In Silt, a unique retail gift shop with impressive variety and a big heart
Carol Back has been operating The Whimsical Wagon in her beloved Town of Silt for 15 years
Small-town shopping has something that big box stores or online retailers will never have: Charm, character, human interaction and genuine customer service.
In Silt, small-town shopping also has another one-up on less personal shopping experiences: Carol Back, owner of the Whimsical Wagon.
Online reviews link Carol and her unique store — which won first place for “Best Gift Shop” in the Post Independent’s 2019 Locals’ Choice awards — together like a two-for-one special.
“Wonderful gift shop, lots of variety. Great place to get a last minute gift. Carol is a delight,” wrote one reviewer.
“Great local shop whether you stop in for a cup of coffee, or need that perfect gift! Carol the owner is so friendly and has great jewelry, home decor, candles, and Jelly Bellies,” wrote another.
Back has lived in Silt since 1992. While she said it wasn’t the easiest place to open up a retail store due to the lack of foot traffic, it was the only place she wanted to have her store. Silt needed a little gift shop, she said, and The Whimsical Wagon is located in a great spot on Main Street.
“We’re long-time Silt residents and my existing customers thank me for being here — they’re happy the store is in Silt,” she said. “I have a lot of customers who come in and want to support local businesses, and they want to touch and feel the products they buy. Many of my customers have become long term friends I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.”
An evolving store
Carol opened The Whimsical Wagon in 2004 after spending 11 years as a banker. She had always made fun and creative gift baskets as a hobby, and her colleagues had been telling her for years that she had a special talent and should open up a business.
Her husband had been operating a motorcycle shop out of their building in Silt, so they built an addition to it and she began The Whimsical Wagon in about 800 square feet of space. It started out mostly as a gift basket and collectibles retail shop, but over the years it has grown — both physically and literally — into so much more.
“This is probably the hardest job I have ever done, but I like it, it agrees with me,” Carol said. “I click with it. I like to decorate and I do all of the displays, and I use a lot of unique things like antiques throughout the store. There’s life in antiques, so you get that warm feeling from them.”
The Great Recession hit and that caused the Backs to close the motorcycle shop, which allowed for The Whimsical Wagon’s expansion. As customers changed their habits — people weren’t as into collectibles anymore — Carol responded and started diversifying her inventory.
“I do everything from my heart, including offering free gift-wrapping,” she said. “We’re one of those stores that has evolved. I have a kids’ corner, but we also have a lot of snarky humor items, too. It’s a store that caters to a wide range of people from all generations. In the past two years, the collectibles part of the business has picked up and Carol has added some new items to the many wonderful items already in stock.
She recently discontinued the espresso bar due to having two other coffee shops in Silt. She said it was a necessary change that has made room for more gift items.
A whimsical theme
Peruse The Whimsical Wagon and you’ll find unique gifts, lotions, soaps, greeting cards, wind chimes, puzzles, mugs, stuffed animals, jewelry, home decor and so much more. She added Charlie Bears in 2017— an English company that makes handmade collectible bears and characters — which keep with her whimsical theme and add something fun to the shopping experience, she said.
That’s what every single item in the store is meant to do — evoke a certain playful spirit within each shopper. It’s a part of Carol’s personality, and she loves to share this playfulness with her customers.
Even the business’s hours are fun and unique: She opens from 9:57 a.m. to 5:49 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 9:01 a.m. to 3:49 p.m. on Saturdays.
“It’s kind of a giggle,” she said.
Carol loves to see new customers’ amazement when they walk into the store. She keeps things interesting and authentic, and it shows when people see the store for the first time.
“First time there and I could get lost in all the fun whimsical items and local artisan items,” wrote one reviewer on Google, “definitely will be going back again and again.”
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