Every Gift is Good at Every Good Gift
George and Judy Rock help gift givers make their mark at their custom embroidery and imprint store Every Good Gift.
What you see is not always what you get, at least when it comes to Every Good Gift, a local standard and custom imprinting and embroidery store owned by George and Judy Rock that specializes in helping customers design the perfect gift. George and Judy have put their personal stamp on their lines of embroidered T-shirts, tote bags, personalized gift baskets and floral designs. The Rocks’ witty banter, married for 39 years this July, adds to Every Good Gift’s charming ambience. Though individualized gifts are their specialty, the two also do custom imprinting and embroidery for businesses, sports teams and school clubs. Patch talked to George Rock about what it's like to open a new business in the midst of the country’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Oak Lawn Patch: How long has the store been opened?
George Rock: The store has been since Oct. 24, 2008.
Oak Lawn Patch: How did the two of you get involved in the embroidery business?
Rock: One way or the other we have been doing this on and off for 14 years. We started a home-based business called Sew Different ten years ago, which still exists today. We would go to craft fairs and we also have a booth at Brady’s Craft Mart in Orland. When we did that enough a number of people convinced us to open a store, so we did.
Oak Lawn Patch: Do the two of you make all the orders?
Rock: Rose Johnson is our business associate and she really is a good gift. She took care of Judy’s mom when she was ill and we asked her to stay on to help us with the business. She does the fleece work and helps put the baskets together. When we do a gift basket, it’s a group effort.
Oak Lawn Patch: How difficult was it to start and now run a business in today’s depressed economy?
Rock: When we first opened we thought, “Well, it can only go up from here.” Three years later and we were wrong. But to answer your question, it is very difficult. Setting up was not the hard part. We decided to expand from custom embroidery into imprinting. Almost half of what we do involves customers coming into the store and saying “Yes…but can you do this?” and we accommodate them.
Oak Lawn Patch: How many hours per week do you work?
Rock: It’s hard to say. The store is open six days a week, and while we do have a small area in the back, it’s mostly for storage so we don’t work on site. After we leave here we will work in the evenings and Judy will be embroidering at times until 3 a.m. in the morning, so it really can be all day.
Oak Lawn Patch: What advice would you give to others who might want to start their own business?
Rock: Besides don’t? Be patient. Unless you have something entirely novel, it is going to be a struggle. We have been here three years and almost every day someone will walk in and say “Gee, I go by here all the time and I never knew you were here.”
Oak Lawn Patch: What kind of niche does your business fill? What sets you apart from your competitors?
Rock: We’re not just a gift store. What sets us apart from others is the ability to do the customizing and personalizing that we do at the costs that we charge. We really take our time with our customers and allow them to “free think” until they decide on something they like.
Oak Lawn Patch: What is the hardest part about owning your own business?
Rock: Developing a customer base. Each year business has increased as more and more people have become familiar with us, but being such a non-typical, hard-to-describe specialty store, it’s hard to get the word out because there is no one word to describe what we do.
Oak Lawn Patch: What do you love most about being a business owner? What makes you most proud?
Rock: Making the customers happy and feeling like you have accomplished something. I love when people come in and are happy with our items. In fact, people who have won our baskets at different events have come in and said, “I still don’t want to take it apart, it was so neat and so nice.”
Oak Lawn Patch: Is owning a business for everyone?
Rock: No, because the challenge is that there are up days and down days so patience is very important. Don’t promise something that you can’t deliver. If you can exceed somebody’s expectations, they will be happy with you.
Oak Lawn Patch: What are you doing differently now that you were not doing three years ago, if anything?
Rock: What we have changed over time is our approach to advertising. Our biggest shortcoming might be that we have not used the Internet to get the word out to familiarize people with what we do in general. Though we don’t sell through the Internet because there are just so many combinations of colors, designs, and types to choose from, it would be nice to use the Internet to tell people what we do and then direct them into the store.
Oak Lawn Patch: Do you feel you are competitive when it comes to pricing?
Rock: People tell us that we are too inexpensive and I keep telling them, “We’re going to do something about that one of these days.” How are we? We’re inexpensive. An imprint or embroidery costs $14.
Oak Lawn Patch: How did you come up with the name “Every Good Gift?”
Rock: “Every good gift” is a phrase we took from the Bible, even though we are not a religious store. Some people understand what it’s about, some have no idea, but it doesn’t matter. We think it’s a good name.
Oak Lawn Patch: If you could summarize your store in just a few words, what would you say?
Rock: We are a standard and custom imprinting and embroidery store that specializes in personalized, customized gifts.
Every Good Gift, located at 10336 S. Cicero Ave., is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The store is closed on Monday.
Look for Every Good Gift at the upcoming Alan B. Shepard High School Spring Arts and Crafts Show on April 2; and the Little Company of Mary "In Good Company" spring shopping extravaganza on April 7.