When Perry and Sue Moses are looking for a gift for almost any occasion, they invariably take a 15-mile trip up the Edens Expressway to a shop where the proprietors are considered good friends.
That warm business model is the creation of the mother and daughter team of Debra Brody and Taryn Stein of Royal Appointments, a destination gift shop now in its new location in downtown Highland Park.
Brody brought Royal Appointments to the Highland Park Theatre building. After a 22-year-run in Northbrook Court and serious contemplation about going exclusively online, Brody and Stein are thrilled with their new digs in the city’s central business district.
The Moseses believe they are typical of the Royal Appointments clientele. The couple arrives from Lincolnwood seeking out a gift because even though the store is only 700 square feet, they are confident they will find an item for any occasion. Sue Moses spends as much time catching up with Taryn as she does looking for a gift.
“They are beautiful people to deal with,” Sue Moses said. “When you come in, you are with family. They hug you, they share your sorrows, they share your joys. It is better than visiting your own family. I mean that emphatically.”
On this day, Sue Moses decides to buy a bank that looks like a slot machine priced at $39 to cheer up a friend who is going through a rough time. That is the type of eclectic option in the shop that features baby gifts, jewelry, licensed sports items, picture frames and housewarming gifts that range in price from $10 to $195, with some autographed memorabilia being a far more expensive option.
“You can always find something personal for somebody,” Sue Moses said.
26th year in business
Brody had operated other shops in the area, but starting in 1987, she wanted to open a store where people would come in and buy gifts. She got that inspiration after seeing all types of items that were available on buying trips to Europe.
Soon Royal Appointments opened in downtown Chicago, adjoining Brody’s already existing clothing store. By 1991, Royal Appointments moved to Northbrook Court as Brody was on her own.
The fact that Brody was a small businesswoman required a lot of trips and eventually she found an assistant, even if she was kind of young for the job: her 12-year-old daughter, Taryn. The pre-Bat Mitzvah girl started accompanying her mother on trips and got to see firsthand the long hours and commitment that being a shop owner requires.
“To communicate with anybody is the biggest gift and I was taught that at a very young age,” Stein said. “I saw how and why her customers were returning because of the relationship she established with her customers. That was on a personal level. I learned a lot and I enjoyed that.”
After Taryn graduated from Highland Park High School in 2001, she went to the University of Kansas, and came back with armed with a business degree, which she uses in her role at the store.
One might wonder if a mother and daughter team could be awkward. Both say no.
“It’s a wonderful dynamic,” Brody said. “We don’t even have to speak. Our rhythm is always there. She understands what I am going to say without me saying it.”
Moving to Highland Park
After having three stores for 10 years, Brody parted ways with two of her locations and put all of her eggs in the Northbrook Court basket.
Yet while she was in the mall all that time, she was moved constantly from one location to the other, 11 times in total. That became a grind and so did the long hours, namely 12-hour days six days and more on Sunday. When their last lease expired, Brody and Stein thought it might be time to shut down the storefront and concentrate solely on their newly upgraded Web site.
However, a funny thing happened as Brody’s hometown came calling and asked if there would be interest in moving into downtown Highland Park, in the building of the now shuttered Highland Park Theatre.
“I encouraged her to come to Highland Park because they are a successful, well recognized business with a strong following and I thought they would complement the business district,” noted Carolyn Hersch, the city’s Economic Development Coordinator.
Brody and Stein were reluctant to surrender the personal interaction they get when they see their customers and being able to set shorter hours for themselves, they decided to make the move. They left the 4,000-square-foot mall location in Northbrook and in April, they opened up a new chapter in Highland Park, which just happens to be Brody’s hometown. Having a local resident succeed certainly makes for a good story.
“We welcome all of our business and any time a resident wants to open a business is Highland Park we welcome that as well,” Hersch said.
“I’ve had wonderful shoppers that have stayed with me for all these years,” Brody said. “They come in and we talk about the past and ask do you remember when I bought this?”