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From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop - VisitingNewEngland small business partnership

Happy Hometown Place: From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts

From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts.

From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop. Photo credit: Valeri Delcore.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 11/18/17.

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The greatest gift Valeri Delcore could have given the town of Ayer, Mass., was her From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

A former nurse looking for a meaningful career change after more than 20 years in the medical field, Delcore opened her gift shop in 2014 in the charming, historic revitalized downtown Ayer district with her store soon becoming a retail cornerstone business. From the bright yellow chairs outside to the something-for-everyone mix of gifts, cards, candles, home decor, and local and New England region merchandise inside, From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop immediately feels likable, friendly and welcoming while offering an impressive variety full of functional and often fun gifts in the sunny, upbeat 2,400 square feet storefront.
It's truly a happy place, and Valeri's love for the business can even be traced to her last name, which means "From the Heart"  in Italian.

Valeri Delcore, owner of From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Valeri Delcore, owner of From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

Once common in most towns with established downtowns, this type of gift shop eventually gave way to more high-end, expensive, museum-like stores with less heart, overly expensive gifts and more pretentious attitudes. From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop, on the other hand, possesses more of a working class, sense of community-like retail store with no new age music playing in the background and a lack of, say, metaphysical products. It is also the opposite shopping experience of that at a chain store, and Valeri humorously confirms that sentiment with a sign in the store that states, "FRIENDS don't let friends SHOP @ CHAIN stores!" That small business declaration of independence can be seen in Valeri knowing her customers and they knowing her, the thoughtful selection of unique gifts, and an affinity for the region -- including historical items displayed, retro U.S. Army Fort Devens installation postcards for sale, and local honey creatively named Let It Bee (a play on words of The Beatles classic hit from, gasp, 1970!).

Let It Bee honey products at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Let It Bee honey products at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

Valeri, a Beverly, Mass., native, clearly loves small town life in Ayer, her business, customers and gift selection. She genuinely looks forward to coming to work every day.

"I love it here," said Valeri. "Every day when I come in here, I say, 'Good morning, store!'"

The From the Heart of Ayer resides in a historic 1940s building with many businesses having taken up shop here through the years. Before From the Heart of Ayer opened, Kelly's Hallmark Gift Shop did business here. Valeri changed the standardized look of that store by creating big picture windows (with the store's latitude and longitude coordinates displayed above) overlooking the pulse of the refreshed, small town New England downtown and by brightening up the place with teal, yellow and gray colors while proudly giving some sign space to Ayer.

From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop, Ayer, Massachusetts
Big picture window, wide variety of gifts and love of small town at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

Layout of From the HEart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts.
From the Heart of Ayer features a bright, positive shopping atmosphere.

She also took out the carpets. Valeri replaced the rugs with her own practical, innovative stamp on it  -- an extension, no doubt, of her creative streak in such endeavors as
painting, photography and home decor.
 
"I wanted the floor to have that old look, but not have it cost a fortune," said Valeri. "So, I went to Home Depot, bought some plywood, had it cut into eight-inch strips, and stained and varnished it. The floors look great!"

Floor at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop, -- stained and varnished playwood!
Turning plywood into a fabulous floor at From the Heart  of Ayer Gift Shop.

Walking on what might be the best plywood floors in Massachusetts, it's hard to know where to actually step first. There is just so much variety here.  A quick look around the store reveals an excellent selection of recycled greeting cards, art from local artists, stationary, old -fashioned candies, toys, craft work, candles, sports gifts, tea and tea pots, jewelry, pet accessories, balloons, and even cold drinks and snacks. One of the more popular section centers on tea and the great Tao of Teas products...

Tea section at From the HEart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts
Tea section at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

It's a place where well-known products like Yankee Candles, Willow Tree, Hallmark, Papyrus, and Secret Jewels Candles (each candle has a piece of jewelry inside valued between $10 and $200!) share space with a much-needed dose of patriotism (Valeri and John are U.S. Army veterans)...

Secret Jewels Cancles at From the Heart Gift Shop in Ayer, Mass.
Secret Jewels Candles.

Military and patriotic gifts at From the Heart of Ayer in Ayer, Mass.
Patriotic gifts at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop also features a motorcycle-theme area (Valeri and John ride bikes), as well as merchandise featuring photos taken by Valeri...

Motorcylcle Gifts at From the Heart of Ayer in Ayer, Mass.
Gifts with a motorcycle theme at From the Heart of Ayer.

Ayer, Massachusetts 2018 calendar is availabe at From the Heart Gift Store in Ayer, Mass.
2018 Ayer calendar featuring photos by Valeri Delcore, owner of From the heart of Ayer Gift Shop.

From the Heart of Ayer offers a festive experience year-round, but especially during the Christmas season. The 2017 holiday season is no exception as its Annual Open House takes place on Fri. Dec. 1 and Sat. Dec. 2 from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. with refreshments, free gifts, raffles and more.

From the Heart of Ayer Christmas holiday event in Ayer, Massachusetts.
Holiday time at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer.

It's a beautiful place to be during the most wonderful time of the year...

Christmas at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Mass.
Christmas season at From the Heart Gift Shop. Photo credit: Valerie Delcore

The creative flair, traditional gifts, and heartfelt, sincere odes to a close-knit small town, a strong military, patriotism and ultimately the beauty of shopping local help make From the Heart Gift Shop a treasure within a treasure of a town steeped in military, industrial and working class roots. And, oh, on the way out, some old-fashioned candy makes the shopping experience even that more sweet.

Penny candy at From the HEart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Mass.
Old fashioned candy at From the Heart Gift Shop.

Valeri believes in her business and that can be seen in many forms, including this good-natured sign...

Funny sign at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Mass. it's funny because it's true.
Funny welcoming sign at From the Heart Gift Shop.

The customers seem to love the store, too.  Locals, of course, but also those from around the world, as evidenced by this map...

Map of where customers are from who shop at From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop in Ayer, Massachusetts.

Valeri has that rare mix of not taking things too seriously, but, at the same time, taking things very seriously. Her sense of humor combined with the compassion of a nurse (which, as mentioned, she was in a previous career) and the savvy sense of a successful business person have no doubt served as invaluable elements in the likability factor of From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop. It is heartwarming to see such a local business do so well.

It is also heartwarming to see downtown Ayer make such a strong comeback after nearly becoming a ghost town after Fort Devens' closure in 1996 (for the record, there is a smaller military contingent proudly serving there). That Valeri would be part of an evolving downtown revitalization by opening a wonderful little gift shop is truly a gift!

From the Heart of Ayer Gift Shop is located at 61 Main St., Ayer MA. Tel. (978) 772-2571. Web site: http://www.fromtheheartofayer.com. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/fromtheheartofayer/

Also be sure to read:
A former nurse opens up an amazing pie shop in Walpole, Mass.
Nashoba Pizza Restaurant: an old school gem in Ayer, Mass.
Bull Run Restaurant still making history in Shirley, Mass.

Explore Massachusetts travel! Read the Massachusetts Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons. Includes chapters on nearby Shirley, Harvard, Groton, Fitchburg, Leominster, Princeton and Templeton!

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