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Medieval dreams going online

Slow business forces local owner to set up shop digitally

Posted: February 11, 2009 12:02 a.m.
Updated: February 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Dianna Bayhylle poses in her store, Glastonburys Gifts, before its close in late December. Bayhylle always dreamed of having a gift shop but had to close down when sales did not pick up.

 

For Dianna Bayhylle, closing the doors on her 1-year-old store, Glastonburys Gifts, marked the ending of a dream that had really just begun.

Bayhylle, of Canyon Country, grew up reading of dragons, wizards and fairies ever since she visited the magical town of Glastonbury, England, in 2005. Since then, she's always wanted a whimsical gift shop of her own, named after the town.

In October of 2007, Bayhylle decided to go for it.

"I borrowed against the house, took out a loan and opened up a shop and hoped for the best," she said. "Not that I was to know we were to have the worst economic year in history - or at least my history."

She opened shop Oct. 20, 2007, on Bouquet Canyon Road, and for the first five months business grew.
"January through March-April it continued to grow a little bit each month," she said. "I (was) on the plus side each month."

Bayhylle enjoyed interacting with customers who were intrigued by fairy or pirate figurines, swords, shields or other medieval, Renaissance or Victorian gifts the store offered. She purchased the gifts from friends and local artisans at fairs.

"We had people come in every day and tell their friends and tell us how much they loved the store," she said.

Flo Shephard, of Saugus, was one of those customers.

"I loved the store because it was fantasy and medieval and had very unique gifts and that would be unique anywhere whether in Santa Clarita or anywhere else," Shephard said.

But in May, sales began to drop off, Bayhylle said.

"You started hearing things in the news about the economy and the gas prices were starting to go up really high," she said. "And then June just was terrible. So I thought, OK, wait and see."

There was more waiting and less seeing.

"It got worse, and it got worse and worse," Bayhylle said. "We had everything from $1 rubber duckies to Damascus knives for $500 and everything in between. We had a huge range of prices and there were days when all we sold was a couple of rubber duckies."

People would still drop in, but would leave with little or nothing, she said.

"They were buying less, or they'd come in and just like to look," Bayhylle said. "They'd say, ‘Oh it's just so beautiful, I love it, it's great, this is the most wondrous store in Santa Clarita ... oh, but I can't afford to buy anything.'"

Bayhylle's daughter, Joselyn Ryan, who often worked at the store, also noticed the difference.

"They'd walk by and look in the window, but were too scared to come in," she said.

With the economy worsening, a lease that could not be renegotiated and no hope to justify borrowing against her house again, Bayhylle decided to close shop.

Her voice trembled and eyes watered as she described packing up Dec. 23. 2008.

"It was a small dream that got bigger," she said.

And then it dwindled, leading her to spend most of December in tears, she said.

"The sad thing about them closing was because they weren't Wal-Mart or Target, they didn't have the same thing everyone else has. When you went to get a gift for someone, you knew it wasn't something you could find anywhere else," Shephard said. "As well as the owners being wonderful, friendly and not pushy."

Bayhylle does not know if she can entirely blame the economy but the timing sure makes sense.

Shephard said she just did not think Santa Clarita was ready for "that" kind of shop.

"Because the Santa Clarita community is generally a very corporate community as well as cowboy community and that just ... doesn't mix with the medieval, renaissance feel you get from Glastonburys," she said.

Bayhylle hopes one day, when the economy picks up, she might be able to resurrect her dream store. For now, she's dedicated to building up her Web site and serving the following of customers she created.

Her children try to convince her of the opportunities that lie in an online business, but for Bayhylle, it's not just the same.

"It's not so much the money ... I (wasn't) doing it so I could make a fortune," she said. "I always wanted my own little place where I could display the types of goods and wears I always had an interest in. That's why I always wanted a hands-on gift shop."

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