museums&MORE Fall 2012
Garner State Park Gift Shop

This store offers customers a lot to like”

Garner State Park in Concan, Texas, isn’t just the most visited overnight park in Texas. Its Facebook page also has more “likes” then other state park — and some national parks. The following is simply that big.

“People love the park and have a history with it,” said Renee Rimkus, owner and manager of the Garner State Park Gift Shop. “A large portion of our clientele is from the Houston and Corpus areas and their families have a tradition of visiting the park every summer, spring break, etc.— with some traditions dating back to the ’40s and ’50s.”

Thankfully those traditions include a visit to the store, along with several entities within the park — a grill, miniature golf course, the park store, peddle boat/kayak rentals — that Rimkus and her husband Brett own and manage through Rimkus Management. They have had the contract with Texas Parks and Wildlife since 2000 and recently renewed their contract for an additional 16 years, guaranteeing a continued tradition of retail success.

New and Nostalgic

Located in a historic building constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s, the store has the original floors, walls, doors and even a large fireplace now used as décor. The CCC built the building using sources from with in the park or area, and as such, limestone and cedar are the primary construction sources. Because the building is historic, nothing is attached to the walls or the structure, and offerings are just as unique as the building.

“We pride ourselves on being as unique as possible in our souvenirs, creating our own graphics for T-shirts and customizing many items with ‘Garner State Park,’ ‘Frio River’ or some customization that suites the item and the park,” Rimkus said. “We try very hard to work with vendors who will keep their line exclusive to our gift shop so customers have a unique selection of items not found throughout the canyon.”

The gift shop follows some of the apparel and fashion trends, which Rimkus said is quite unique in the State Park system. However, their clientele is very different from the average park, so they have the market for it and offer fashion jewelry and apparel, stylish footwear, unique home and gift items, as well as nostalgic toys and candy.

“In my humble opinion, the kids’ section is amazing,” Rimkus said, “and children can find some really cool nostalgic toys, travel games and plush skunks, raccoons and other relevant wildlife that make real-life sounds.”

Destination apparel — specifically T-shirts — are the No. 1 souvenir. They also have built a good market for fashion apparel and jewelry and footwear sells extremely well. They also customize as many items as possible.

“For example, we carry the adorable and popular line Stephen Joseph, but we have all of the items embroidered or printed with our park name, so even though it may be something the parents/kids have seen before, now it’s a souvenir,” Rimkus said. “And we have small little animals that have T-shirts on that say ‘I Heart GSP’ that are always a big hit.”

They also have combination sales for all souvenir T-shirts, hoodies and tanks — when two are purchased together, the customer saves $5 on the second shirt. This helps families get a shirt for everyone and save money while doing it. Since camping is rather economical, they have continued to have visitors to their store despite any economic troubles.

“We see more of an impact from the drought,” Rimkus said. “But when we get rain or a flood, we expect to have a wonderful season and sell huge numbers of our ‘Tubing Instructor’ and the ‘Keep Calm and Tube On’ graphic T-shirts.”

Logging On

They attend several gift, souvenir, retail and apparel shows each year, try very hard to keep up with ongoing trends and make a genuine effort to make those trends work in their gift shop. Rimkus said that over the years, she’s found the type of items that generally work and the items that are a flop, so in general, it’s a gut feeling or a personal like/dislike that determines what they purchase.

“On the same note though, I have also had some items that didn’t sell eight years ago that sell now,” she said. “It is always a gamble, and I am willing to take chances and go the extra mile to find a way to bring in new items for our visitors.

“Also, if something isn’t selling, I have found that moving it, rearranging it, creating a new display seems to always do the trick,” she continued. “Change it up — try some new things, work on good displays and have amazing staff to sell it!”

They don’t just keep their sales in store either, as they also offer customers the option of an online store. Considering a majority of sales are souvenir-based, most people will buy their items on their annual trip so online sales are minimal in comparison to the physical store.

“We run free shipping specials and clearance promotions, but in general, the online store is just a nice way for people to see the items that we have to get them excited for their impending trip,” Rimkus said. “So even if the sales are minimal, it shows potential clientele a sample of what you have to offer.”

Rimkus manages and maintain the online store, taking and uploading the product pictures and the information to the site, as well as picking and shipping all of the orders. It varies from five to 15 hours of work per week, depending on the number of new items to add and if there is a promotion or holiday that spikes sales, and packaging and preparing for shipment is the most time consuming portion of the Internet sales.

This is also where Facebook can come in handy, as every time they post an update and someone shares it to their page, it’s free advertising for the store. Rimkus said they use their Facebook page to advertise store hours, sales and exclusive online offers, while also sharing pictures and stories.

Since Facebook added a new “Offer” option, they can now send out coupons or offers to their more than 22,000 fans. They recently sent a coupon for $2 putt-putt and more than 200 people printed it in a few hours.

“It’s great because my husband is very active on replying to our visitors, posting pictures and just over all being very involved and hands-on with encouraging new fans,” Rimkus said. “The visitors of Garner are truly invested in the park and love interacting and sharing memories, pictures and stories.

And that’s truly something to “like.”

By Abby Heugel

Managing Editor

Social Connections

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