The roads and rivers that lead us out of the Mid-Ohio Valley are often the same ones that bring us back. For Victoria West, owner of The Gift Gallery of Vienna, her road to her to Virginia, and then to Pittsburgh where she worked in retail and advertising. As she watched businesses come and go, she realized her dream of owning a boutique shop.
Her dreams remained, but she lived her life doing various jobs – which included hiring models for Hawaiian Tropic up and down the East Coast and also working as a body double for Demi Moore. It sounds like something from a movie, but Victoria answered the casting call for lookalikes on The Jenny Jones Show. Within three days, she had agents and shortly after she was hired as a stand-in for Demi Moore. After moving to Pittsburgh, Victoria worked in retail setting stores. “I loved working with the blank canvases – I was able to set 30 stores between here and Florida,” she said.
However, Victoria could not stay away from the Mid-Ohio Valley. With the birth of her son in 2008, she started considering how much she loved about the area, and she wanted him to grow up around family.
“I love our community, the tradition and the rally behind what is right. Anytime there is a need, the community rallies behind it – tragedy, a family in need, anything. The community is an important part on my priority list,” she said.
After returning to the area, Victoria set her sights on becoming a small business owner. She spent a year scouting locations, sourcing potential artists and vendors to stock her store and researching what the area needed. She found her beautiful storefront along Front Street in Marietta. However, the deal fell through and Victoria returned to square one. While driving through Vienna, she saw a perfect storefront in the middle of Vienna along Grand Central.
Those who have met Victoria know that she is not a woman to wait around. She signed the lease on August 3, 2013 and immediately began reworking the store to fit her dream.
“I knew we needed to be open by the fourth quarter. I opened the first weekend on November and we’re about to celebrate out third anniversary,” she said. “I started ordering things immediately, but it was hard. I didn’t know what my customers wanted yet – their buying habits or price points.”
However, she followed her intuition and stocked things she liked. On her list of things to order included the popular brand, Alex and Ani. Victoria’s shop is one of the few places in West Virginia authorized to carry Alex and Ani, but the approval process took six months. Now, she has a large portion of her store dedicated to the American born brand.
American made brands are important to Victoria. She strives to only stock products that are made in the United States with the exception of just a few items. Additionally, the majority of her products are made by small businesses.
The gift gallery is full of “the perfect gift.” It sounds broad, but it’s the truth. Victoria keeps the store stocked with a little bit of everything. When working on opening her store, she consistently asked friends and family in the area, “what do you think is missing in the Mid-Ohio Valley?” Overwhelmingly, she found out that people wanted a place where they could just swing by and find all of their gift giving needs in one place. The people she spoke with hadn’t found someplace they could count on to always have “the perfect gift.” Victoria created that place.
Victoria buys her products from a sentimental standpoint. She wants her customers to really have a connection to what they buy. She’s currently working with an artist who makes customer fingerprint, paw print and handwriting jewelry.
“The possibilities from his line are amazing, and they can really make an impact on people,” she said.
As The Gift Gallery of Vienna found its footing and began to really take off, Victoria returned to her love of retail and opened The Fashion Gallery. Located just a few doors down, The Fashion Gallery carries clothing for all sizes during all seasons.
As her business grows, Victoria is enjoying the friendships she has made along the way. “The best feeling is when people tell me. ‘My daughter is in from college, and you were one of the must-sees during her visit.’ I love being part of home for people,” she said.
The Gift Gallery of Vienna is celebrating its third anniversary, and Victoria is inviting the community inside to celebrate. On Thursday (Nov. 11), they will have snacks from DaVinci’s and they’ll be celebrating on Friday (Nov. 12) with cake and punch.