After 41 years, gift shop readies to close

After almost 41 years in business, The Guilded Cage, Westchester’s only nonprofit gift shop, is readying to close its doors.

“It’s kind of a sign of the times. I think we’ve seen it coming. We’ve had a reduction in revenue and are down customers and volunteers,” said Westchester Mental Health Guild (WMGH) Co-President Ylla De Leon. “We tried to hold on, but it didn’t make sense to keep the store open when it wasn’t getting the kind of revenue we were hoping to generate.”

WMHG volunteers started the boutique, which specializes in home décor, greeting cards and handcrafted items, in 1975 to raise funds to help support the Airport Marina Counseling Service (AMCS), a nonprofit that offers low-cost mental health services to individuals, families and couples. The original shop was located in the Loyola Theater Building, but needing more space, the shop moved again before relocating to its current location in the Ralph’s Shopping Center in the early 1990s. The shop has always been staffed by volunteers who are responsible for all aspects of running the boutique from ordering inventory, ringing up sales and decorating.

Over the last few years, however, sales have slowed due to what De Leon says is a change in customer’s shopping habits to online retailers, a decrease in people buying and sending greeting cards and an aging volunteer-base. When Chase Bank relocated to another space within the shopping center, a lot of the store’s foot traffic was lost as well.

The WMGH’s approximately 125 members will continue to support AMCS through its signature events like the Holiday Home Tour, scheduled for November 6, and the Garden Tour that is held every other year. 

  “We are going to put our heads together to come up with new ideas to supplement AMCS for the money that we would get from The Cage,” said De Leon, who thinks a Wine and Cheese Evening could be a great fundraiser. “It will be a difficult task, but I think we will rise to the occasion.”

While the some 30 volunteers that staff the shop are sad to see it go, they are pleased that in the last four decades they have been able to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to support AMCS’ mission.

“In addition to the funding, we’ve served as community outreach to let people know AMCS is there and the services they offer,” said De Leon. “The Cage has helped spread the word, and we are very proud of that.”

The shop is currently holding a going-out-of-business sale with merchandise discounted at 20% off. The Guilded Cage’s current hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The store is closed on Sundays. While no closing date has been announced, the shop’s current lease expires at the end of September.

The Guilded Cage is located at 8917-B S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Westchester.