Small Business Spotlight: Christy and Charles from Exit 9 Gift Emporium

This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Charles and Christine from Exit 9 Gift Emporium! We’ve worked with them for a long time – our clients might recognize some of their goodies – because we love their local business pride. Not to mention the fact that they go out of their way to spotlight and support women-owned, LGBTQ-owned, and black-owned businesses. Watch our YouTube video below or read on to learn more about them!

First tell us about your business and anything special we should know about it or you.

Founded in 1995 in the East Village, Exit 9 Gift Emporium began as a space for local makers to sell their work – founder Charles included. “I just had the inspiration, I lived around the corner from a vacant storefront, and I decided to just go for it,” Charles said. 

Since its founding in the mid-nineties, Charles said the business has gone through many “rebirths,” evolving to meet the needs of an ever-changing market. But at the end of the day, Exit 9 was born out of a desire to let go and lean into creativity. 

“I just wanted to get creative and have some fun,” he said.

What do you both love about the business?

Christy says that the creative element to the business – which inherently exists within its form as a gift emporium – helps them to continuously revitalize their everyday life. Both artists, Christy and Charles are granted an opportunity to express their creativity everywhere from the merchandising displays, to “crazy Instagram videos,” to designing t-shirts, mugs, and more to sell in the store. 

“We’re both very good at keeping life interesting,” Charles chimed in. “And this place allows us a lot of freedoms that way.”

Charles also mentioned that he is consistently inspired by the local maker community. “There’s a lot of relatability in this business when you just start to look to your neighbors.”

What is your connection to the small business community & why do you find it important to support them?

“Community is people,” Charles emphasized. And in Boerum Hill & East Village, specifically, the streets are full of small businesses which contribute to – or even create – the street culture that we all know and love. Plus, keeping the money local elevates the small businesses, influencing the culture, and sustaining the NYC ecosystem. 

“Our customers are supporting us locally, that feels good,” he says. “We support the local maker community, that feels good… You feel connected to the community when you’re in a small business.”

What does it mean to you to support women-owned, POC-owned, LGBT-owned businesses?

Having been a drummer in a band in the late-eighties, Christy said she is no stranger to being the only female in a given field. But, she said that the landscape is changing – and for the better. There is more visibility than ever into woman-owned, POC-owned, LGBT-owned businesses, Christy said, which empowers others to follow in their footsteps. 

“Where we were once a minority, there are now these types of businesses popping up all over the place,” Christy said. “I like to think it gives a sparkle of growth and change in the world.”

She also mentioned that the logistical result of more women-owned businesses popping up, for example, is that they are able to carry more products by women-owned businesses and can have a larger impact on the growth of these businesses. Increasing visibility is crucial to any growth or change, something we at RC also strongly believe in.

What do you consider to be your biggest challenge as a business owner?

Like many small businesses, the past couple of years – trying to navigate a global pandemic – has proven to be the biggest challenge they’ve faced yet (aside from shoplifting, something many retail businesses can relate to). The most recent effect has been the supply chain disruptions in every part of the process – from the making to the shipping, delays have been part of their new reality. 

“I feel really grateful for my staff,” Christy said. “Without them to help me navigate these challenges, I would be ripping my hair out.”

Also, Charles said, being part of the local maker community has been one of the biggest lifesavers through even the scariest parts of the pandemic. A merchant’s group that Charles had been a part of – which was quite small pre-2020 – ended up exploding during the shutdown. He said the group served as a huge support system during the throes of the pandemic, and they are still going strong now. 

“The way everybody rallied together – not just business owners, but people in the community – is heart-warming,’ Christy said.

How do you believe Exit9 positively contributes to your community?

Despite Exit 9 being a business in Manhattan & Brooklyn – some of the most bustling areas in the world – Christy said there is still a feeling of familiarity between them and their customers. 

“You remember the customer’s name, their dog’s name, and you have these thoughtful conversations and you become friends,” Christy said.

And because of Exit 9’s long history, there have been kids – who used to run around the stores – grow up to intern at the store or even work there, giving the store a “community, family feeling,” similar to one you’d see in a small town. 

“It’s nice to see the kids bloom and fly the nest,” Charles said. 

Exit 9 also makes donations to local charities and schools which contributes to their overall ethos of supporting the community in every way they can. 

“People know that if they need help, they can come to us,” both Christy and Charles said. 

Thanks to Charles and Christy for talking to us and participating in our giveaway series (there’s still time to enter!), and being an overall joy to work with. NYC is so incredibly lucky to have you!

And if you haven’t visited them yet, you can purchase fun gifts  – for you or others! – on their website at shopexit9.com. They also make it easy to shop black-owned business, women-owned business, and more with curated gift boxes. Thanks, Exit 9!

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