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by Susie Eaton Hopper
After almost 15 years at the Arb, treasured Gift & Garden Store manager Patti Mirabelli has left the grounds and taken retirement. There are many things she is proud of during her tenure, including coming up with some unique ideas that really benefited the Arboretum, like the Holiday Boutique that she started last fall at the AppleHouse and ran through Dec. 20. That venture brought in record crowds and income. In typical Patti fashion, she called in her trusty crew of employees and made it happen, seemingly effortlessly overnight.
She also had a record year of apple sales at the AppleHouse, opening in August. With NorthStar Donuts on site, it was sometimes hard to get a parking spot as visitors came to get their University of Minnesota apple varieties, cider, candied apples, frozen pies and specialty foods, including unusual jams, spices and homegrown pumpkins and squash.
The AppleHouse became a favorite hangout during the pandemic, a fun, family-oriented spot to sit a while and relax. However, she had another retail space to run back on the grounds. “It was a privilege to have this job. Shopping at the Gift & Garden Store made people happy,” she says. “They’d come in and talk, and we’d hear their stories. It was one big, extended family.”
She really had a fun job, she says, because she got to go shopping for the store. As lead buyer, she sought out merchandise she felt was perfect for the Arboretum members and visitors, everything inspired by nature.
When she first took over the store, there were not many spots in the Twin Cities that had the range of wares she carried. Now it’s a much more competitive field; even many supermarkets sell giftware today.
She enjoyed traveling to Atlanta to find merchandise for the store and also scouted local art shows around the Twin Cities to meet artists she felt would be an asset to the store.
Mirabelli loved the range of goods, from Arboretum honey bears to the best garden tools, an entire children’s section and myriad lifestyle genres, jewelry, bath and beauty, birds and books. It was a herculean job to keep up with what was new and interesting, but she was always up to the job and was very knowledgeable about product lines and what sold well for the store.
Her point of view was always about her customers. “They love color, nature, flowers,” she says. She skipped trends that “just aren’t us,” which enabled visitors to walk into a beautifully staged and exciting space that captured the essence of the Arboretum, she says. She had a retail background and had been at Bachman’s for 20 years before coming to the Arb.
She said her employees were the stars of the store and the AppleHouse and that their positive, can-do attitudes really made both spots special. “People enjoy shopping here because it benefits the Arb. All proceeds feed the flowers,” Mirabelli says.
With her wonderful efforts in mind, all customers who mention “Patti” at checkout will receive 20 percent off of their purchases through Feb. 15. With Valentine’s Day and spring just around the corner, there are many great presents and products to choose from – seeds, bulbs, clothing, tools and great games, books and goodies for children. All brought to you by the talents and dedication of Patti Mirabelli. Enjoy your retirement, Patti!