,000 inpatient surgeries and 1,200 births in 2013.

Honors: CHOMP meshes well among its geographically stunning surroundings, as it is often recognized for its architectural beauty. That includes being named as one of Online Masters in Public Health’s “30 Most Architecturally Impressive Hospitals in the World” and Healthcare Business and Technology’s “25 Most Beautiful Hospitals in the World.”

Gift Shop: “Our administration and upper management always recognizes the gift shop in positive and supportive ways,” said manager Harlan Schenbaum.

Online:, or to access the gift shop website.

Zeke Jennings

Social Connections

Gift Shop Plus Summer 2024
Get one year of Gift Shop Plus in both print and digital editions for just $16.

Interested in reading the print edition of Gift Shop Plus?

Subscribe Today »

website development by deyo designs